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How you can break the cycle

The good news is that stress-related weight gain can be solved relatively easily once you know how.

By changing your eating patterns, adding some important nutrients and minerals and practising stress-management techniques you can greatly minimise the effect stress is having on your health and weight.

Step 1: Avoid stress-promoting foods

A diet that is high in stimulants and processed foods and low in protein and wholefoods depletes serotonin, the feelgood hormone that helps us to relax. Certain food and drinks rev up stress hormones. They include: caffeine, sugary foods, alcohol, soft drinks, white-flour foods such as scones, as well as refined foods.

Step 2: Fight back with stress-busting foods

Prolonged stress drains and depletes vitamins and minerals from our bodies, particularly the B vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium and zinc. These foods will help build resistance to stress: nuts and seeds, wholegrains, beans and lentils, green leafy vegetables, berry fruits, oily fish, eggs and plenty of water. I would also suggest a vitamin B complex.

Step 3: Manage your stress

Often we can't change the causes of stress but we can work on our reactions to them.

Techniques which help keep stress hormones balanced include: meditation, yoga, moderate exercise, CBT and deep breathing.

Invest a little time to experiment with different techniques until you find one that suits you and don't be afraid to ask for help.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? which can be viewed on Wednesdays at 4.05pm on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations to meet individual health requirements as well as group workshops. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie