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Stay Away from the Fridge

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

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.

I f you eat when you're bored

  • Work for your food. If you're munching just because you have nothing better to do, choose a snack that requires time and energy, such as microwave popcorn, unshelled nuts — even crunchy foods like carrots that involve a lot of chewing. "For me, it's pistachios," confesses Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., director of the Weight Management Center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. "I have to crack the shells open one by one, which forces me to eat slowly and be more conscious of how much I'm putting in my mouth."
  • Skip Leno or Letterman. If you stay up late, there's a good chance you'll get a case of the munchies — and that can spell extra pounds. A 2004 University of Texas study found that nocturnal noshers end up eating more fat and calories than those who snack earlier in the day. "It's very easy to overeat if you're bored, especially if you're doing something sedentary like sitting in front of the TV," explains Abramson. A better move: Get in bed an hour earlier and catch up on your zzz's; several studies show a clear link between obesity and too little sleep (say, less than seven hours).

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