Last night at Dr. Lara’s office we had a great time. The group was large, yet felt intimate. People openly shared what their downfalls are as they embark upon the journey of healthier living. Over and over the obstacle of stress came up, it was a hot button for sure.

Dr. Lara explained that stress helps in the creation of a hormone called cortisol, which lowers the body’s levels of serotonin (a “feel good” hormone). Lower levels of serotonin triggers a craving for carbohydrates. We discussed ways to cope with stress, diet changes (lean proteins over simple carbohydrates) and practical tips on avoiding eating when stressed.

Here are six tips I can offer you:

  1. Take action! Exercise releases chemicals into the brain that will counteract the effects of stress. 10 – 15 minutes of exercise will distract the mind and allow you to change your focus. I keep hand weights in my kitchen. If tempted to snack, I do 10 minutes of repetitions in order to earn that snack. Nine times out of ten, I don’t want the snack anymore and I begin to collect my thoughts.
  2. Eat consciously. Place the utensil down between bites and chew. Savor the flavor and textures of your food. When you pay attention the taste and smell of your food, meals are more satisfying and temptation is reduced.
  3. Chew sugarless gum. If you grab a piece of sugarless gum, you are less likely to put other foods into your mouth.
  4. Schedule your eating. By keeping a set schedule of meals and snacks, you create a new routine. This will keep hunger at bay and train your mind to remain on target. Forget skipping meals, that only leads to disaster as the night wears on.
  5. Create a journal of your emotions. Feeling stressed, feeling blue? Write it out. Studies have shown that writing about your feelings helps lead to resolutions and solutions to those same issues.
  6. Practice relaxation techniques. taking a long hot bath or trading a massage with a loved one feels a whole lot better than any junk food tastes!

We experienced some relaxation techniques last night. I worked with the group to focus on each muscle group and send it comfort and relaxation. They gave themselves permission to enjoy the moment, feeling safe and serene. Next they were asked to think of a special person, perhaps a child, or another whom they would treat with total respect and love. They were told to feel that emotion for the other, than transfer that to themselves. Knowing they deserve the same love and respect. Reminding them that they love their body, for that is where they live; they would start treating that body with the same love and respect they would treat a loved one with. Finally, we took a journey to a special event, seeing all the foods available. It was easy and natural to choose healthy foods, because of the respect they were now experiencing.

At the end of the night, the room was quiet and filled with a gentle sense of calm and caring. Caring for each other, caring for ourselves. It was a blessing to experience that moment.