StressStress is a main cause of relapse and overeating. Numerous studies, including ones from the University of Oxford and Fairfield University in Connecticut, found that people who are successful at weight loss, and more importantly maintaining the loss, believe themselves capable of handling problems and are direct in solving difficulties, compared to regainers who avoid or escape adversity and turn to food for solace. Diet successes know that it’s about talking to yourself in a supportive, encouraging way. It’s about asking for what you need. It’s about getting in touch with feelings. For example, women who in the past typically put others’ needs in front of their own, stuffed stress, and then rewarded themselves with food at the end of the day, find that if they get in touch with how they are feeling, are a little more selfish about allowing time to exercise and to eat right, and are more assertive in asking for what they want, they are much more likely to keep the weight off. 

The critical first step is to label your emotions. Ask yourself if it’s fatigue, anger, anxiety, a need for comfort, or true hunger that is triggering a desire to eat. Food only will solve a hunger problem, in all other cases the solution lies elsewhere. The next step is to develop self-empowering skills, such as assertive communication, positive self-talk, and ways to relax, to constructively nip stress in the bud. Tell people how you feel, go for a walk to let off steam, get together with a friend, or forget the chores and go to a movie when times get rough.

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