Counseling Corner: Can the news affect your waistline?

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Can the news affect your waistline?

American Counseling Association

Today’s headlines often carry an overwhelming amount of bad news. Whether your information is coming from TV news, your local paper, the Internet or conversations with friends, odds are good that most isn’t good news.

All that bad news can bring stress that can certainly affect your waistline and other factors in your life. Simply hearing about bad things can raise the levels of anxiety and stress you’re experiencing.

When our stress levels increase, it’s a natural reaction that we look to things that will comfort us, even if we don’t consciously realize we’re doing that. And one of the easiest and most common ways to find a little comfort is to reach for some food.

It’s called “stress eating” because it feeds an emotional rather than a physical hunger. Food, especially sweet things, triggers emotional and chemical reactions in our bodies that make us feel better. Another negative story out of Washington? I think I need maybe just one more doughnut.

Stress eating is one of the most common sources of excessive weight gain. And while it may offer a temporary “good” feeling, it also directly affects our health and self-image.

The key to fighting stress eating is to recognize that it’s happening to you. Try to analyze why you’re eating the next time you reach for a snack. Are you physically hungry, or simply stressed, bored, worried or unhappy?

When it’s emotional eating that is adding those extra pounds, try to find other activities to help calm you down without adding calories. Exercise, for example, is one of the best. It not only burns calories and improves muscle tone but also boosts the action of feel-good neurotransmitters in your body. Something as quick and simple as a walk around the block will do the job.

Other substitutes for that unneeded snack can include reading a book, listening to music or talking to a friend. Any activity that helps calm you down without reaching for food is a step in the right direction.

And if you find you really must have a snack, make it a healthy one such as a piece of fruit.

Eating in response to stress is a common but very fixable problem. Often simply becoming aware of stress eating can help in minimizing the problem. If you need help in overcoming stress eating, consider seeking the help of a professional counselor.

Counseling Corner is provided by the American Counseling Association.

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