How to avoid letting stress derail you

Emma Brown - Nutritionist | 22 Sep, 2020

The unfortunate truth is that many people who embark on a new weight loss plan will fall off the wagon and slip back into old habits before the month's out. So if you're looking for a different result and to reach your goal for good, then keeping reading.

When we set up a members' poll to find out the main reasons people fall off the diet wagon, the answers didn't surprise us – stress, boredom, too time-consuming and not losing weight. With these common reasons identified, I'm going to write a series of blogs with tips on how to overcome each of these hurdles – for good.

First up, stress!

This topped the poll as the most common reason why people give up on their diets. It encompasses both busy life stress and a stressful event. So why is it that a stressful episode causes us to throw in the towel and give up on our diet?

Staying on track with your eating plan and resisting certain temptations requires willpower, and stress pretty much abolishes this as it saps our energy. It's not just about having the willpower to not eat a whole pack of biscuits, but about having the desire to make the best choices. When time is limited or our mind is elsewhere, we just don't feel like cooking a healthy meal from scratch with fresh fruit and vegetables. Another factor is that stress taps in to the same control centres in our brain as willpower does – so feeling stressed essentially uses up some of our willpower!

So how do we tackle this? Let's take each scenario in turn...

How to cope with a stressful event

An unexpected stressful event can't be planned for and can knock the most organised person for six. So ultimately, it might be a case of doing what you need to in order to get through it. But the great thing about Nutracheck is the flexibility.

If you are able to continue recording what you eat (even loosely), it can help with damage limitation by keeping some level of accountability in place. If you go over your daily calorie allowance, that's okay, try to get back on track when you can.

You should expect there to be occasions when you go off track a little – this is a lifestyle change not a quick fix. There will be weeks when you lose focus a little. That's fine! The most important thing is not see a blip as a reason to give up completely. Don't let a slip become a slide! The mentality that a few days off track means you should give up has always baffled me – it makes no sense at all, and yet we all do it. But hopefully, if you 'get' the Nutracheck ethos correctly and make realistic, healthy lifestyle changes you can stick to, then getting back to it after a tough few days will just be second nature!

How to manage daily stresses

Every day stress is a bit different to a big event, and we all have to deal with it. The trick is to identify what your personal stress triggers are and arm yourself with tools and techniques to make it as easy as possible to make the best choices.

A great practical tip is to draw up a list of stress-busting activities that work for you, but that don't involve eating. Write these down in advance – maybe make a note in your phone so your list is always with you? Then refer to it when your willpower is being tested.

Things to try could be...

  1. Go out for a walk
  2. Paint your nails (ladies!)
  3. Have a bath
  4. Read your favourite magazine
  5. Phone a friend
  6. Do an exercise DVD

...think about things you really love doing.

These activities are not only great distractions from thinking about food, but also take your mind off the thing that's causing you stress – win, win!

Another great way to help you break the cycle of destructive eating caused by stress is to be prepared with your food. If you ensure you always have something available that you really enjoy but is healthy and easy to prepare, you're much less likely to dial in a takeaway.

Top tips

  1. Always keep some healthy meals in the freezer – easy to heat up with some veg and voila, dinner in minutes.
  2. Have store cupboard essentials in so you can whip up a quick healthy meal. Eggs, frozen veg, rice, pasta, pasta sauce, frozen fish and chicken are all great versatile ingredients.
  3. Keep treats in the house to a minimum – it's all too easy to raid the treat cupboard when you're stressed, but if it's not there you can't eat it.

So this time, don't let stress derail your weight loss efforts. By adopting the right mind set towards your diet, being prepared and having your tactics in place, never again will stress mark the end of your path to weight loss success!

Nutritionist Emma Brown (ANutr), MSc Human Nutrition is passionate about how food science applies to the human body, and how the nutrients in what we eat affect us and ultimately have an impact on our health.