Is Your Job Derailing Your Diet?
Credit: Lunchtime photo via Shutterstock

Whenever I’m having "one of those days" at work, I usually find myself hitting up the snack machine for a mid-afternoon chocolate fix. Yesterday was one of those days.

But, the thing that was different about yesterday was that I realized that I wasn’t even hungry. I was just eating to make myself feel better; a phenomena known as “emotional eating.” This surprised me because I never thought of myself as an emotional eater. I don’t get all sappy in a bowl of ice cream after a long day, and I know the importance of eating well. Nonetheless, I am sometimes guilty of this bad habit.

According to a study reported this month in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, I’m not alone. This study showed that women who were experiencing “work burnout” were much more likely to eat when stressed out, anxious or depressed.

Surprisingly, there was no obvious correlation between emotional eating and weight, but that doesn’t mean the habit isn’t harmful. Just because you aren’t gaining weight, doesn’t mean you’re healthy. Emotional eaters tend to reach for less healthy choices when the pressure heats up. Think about it: When you’re stressed, would you rather eat an apple, or a cupcake?

The authors of the study recommended treating burnout first, and then addressing the eating habit issues. I definitely agree with that logic; it’s always best to treat the root of the problem than the symptoms that come as a result.

So, here are my best tips for avoiding work burnout and keeping in tip-top shape:

  1. Go to bed early. Make sure you’re in bed with enough time for you to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
  2. Wake up, and then relax. Start each day with a relaxing ritual, such as meditating, reading or stretching.
  3. Learn how to say “no,” politely. You aren’t a superwoman or man, and no one expects that of you. Still, people will continue to ask things of you until you tell them you’re at capacity. If your boss is asking too much of you, sit down and have a talk about your workload. Chances are, he doesn’t even realize that you’re overextended. 
  4. Try to work on one thing at a time. When you’re working on a big project, shut off your email notifications and anything else that will distract you. This will not only help you feel less stressed, but you’ll manage your time better and may become more productive.

Be creative. Find ways to be creative at work, if at all possible. If your job doesn’t allow for any creativity, do something creative when you get home. Something as simple as sketching or journaling may be the outlet you need to begin de-stressing. 

Healthy Bites appears on MyHealthNewsDaily on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!