1. Move It or Lose It

Exercise may be one of the most perfect stress management tools, yet it’s often the first thing to go when our schedules get too busy. Because there is no “deadline” associated with daily exercise, it’s easy to bump exercise to the bottom of the priority list. Or, is there a deadline? Many researchers believe that poor health habits—most essentially, lack of exercise, improper diet, and smoking—are responsible for a significant proportion of deaths from heart disease and cancer. Maybe it would be wise to move it so that we don’t lose it.

“Exercise may be one of the most perfect stress management tools.”

2. Regular Fat versus Stress Fat

Americans are notorious for making less-than-ideal dietary choices, and statistics reveal that over half the population is overweight. Stress can make you less likely to keep compulsive eating under control. What’s worse, stress-related eating may be particularly dangerous to your health. Some studies have uncovered a distinction between “regular fat” and “stress fat.” Stress fat is not the lumpy, bumpy stuff you can see jiggling on your thighs and upper arms. Stress fat is the fat that accumulates deep inside the body, specifically around the internal organs of your torso. This “stress fat” is the only fat that is known to contribute to heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. This dangerous fat may be directly related to stress (and among other things, including estrogen levels).

3. Educate Yourself

Stress-related eating is the beginning of a vicious circle. You feel stressed, so you eat foods that are likely to increase your susceptibility to stress. Consequently, you feel more stressed and eat more of those same stress-promoting foods. How do you stop the madness? Knowledge is power, and although knowledge may not equal willpower, it is the first step. Certain foods are known to have a disruptive effect on the body’s equilibrium, while other foods are known to have a more balancing effect. Many cultures have discovered this food/body connection. Many contemporary researchers and health promoters emphasize the link between good health, balance, energy, and the food we eat.

4. Beware of “Miracle” Diets

It’s easy to find fad diets that promise miraculous results, and it’s equally easy to find people to proclaim how this or that diet was the only thing that worked for them. Many of these diets are controversial. Some people swear by the diet that suggests different blood types should focus on different foods. Others are devoted to the low-carb diets such as the Zone Diet, the Atkins Diet, the Protein Power diet, and the Carbohydrate Addict’s diet. Some people choose a vegetarian or vegan (no animal products at all including dairy and eggs) diet. There are countless others. Maybe one of these diets will work for you.

5. Learn the Plus Sides of Diet

The blood-type diets are all low in calories and high in natural, minimally processed foods. The low-carb diets make a good point: Refined carbohydrates tend to spike insulin levels, and in some people, insulin fluctuations seem to cause food binges and unusual weight gain. We need to get more protein back into our lives, and for some people, it’s the answer to carbohydrate binges and can put a stop to massive weight gain. Vegetarian and vegan diets have merit, too. Animal products have been associated with an increased risk of certain diseases, and many available animal products, from rich cheeses to marbled meats, are high in saturated fat, calories, and, in the case of the cured meats, salt and preservatives, some of which are known carcinogens. Vegetarians tend to eat more vegetables, fruit, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds, and other healthy, unprocessed foods.

6. Go Natural

Whenever possible, eat food as close to its natural state as you can. Eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice, but drink orange juice instead of orange soda. Eat a broiled, free-range, organic chicken breast instead of a breaded, fried chicken patty. Choose brown rice over white, old-fashioned oats over instant flavored oatmeal, instant oatmeal over a toaster pastry. Eat whole wheat bread or, better yet, sprouted wheat bread instead of plain white bread, and spread it with natural, organic peanut or almond butter.

7. Choose Nutrients over Empty Calories

Choose nutrient-dense foods instead of foods that are mostly empty calories. For example, dried fruit is more nutrient-dense than candy, broccoli and carrots with yogurt dip are more nutrient-dense than chips or popcorn, and freshly squeezed fruit or vegetable juice is more nutrient dense than soda.

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