Wellness With Age: The art of stress eating

When an infant or young child suckles, that sucking action is the first step in creating a chain reaction throughout the body. This is true regardless of what is being sucked on, be it a bottle, thumb or pacifier, or even fingers, toes or toys.

This sucking motion causes the jaw to move back and forth making the jaw rub against the axial bones which in turn rubs against the neck vertebrae which then rubs again the upper back vertebrae. In essence, the sucking allows the infant or young child to literally massage him or her self.

When we as teens and adults stress eat on crunchy or chewy foods the chewing motion does the exact same thing as the sucking motion enabling us to massage ourselves — literally.

Therefore, stress eating can be a good thing and, in and of itself it is not an issue. The issue, the problem, is in the foods we consume while stress eating.

We all know the list of basic health foods which are crunchy such as fresh apples, carrots and nuts. Yet compared to snack foods such as pretzels and chips, those healthy snacks can taste boring.

The good news is there are easy fixes for this dilemma. Here are a few examples:

The key ingredients which make ranch dressing so loved are garlic and dill. Simply add garlic and dill to low fat yogurt or cottage cheese and dip your fresh vegetables into that. It has the same great taste as the original ranch and is healthier.

Another idea is to dip nuts in egg whites then spices such as cinnamon and then to roast those nuts in an oven for 20-30 minutes.

One very easy idea is to make your own trail mix combining ingredients such as nuts, raisins and banana chips, or pretzels and chocolate chips.

This is fun because you can be creative while mixing and matching. Popcorn can be very healthy without the butter or other unhealthy seasonings.

Try making your own popcorn and add a favorite seasoning, such as Italian herbs or nutritional yeast.

I would like to suggest making a list for yourself of healthy foods which are crunchy or chewy. After starting my own list, I was amazed. Foods we do not even think about can be added, such as watermelon, raisins and frozen grapes. Sorghum grains can be popped like popcorn, and are more crunchy than popcorn.

While preparing for this column I had an “ah-ha” moment: Instead of waiting for stressful situations to enjoy the crunch of good foods, why not adapt the eating habits of the Mediterranean cultures?

These societies consume balanced, healthy meals which include healthy and crunchy, foods such as fresh, crisp vegetables and nuts.

The secret is these cultures have developed the habit of enjoying healthy foods with family and friends during a relaxing and leisurely meal.

Feel free to email us your thoughts on stress eating. I personally reply to every email: info@wellnesswithage.com.

Crystal Linn is a multi-published author and an award-winning poet. When not writing, or teaching workshops, she enjoys reading a good mystery, hiking, and sailing with friends and family. See crystallinn.com.