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Stay Away from the Fridge

Here, four common emotions that drive women to overeat — and the strategies that can help you resist.

 

If you eat when you're happy

  • Be creative. The next time something fabulous happens — you get promoted, or your daughter makes the soccer team — invent a new kind of feel-good ritual. Instead of treating yourself to a special dinner with your husband, take an afternoon off and spend it with him. To recognize your daughter's accomplishment, join her in an activity like skating or biking. Begin to retrain your brain to celebrate without food.
  • Plan ahead. Developing a popcorn strategy, for example, could save you from eating an entire bag at the movies. "If you tell your husband beforehand, 'OK, I'm only going to have two handfuls,' you may actually limit yourself to that much," explains Abramson.
  • Learn how to party. If there are hors d'oeuvres, choose two of your favorites (and yes, one should be a veggie). Then eat just those items. Research shows that people who rely on a few diet staples are more likely to keep weight off than those who vary their foods. To prevent mindless grazing, stay more than an arm's length away from any snack bowls. And if you get a good conversation going, put your plate down. "The more you focus on people, the more distracted you get, and the more you tend to eat," explains Wansink.

If you eat when you're anxious

  • Take a quick walk. A California State University study that tracked frequent snackers found that those who went for a brisk five-minute walk when they felt frazzled were much less likely to grab a candy bar than those who just sat at their desks. "Walking for only a few minutes lifts serotonin levels — and that boosts your mood and leaves you feeling less anxious," explains Robert Thayer, Ph.D., author of Calm Energy. This trick worked for Lisa Downs: "When I felt nervous about our family's finances, I would take a walk. Even five minutes helped curb my sweet cravings," she says.
  • Say "om." De-stressing can be a powerful way to whittle down. A recent study from Oregon Health & Science University found that overweight women who performed daily relaxation techniques, such as meditation, yoga, or even writing in a diary for 20 minutes, lost an average of 10 pounds after 18 months — without consciously dieting. "We suspect that these relaxation techniques helped serve as a buffer to stress, so the women were less likely to overeat," explains study author Anne Nedrow, M.D.
  • Check your watch. The likeliest binge time for anxious eaters is late afternoon or early evening, because that's when stress levels are usually at their highest, says Cynthia Bulik, Ph.D., director of the Eating Disorders Program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and author of Runaway Eating. So steer clear of the kitchen (or vending machine) during those hours.

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