This past week has been a challenging week. My dad, who still drives for UPS, failed a physical. As the week unfolded he was sent to an angiogram. It came back clean…and the final conclusion was that it’s either his diabetes or heartburn.

This has been a stressful week. Many times in life, it seems that we pile stress on top of stress…to the point that often we can’t separate one stress from another. I’m really not looking to dump on you all the stress I’m under, I know you have enough of your own.

What I’d like to discuss and share a few thoughts with you about is coping strategies. One thing I’ve learned since weight loss surgery (WLS) is we all have a programmed coping mechanism. If that mechanism is destructive (which they often are) , then we have to take personal responsibility and we will have to learn to override our “natural” coping mechanism.

If you’re someone who struggles with food then stress typically provokes one of two reactions. Before I had WLS I incorrectly assumed that all the “skinny” gals were healthy (and made sane and healthy food choices). After I had WLS I learned that being overweight and someone who is anorexic or bulimic are really two extremes of the same issue-it’s a person who copes with stress with food (or lack of food).

This is not meant to be a discussion of all the things that cause obesity, bulimia or anorexia, it’s a discussion of coping strategies that I believe all groups can benefit from.

In times of stress, we go into a type of auto pilot mode. While dealing with the emergency, the stressor, we may be so acutely aware of what we have to do to “manage” the situation that other things become peripheral. It’s those times that we need to ratchet up our self awareness.

Here are five things we can do to make ourselves self aware in stressful situations:

1. If you know that you are someone who is a mindless eater, pack a snack you wouldn’t feel guilty for eating if it were a normal day.
(For me this was mindfully packing fresh cherries, instead of grabbing pretzels, chips, popcorn etc to mindlessly munch. I also would kept the sandwich baggie in the fridge, I had to get up and make the choice to get them.)

2. Don’t justify bad choices.
It’s easy to pack a healthy snack, only to get to work and be confronted with vending machines of M&M’s, chips and other things we know we shouldn’t be eating. Don’t justify bad choices, better yet don’t carry change or small bills…it makes saying no to vending machine impulses easier.

3. Be Aware
In stressful situations it’s easy to go on autopilot and revert back to old habits. Be aware of this, be on guard.

4. Get extra rest/sleep.
During stressful times its easy to wear ourselves out, if from nothing else but worrying. Get some rest. That may or may not equate to sleep. Sometimes a walk, a swim or a few stretches will help relieve tension.

5. Prepare for the worse, hope for the best.
My dads version of this would be measure twice, cut once. Put measures & safe guards in place to keep you in track. Be aware so that you don’t self sabotage, do what you can to protect the foodstyle & lifestyle choices you’ve made. If for some reason, all safe guards fail and you do mess up. You find that you did revert back to an old habit, you mindlessly indulged or binged. Stop. Don’t let a slip up or a mistake become a justification to continue. Don’t feel so horrible and guilty for it that you get yourself in a self deconstructing loop. Forgive yourself & resume the new foodstyle & lifestyle you’ve choices you have adopted.

6. Pray
Ask God for help. Ask Him for help in dealing with the stress. Ask Him for strength so that you don’t make bad choices, ask Him to keep you aware & present…and if you need to ask Him to help guard your mouth 🙂

Stress happens. It’s a fact of life. Be prepared and don’t let it overwhelm you to the point you revert back to bad/old habits.

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