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    5 Ways to Avoid Physician Burnout and Stress Eating

    It’s okay to treat yourself with a sweet treat here and there, but, ironically, many physicians have a tough time consistently maintaining their health.

    When you work an 80-hour-week, the windows of opportunity for sleep, meals, and exercise seem tighter and tighter. Add the stress of caring for patients into the mix, and unhealthy eating habits are almost a given. Some may even use food as an emotional outlet. 

    Emotional overeating is the reliance on food to cope with a busy and stressful life. The more that is “on your plate,” so to speak, the more likely you are to eat as an outlet. And stressing over your unhealthy habits, especially if you think you “should know better,” can encourage you to eat even more.

    Even if you don’t suffer from emotional overeating, some of your patients might, so it’s good to know the signs:

    • Urgent cravings for unhealthy food based on angst, not hunger
    • Weight fluctuations that correlate with shifts in your schedule
    • Feelings of guilt and shame over your eating habits

    The stress and lack of structure in a physician’s schedule can be a catalyst for emotional overeating. Here are some strategies that can help you interrupt a stress- eating habit:

    Pack Healthy Snacks

    And carry them with you that you can eat at semi-regular intervals. This will keep your energy up and help you avoid the dreaded vending machine—or bingeing.

    Drink More Water

    Dehydration can masquerade as hunger. When you pack your snacks, also pack some bottles of water. Avoid caffeine, energy drinks, and sodas.

    Pack Your Lunch Ahead of Time

    You’re less likely to go off the rails if you eat something you planned, rather than something you bought on impulse.

    Find Balance in Your Day 

    Reflect on what's been going on before you dive into that new plate of food: what's been happening today? Are you feeling stressed? Overworked? Try to look for areas that you can improve on during this reflection, and work on them! When your life is balanced across all areas (mental, physical, spiritual), you're less likely to overeat. 

    Reflect on Your Choices

    When you get the urge to eat, ask yourself: Am I really hungry for that extra snack or meal, or do I just need a little comfort? Make a list of your triggers to overeating and try to address them. Even if you don’t have immediate answers, the process of identifying your stressors can make them seem more manageable.

    Physicians can get so absorbed in the care of others that they neglect self-care. Lead by example: Taking care of yourself helps your patients, too. If you've got an exam coming up, check out our StudyWise guide for more tips to avoid burnout while you're in exam prep mode. 

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