I’ve eaten an additional 16,625 calories since President Trump was sworn into office. At least, that’s what my calculations based on my recent (and unusual) 4.75-pound weight gain tell me.
I’m not alone: Many of my clients, friends and colleagues are complaining about POTUS pounds. They wake up each morning wondering which crazy Tweet the President (aka Agitator-in-Chief) has fired off, which ally he’s offended, which latest conspiracy theory he’s peddling or which executive order he’ll sign next. Their increased anxiety triggers stress eating.
Even Barbara Streisand said she said she starts the day with “liquids” but turns to “pancakes smothered in maple syrup” after watching the morning news. Donald Trump is causing her to gain weight too, she said.
This physical response to stress is unfortunate, but natural: Studies show that stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol, which causes insulin to rise and blood sugar to drop, making you crave high-calorie junk foods like cookies and ice cream. These foods light up reward areas of the brain that helps you feel better, albeit temporarily. Chronically-elevated cortisol results in sleep disturbances, increases in belly fat, high insulin levels, Type 2 diabetes and chronic inflammation, which is linked to heart disease and many other conditions.
If White House worries are causing you, too, to reach for pancakes, chocolate, ice cream or other feel-good-foods, use these five strategies to veto stress eating:
- Sleep more.
Stress makes it harder to get a good night’s sleep, which in turn, makes it harder to keep your diet on track. Instead of staying up late to watch the “The Rachel Maddow Show” or listen to Jake Tapper give you yet another reason to worry, hit the sack early. An adequate night’s rest can reduce blood cortisol levels and balance your hunger and satiety hormones. Studies show that sleep-deprived adults eat more calories, crave junk food and feel less satisfied after eating compared to adults who log enough shut-eye. Limit your exposure to political media (I’m trying to keep it to no more than an hour a day) and get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
- Step on the scale.
Your bathroom scale is an ally – so use it. Studies repeatedly show that individuals who weigh in frequently lose more weight and are more likely to keep it off. In fact, one study found that overweight adults who weighed themselves five or more days a week lost 20 pounds in six months. To get myself back on track, I started daily weigh-ins so that I had immediate feedback – or surveillance? – on my diet and exercise. Now I have the intelligence needed to figure out what it will take to move the number on the scale in the right direction.
- Plan your meals and snacks.
Eating a healthful meal or balanced snacks every three to four hours helps ensure that your blood sugar levels are stable, so you don’t cave to the craving for a pint of Häagen-Dazs or Halo Top while watching “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Aim to eat plenty of carbs that are high in fiber like fruits, veggies and whole grains, rather than sweet treats, so that you gain stable energy without spiking your blood sugar.
- Avoid alcohol.
Whether you’re frustrated by baseless surveillance allegations or panicked about the future of the arts, I understand the desire for a strong drink to unwind and forget about it all. But resist! Alcohol not only disrupts your sleep, it also stimulates your appetite, reduces inhibitions and increases cravings for junk food.
- Move and breathe deeply.
Any type of physical activity is a proven stress-reliever, but it’s especially good if you get outside. Exercise turns down stress hormones, including cortisol, and increases endorphins – the feel-good hormones that provide the so-called “runner’s high” that helps boost mood, relaxation and self-confidence. Yoga or meditation are also great to turn down tension. If you don’t have time for a workout, practice deep breathing by clearing your mind and focusing only on inhaling and exhaling. Breathe in through your nose and exhale slowly through your mouth. Take 10 deep-belly breaths for an instant calming effect. And remember: You can’t control the president’s actions, but you can govern how you respond.