It's another crazy day at home with the kids. The phone is ringing off the hook, the kids are fighting, and each one of them is asking for different entrees for breakfast. So how do you cope? You do what so many other moms would do in this situation―you grab some chocolate or a bag of chips to help alleviate the stress.
If we only ate when we were hungry, most of us would never have weight problems. Unfortunately, emotions often drive us to eat when we have no physical appetite. Whether it's stress, boredom, anger or sadness we feel, we often turn to food to temporarily feel better.
But instead of feeling better afterwards, we just feel guilty. While food may temporarily be soothing, those high-calorie, high-fat goodies usually make us feel worse in the end, both emotionally and physically. What's important to recognize, however, is that we are our children's role models. If they see us using food for comfort, they will likely mirror our behavior. So instead of reaching for food the next time your emotions are running high, try some of these coping techniques when you're:
All Stressed Out
Teach your children to exercise to reduce their stress levels (and yours!) Instead of reaching for a rich sugary snack when you're about to explode, take a quick walk outside with your kids. Put on some of their favorite dance music and get them dancing with you. Have a jump rope contest with them, or do an exercise video together. And to prevent stress from building up, exercise regularly.
Bored Out of Your Mind
Many times we eat out of habit without even thinking about what we're doing. Mindless munching can happen while we're watching TV, playing video games, sitting in front of the computer, or talking on the phone. The bottom line is that unconscious eating is what happens when we don't pay attention to what or how much we are eating, or how hungry we actually are. In these cases we often find ourselves overeating without ever feeling satisfied. If you or your child fits this profile, here are some things you can do to prevent this:
- Tune out distractions while eating. Make it a rule that all food is eaten in a designated area like the kitchen, while sitting down, and that the TV must be turned off while eating.
- Set limits on electronics. Limit screen time to no more than two hours a day.
- Keep plenty of nutritious snacks on hand like whole grain crackers, string cheese, individual bags of apples (found in produce section), low-fat yogurt, and unsweetened applesauce cups.
- Prevent boredom by trying something new. Bat a balloon back and forth with your kids while trying not to hit the floor. If you have a big box handy, have the kids get in, hold onto a rope and drag them around the floor or carpet. Mix up your routine as much as possible. You can't eat if your hands are busy, so get some clay or Play-Doh and make fun figures or models.
The next time you feel like eating your way through your emotions, think about the example you're setting for your children. Instead try some of the coping techniques above, and show your children by example that there are healthier ways to work through stress, anger, sadness and boredom.