This article was reposted with the permission of the author and can be found at https://pbgfrwellness.com/nutritional-articles/
A busy shift, a fight with a friend, or voluntary overtime often has firefighters reaching for something salty or sweet to calm their nerves. Regular stress eating can derail a weight loss goal and often make the person feel worse about their situation. While not every stress eating incidence is avoidable, it may be possible to delay overeating with the following tips.
Stress Free Eating
- Move – A short 15-minute walk can do wonders for your brain and body. Hop on the treadmill before grabbing a cookie on the counter and see if that helps derail the habit. It won’t work every time, but taking the opportunity to disconnect stress from food as often as possible can help.
- Be Mindful – Complete a short yoga video or try a 3-minute meditation on a mindfulness app like Headspace. Sometimes taking a moment to breathe can help calm your mind.
- Call a Friend – Friends and family are often more than willing to help talk you through a stressful situation. Schedule a hike, walk, or water activity like kayaking or paddleboarding. Make sure to bring some healthy snacks, a long activity like hiking can lead to overeating if the activity lasts longer than you though.
- Keep Tempting Foods Out of the House – If you know certain foods are easy for you to over eat, you may want to keep them out of the house. Save those foods for special occasions. At the station, put treats donated by the community in a pantry or cabinet. This way, you arn’t tempted by whats left on the counter every time you get back from a call. Out of sight, out of mind!
- Focus on a Hobby – Think about something you enjoy doing that can help reduce stress. Completing a puzzle, painting, play music, reading can help reduce stress without involving food.
- Include Emotions and Triggers in Your Food Diary – If you log your food, note how you are feeling and why in the notes section of MyFitnessPal or food diary app. Recognizing triggers can help prevent future bouts of stress eating or show trends.
- Try Healthier Versions of Your Favorite Comfort Meals – When firefighters start eating healthy, they often cut out all of their favorite foods in the name of health. Instead of cutting out your favorites, look for a healthier version. Check out the healthier Chicken Cacciatore and Sloppy Joe recipes. Skinnytaste is another great website for healthier versions of your favorite foods.
For those who come home or back from a call ravenous, consider evaluating your food choices and quantity before you walk in the door. Did you eat enough for breakfast and lunch? Did you reach 3/4th of your fiber and protein goals before dinner? When home, you may need a substantial snack between lunch and dinner if your schedule prevents you from eating dinner at a reasonable hour. At the station, you might have to pack a few healthy options on your assigned unit to prevent getting too hungry between meals. Protein bars, fig/Clif bars, applesauce pouches, nuts/seeds are all great options to have on hand.
If you ever feel a complete loss of control when stress eating, you may want to consider talking to a behavioral health therapist. Anxiety, depression, PTSD, and ADHD can all impact healthy eating habits. A therapist will help you get to the root of the problem and provide behavioral techniques to help you cope with life’s challenges. Sometimes just having someone listen can be therapeutic. Talk to your primary care physician or call your county’s EAP program for counseling recommendations in your area.
Megan Lautz, MS, RD, CSCS, TSAC-F
Megan is a Registered Dietitian and coach who specializes in firefighter nutrition. Megan’s mission is to help firefighters perform better, recover faster, and enjoy long healthy retirements. Megan is the owner of RescueRD LLC, which provides nutrition seminars and coaching for tactical athletes across the country. Check out @Rescue.RD on Facebook and Instagram.
This article is part of the Blogs For the Brave series at https://www.discountsforthebrave.com/blog-for-the-brave/