AS A BUSINESS OWNER , you want your company to grow, not your waistline.
But owning a company involves stress, and many anxious entrepreneurs fall victim to a host of sweet and salty plagues they hadn’t envisioned before starting up.
A survey by the American Psychological Association released in October found that 43% of people deal with stress by overeating or munching on unhealthy foods. (Healthier behaviors used to manage stress include listening to music and reading.) The leading causes of stress? Money and work, as reported by three out of four Americans.
There’s scant research on whether business owners experience “stress eating” more than, say, corporate employees. But the myriad responsibilities involved with starting and running a company can easily trigger stress and the associated impulse to consume bigger portions and unhealthy snacks, nutrition and health experts say.
“For business owners, a lot of the stress eating is just because there’s so much to do,” says Deborah Brown-Volkman, a wellness coach in East Moriches, N.Y. “You have to worry about selling, receivables, staffing. You are responsible for everything and that is extremely overwhelming.”
While stress is part of the job, there are healthier ways to deal with it than turning to fatty foods. Here are some tips to avoid stress eating.
Don’t let the munchies catch you by surprise. Research has shown that stress can produce hunger pangs and can cause the angst-ridden to reach for foods like hamburgers, hot dogs and pizza (that’s most common for men), or chocolate and French fries (more common for women). If you’re running a business, “you should expect to be overwhelmed at times; you should expect you will be stressed,” says Brown-Volkman. That way, “it’s not a surprise and you can plan for those times.”
Whether you’re based at home or at an office, keep a drawer of healthy snacks (think dried fruits, nuts, granola bars or dark chocolate) and a mini-refrigerator stocked with fresh items (baby carrots, hummus, cottage cheese or yogurt) so you’re not turning to candy bars — or whatever you can get your hands on at that moment. “If you’re stressed and have nothing there, you start scavenging for anything you can find,” says Susan Mitchell, a nutrition expert in Orlando and author of “I’d Kill for a Cookie,” a book about conquering stress eating.
Don’t deprive yourself. Don’t deny yourself moderate portions of something you really crave. Celery sticks are great, but sometimes you just want barbecue-flavored corn chips, says Brenda Crawford-Clark, a Tulsa, Okla., counselor who specializes in weight issues. You’re better off buying a bag, taking a few out to eat, and then putting the rest away. Otherwise, “you are going to be thinking about it,” she says. “Ultimately, you are going to feel deprived…and then you are going to overeat someplace.” Allow yourself the small treat, and balance it out by kicking up the exercise or eating a more reasonable dinner, she suggests.