The joys of stress-eating can have adverse effects on your health, wallet and love handles. You crave food when stress is unrelenting and a very unique and well-meaning collaboration between your brain and your body makes you do it.
We’ve all done it before; whenever we have Monday blues, fight with loved ones or when experiencing work stress, grief, sadness or even happiness. Emotional eating is such a common thing, especially with many more people living high-pressure, stressful lifestyles and with food being so readily available whenever or wherever we are.
Emotional eating is the practice of consuming large quantities of food, usually comfort or junk food, in response to feelings instead of hunger. As a result, we often turn to food to heal emotional problems. Depression, boredom, loneliness, chronic anger, anxiety, frustration, stress, problems with interpersonal relationships and poor self-esteem can result in overeating and unwanted weight gain. Eating seems to ameliorate some of the symptoms of depression, so you won’t feel as anxious.
The most dangerous thing about weight gain due to stress-eating is that if you tried to go on a diet to lose the weight you’ve put on, you would lose out on the happy feeling that you get from eating comfort food. And if you’re like any other human being I know… Dieting makes you cranky and you would be even more vulnerable to binge eating!
In order to maintain a healthy body composition, prevent stress-eating or even reverse the effects of weight gain due to stress, we first need to understand why eating makes us so happy land what we can do to enjoy food but not at the expense of our health.
Why stress makes us fat and why eating makes us feel better
When we experience stress, the body goes into a “fight or flight” mode and secretes a high amount of Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”. While small amount of cortisol has some positive effects such as an increase in energy, aid in memory function and boost for immunity among others, long-term elevated cortisone levels (those caused by chronic stress), have many negative impact on the body, which is an increase in visceral fat.
Haw you ever found yourself binging on carbohydrates when anxious or under stress? Carbohydrates cause your body to produce additional serotonin, a hormone which affects your emotion, by alleviating anxiety and depression. A carbohydrate binge can make you eat excess calories, followed by an immediate crash, which makes you feel worse that before you ate them.
The term “comfort-food” should not be taken lightly. Studies have shown that sugary and fatty processed foods can produce addictive behavior. Brain scans of obese people and compulsive eaters have shown similar brain reward circuits to those of drug users. The overlapping effects caused by food in the brain and drugs in the brain are not only alarming but staggering to know why food makes us feel so good!
Our human body a programmed to crave sugary and fatty foods and frequent consumption of these foods can create addictive behavior towards these foods. The constant spiking of blood sugar levels caused by processed foods is one of today’s key causes of health problems such as obesity, diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
So what should we do?
Dealing with stress-eating or staying true to healthy living is never easy.
So when life gets you down, here are three steps to beat stress – and keep it away for good.
1. Eat regularly and never skip breakfast
Eating regular meals help to control cravings and prevent you from bringing on snacks due to skipped meals. Eating the right food during meal times (such as raw fruits and vegetables and complex carbohydrates) can help to regulate your blood sugar levels, which keep you going throughout the day and prevent “crashes”.
A hearty breakfast gives you a good start to the day and prevents you from overeating at lunch. As a chronic breakfast skipper myself, I know that making it a point to eat breakfast helps with making healthy food choices at lunch!
2. Keep high-nutrient supplements nearby to drive away cravings
Convenient supplements such as Spirulina and Super Green Foods can give you powerful super-foods in a sachet that you can take to work or anywhere you go. When you feel the urge to binge on a pack of potato chips, take the healthier choice and take the supplements instead. It might not give you the same drug-Iike effect, but it will fill you with live nutrients, prevent cravings, increase focus and boost your immunity and energy levels.
Extra Virgin Coconut Oil is also a great source of energy. Reducing your carbohydrate intake while increasing your intake of dietary fat from the right sources can help you lose weight as it holds your hunger pangs and teaches your body to burn fat instead of Sugar.
Exercise has amazing effects in helping the body release stress and increase production of “feel-good” hormones. After a long, stressful day, there is nothing better than getting a good session at the gym or a light jog in the park or bounce away on a rebounder at home. Exercise keeps your mind focused and is a much healthier alternative to emotional eating.
Follow these steps to experience stress-relief the healthier way.