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woman eatingTony was mad at himself. He wasn’t hungry but downed a burger and fries anyway.

Renee finds that after a hard day at work, she opens the refrigerator and dives into the snacks.

And Holly eats whenever she prepares for a big test at college.

All three of these people eat as a reaction to stress. And this bad habit can pack on the pounds and lead to eating disorders. So, I developed the PAUSE Principle to help us stop stress eating.

The Pause Principle for stress eating

P–Purpose not to use food for stress relief-make it conscious and intentional that you will not turn to food when stressed.

A–Attend to your body for signs of tension. You have to be aware of the stress you feel in order to stop. Pay attention to cravings–they are not the same as hunger. Cravings will eventually go away if you don’t feed them.

U-–Understand that chronic stress takes a toll on the body and that food is not a solution. Connect the dots–all this eating is leading to more stress. This is not a healthy solution.

S–Strategize ways to reduce, prevent and tolerate stress without using food. What else could you do instead of eating? See suggestions below.

E–Execute small changes—engage in calming exercises like music mediation, deep breathing, Scripture reading, prayer–whatever it takes to calm your body and relax. The more you practice calming strategies, the more you will do them.

Strategies to reduce mindless eating when stressed:

  • Recognize the physical signs of stress -irritability, poor concentration, lack of sleep, etc., then change your lifestyle to get more rest.
  • Have a number of ways to de-stress—hot bath, music, prayer, deep breathing, massage, quiet time, etc. Make a list BEFORE you are stressed. Then go to the list and make yourself do something on your list instead of eat.
  • Don’t skip meals. Hunger may cause you to binge eat.
  • Remove the source of stress when you can. For example, if you can say NO to work overload or stop spending money you don’t have, you are removing sources of stress.
  • Don’t keep stress treats in your house-too tempting!
  • Eat a small amount of a treat, not the whole thing. If you give in for the moment, OK but don’t keep eating. You can stop after a few bites and get back on track.

For more help with stress eating, check out Press Pause Before You Eat by Dr. Linda Mintle

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