Health Watch -- Relax Yourself Thin?

Health Watch is a Public Service of the  Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.

Could your response to stress be part of what makes you overweight?

Although the primary purpose of food is to provide fuel for our bodies, many of us use it for other reasons. Food may be a reward when something good happens or a comfort in times of stress and difficulty. That’s why nutrition experts at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas say that stress relief can be an important part of a weight-loss plan, besides exercise and better nutritional choices.

Stress is a major trigger for eating, particularly for eating things that aren’t good for you, such as fried foods and sweets. Learning to cope with daily stress without reaching to food for comfort is an important step in reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. By finding better alternatives for managing stress, you can avoid some of the key triggers for overeating.

Exercise is one way to help you manage stress without eating. It also has the benefit of making you healthier, while burning calories that will help you lose weight. Exercise adds something to your life instead of taking something away, so you don’t feel so much like you’re depriving yourself, as you would if you felt you had to give up a favorite food. After a nice, long walk, you may not even want that candy bar so much anymore.

It’s also important to get enough sleep so that your body feels less stressed. Keeping a journal and writing about the feelings that make you want to eat also may help you cope.