Do you find yourself tearing open a bag of chips and crunching away after a heated debate with your hubby? Or maybe all that late-night tossing and turning finally drives you from bed, sending you straight to the freezer for a few spoonfuls of ice cream? It happens to the best of us. Food becomes a source of comfort, a distraction or a reward rather than the fuel and nourishment we need to stay healthy and strong. When it happens often, the extra pounds can start to creep on.
To keep that number on your scale steady, or to continue watching it drop if that’s your goal, it helps to identify your unhealthy eating patterns. Here are three common weight-gain triggers and some realistic ways to avoid them.
Emotional eating. Stress, frustration, worry and sadness are just a few emotions that can trigger mindless eating. Eating a hot fudge sundae might take your mind off a problem for now, but when the bowl is empty, your stomach and conscience are faced with entirely new burdens. Instead of indulging in sweets and junk food when you’re emotional, acknowledge your feelings, then turn to a healthier outlet such as a walk around the block, phone call to a friend or working on a hobby you enjoy.
Of course, it’s much easier to slide open your desk drawer and unwrap a chocolate bar. So don’t keep them on hand! Stock up on better-for-you munchies such as high-protein pretzels, baked veggie chips and trail mix. When crunch cravings hit, pour yourself a small bowl and put the bag or box away so you’re not tempted to overeat.
Lack of sleep. When you go, go, go all day, switching your brain to “off” position at the end of the day isn’t always easy. But sleep is crucial for overall health, including maintaining a healthy weight. If you can’t get the recommended seven to eight hours a night, try to squeeze in a nap during the day or at least take a restful 10-minute break from activity when you can.
Feeling sleepy can also lead to sugar cravings. Rather than reaching for cookies or candy for an energy boost, fuel up with a healthy protein bar and a cup of organic tea or coffee. You might also try an all-natural supplement such as Vitacost Targeted Wellness Energy Support, which supplies vitamins, herbs and amino acids to help support mental alertness and wakefulness.*
Unhealthy carb intake. A low-carb diet can help you lose weight initially, but if your carb intake gets too low, energy levels will plummet. The result? Your carb cravings increase, putting you at risk for carb binges and eventual weight gain.
A good solution for low-carb dieters is to carb cycle, or alternate days of higher-carb intake and lower-carb intake. A typical week might be:
Day 1 – low carb
Day 2 – higher carb
Day 3 – low carb
Day 4 – higher carb
Day 5 – low carb
Day 6 and 7 – higher carbs
Choose healthy carbs such oats, brown rice and sweet potatoes, and keep your protein levels high and healthy fats at a moderate level. Your day should consist of at least five smaller meals about three hours apart.
IFBB figure professional Melissa Transou, a fitness expert, wife and mother, blogs about the unique sports and nutrition needs of women and female athletes exclusively for Vitacost.com. Learn more about Melissa in this recent RXMuscle.com spotlight article, connect with her on Facebook or email her at email@example.com.