Photo by Mollie Sivaram on Unsplash

Do you use food to help you relax after a hard day? Are you one of those people who sits down in front of the TV at night and reaches for the snacks? Has the evening become your danger time that is blocking your weight loss journey?

If you’ve answered yes to any of the above, read on for some top tips to help you break the pattern and stop the habit.

If you eat or drink as an emotional response to stress, then breaking this pattern is vital for your health and continued weight loss. And there’s no better time to change things than now, as we head into spring.

You can be running around all day, working and dealing with all the other things in your busy life then literally, as soon as you switch off in the evening, food becomes the thing that relaxes you and helps you feel better. You have your dinner, sit down to watch TV and then start snacking.

This is how at least one in three of the people I speak to recover from stress, but it’s no good for their health and it becomes a habit because the TV becomes the trigger to start the snacking, and the sofa becomes the cue for the brain to kick off the habit.

When this happens you have no power to stop it. The brain knows this is the time it gets its pleasure and reward for a hard day, and it becomes trained to expect it. And the same thing happens with alcohol. You can be brilliant all day but you sabotage all your progress in the evenings and it just becomes a living nightmare.

I have spent years helping people deal with stress and its impact on their emotional eating, so I’m well placed to offer this practical advice on how to break these patterns of unhelpful behaviour that stress leads to, especially in the evenings.

The key to leading a calmer, more rewarding and much healthier life is to reduce the stress hormone cortisol in your body.

Our bodies need some cortisol and it’s an important hormone because it actually helps keep us alive. But when we’re stressed we overproduce it and this can mean weight gain.

In the weight loss world, cortisol is now public health enemy number one.

So having the right balance is essential. Here are five things you can do to take control:

1: Exercise

Exercise is crucial. It gives your brain a buzz from doing something physical. The first step is to be aware of your danger time: when are you most vulnerable? When does that stress rear its ugly head? If it’s when you sit down on the sofa then do something different at that time, like exercise. I know that might sound odd, but the brain gets the same buzz from exercise as it does from food. If you do something physical at this point then your brain will learn that it can get its pleasure from something else. It also means that you’ll be doing something that takes you in a positive direction rather than making you feel bad. A double win!

2: Meditate

Use a meditation app or relaxation download, such as the Chillpod included in my Slimpod programme, which is a great way of dealing with stress.

3: Laugh

Laugh a lot. Laughter is fabulous! It stops stress and lowers cortisol.

4: Eat healthily

Be aware of the food you’re eating and choose healthier options above less nutritious snack foods. (The Slimpod will take care of that too.)

5: Sleep

Get more sleep! Practise good evening habits around sleep, such as not using smartphones or other devices in the hour before going to bed, and having a calming bedroom environment.

It can be done if you take action. You can stop stress in its tracks, right now. Good luck!