Dieting and Stress: Finding a Balance Between the Two

For the obese, life is a struggle between conforming to societal norms and being happy with themselves. Despite diets and good intentions, many obese people share similar stories about their battle with weight-gain. For most obese individuals, overeating is a method of coping. Coping skills are tools people use to help ease the pain or anxiety they may feel. An emotionally stressful period in someone’s lives may cause him or her to overeat, especially when the only coping mechanism they know involves turning to food for comfort; by turning to food, they not only are they add to their weight, but also to their anxiety and depression. Until a person is ready to deal with the triggers that cause their overeating, any diet will eventually fail as the overeating masks the underlying problem.

When starting on a diet, both the physical and emotional needs of the person must be addressed. While overeating may be an unhealthy coping mechanism, it’s a coping skill nonetheless, as it provides the individual with comfort. Before beginning a new lifestyle, it’s important to replace any unhealthy coping skills with ones that are healthy. Removing the unhealthy coping mechanism of overeating without first replacing it with a healthy coping skill can cause more anxiety, stress and depression. This struggle can lead to a relapse into overeating, as they have no other way to deal with overwhelming emotions. By developing a new coping method to use when dealing with the daily stressors of life, overeating doesn’t have to be the only answer. Healthy coping mechanisms include things such as simple relaxation, exercise, listening to music, painting or reading a book. These are all effective coping skills that, with practice, can serve to replace the bad habit of overeating.

The other issue affecting the obese population involves the neurotransmitter, serotonin. The job of serotonin is to promote emotional well-being. In order to produce adequate amounts of serotonin, non-fruit carbohydrates must be consumed. While most normal-sized individuals don’t need a large amount of non-fruit carbohydrates in order to produce the typical amount of serotonin, the obese must eat more non-fruit carbohydrates to produce the same amount of serotonin. Not only do obese people have to eat more to get the same serotonin effect as us, they also have to wait longer for it to form since their brains can’t produce serotonin as readily as the normal-sized person. By adopting healthy coping skills and eating the necessary foods for serotonin production, committed dieters should have no problems reaching their goal.


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