Brain Foods

Brain Foods

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Managing mood and food-How to cope

In the long run, stress-related eating is an unhealthy coping strategy. If you think you have a clinical disorder, such as depression, see your doctor. If you think you're experiencing stress, follow these tips to help you avoid the unhealthy consequences of emotional eating:

?  Learn to recognize true hunger. Is your hunger physical or mental? If you ate just a few hours ago and don't have a rumbling stomach, you're probably not really hungry. Give the craving a few minutes to pass.

?  Know your triggers. For the next several days, write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you're feeling and how hungry you are. Over time, you may see patterns emerge that reveal negative eating patterns and triggers to avoid.

?  Look elsewhere for comfort. Instead of unwrapping a candy bar, take a walk, treat yourself to a movie or call a friend. If you think that stress relating to a particular event is nudging you toward the refrigerator, try talking to someone about it to distract yourself. Plan enjoyable events for yourself.

?  Don't keep unhealthy foods around. Avoid having an abundance of starchy, high-fat, high-calorie comfort foods in the house. If you feel hungry or blue, postpone the shopping trip for a few hours so that these don't influence your decisions at the store.

?  Snack healthy. If you feel the urge to eat between meals, choose a low-fat, low-calorie food, such as fresh fruit, pretzels or unbuttered popcorn. Or test low-fat, lower-calorie versions of your favorite foods to see if they satisfy your craving.

?  Eat a balanced diet. If you're not getting enough calories to meet your energy needs, you may be more likely to give in to emotional eating. Try to eat at fairly regular times. Include foods from the basic groups in your meals. Emphasize whole grains, vegetables and fruits, as well as low-fat dairy products and lean protein sources. When you fill up on the basics, you're more likely to feel fuller, longer.

?  Exercise regularly. Your mood is more manageable and your body can more effectively fight stress when it's fit and well rested.

?  Prevent relapse. If you give in to emotional eating, forgive yourself and try to learn from it. Make a plan

Though strong emotions can trigger cravings for food, you can take steps to control those cravings. "Start by examining how negative moods and emotions affect your eating habits," says Matthew Clark, Ph.D., a psychologist at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. "If you think you have an anxiety, depressive or other mood disorder, consult with your doctor about treatment options. If you think stress is playing a more prominent role, monitor your mood, plan stress-reducing activities and seek out social support."

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