Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How To Avoid Stress Eating

Healthy Eating Tips To Reduce Stress

How to avoid stress eating during a pandemic

The occasional stressful event, like a car that wont start or a refrigerator on the blink, is a part of life. When stuff like this happens, we do get stressed a little bit. Its the bodys way of helping us to focus so we can tackle the problem. Getting stressed out occasionally is one thing, but when stress becomes chronicfor instance, when we face unrelenting work demands, or constant worry about our financesit can really take a toll on the body.

The bodys natural response to stress leads us to feel a little more on and alert. We evolved this fight or flight response as a way to defend ourselves against a sudden danger or threat. But when this stress response is turned on all the time, it can tax the bodys immune system, making it more difficult for us to ward off disease. And since a healthy immune system depends on a nutrient-rich diet, being well-nourished by healthy eating is one of the best defenses against illnessparticularly during times of ongoing stress.

Thats easier said than done, though. Stress can also bring on fatigue or depression, so healthy eating might take a back seat to foods that are quick or comforting and often loaded with fat, salt and sugar. And if youre turning to caffeine to ward off fatigue, that can also backfire by disrupting your sleep.

Swap Out Comfort Foods For Nourishing Snacks

When learning how to stop stress eating, its important to keep the foods you normally turn to out of the house. Thats why identifying your emotional eating patterns, including what you eat, is so important. If you dont keep potato chips in your house, its more difficult to reach for them when youre feeling down.

Because our association between eating and comfort is so strong, however, quitting suddenly doesnt work for everyone. In order to retrain your brain, you can replace comfort foods with healthier alternatives.

TheCleveland Clinicrecommends eating foods that can actually help you cope with stress, such as antioxidant-rich green or white tea, cherries, and dark chocolate. This way, your brain still enjoys the feeling of snacking and feeling satisfied without the effects of eating high-sugar, high-sodium, and high-calorie foods.

How To Start Mindful Eating

  • The first rule to learn about mindful eating is to respect that moment without doing other simultaneous activities.
  • Prepare yourself to live the experience of eating using all your senses.
  • Dont eat to meet a schedule, but rather eat when you feel hungry.
  • Drink a large glass of water before you start eating and wait about 30 minutes. This will help you stay hydrated and fill you up.
  • Every time you go to eat, ask yourself these questions: Why am I going to eat? Am I really hungry or bored, angry or sad? If you feel there is an emotion behind the idea of eating, try another activity, such as walking for a few minutes, going outside, or playing with your pet. If after that, you still want to eat, then go ahead.
  • Take reasonable time when eating and find a quiet place to enjoy that moment.
  • Don’t sit in front of the TV, computer, or phone while eating. Focus all your senses on your food.
  • Select foods according to the benefits you want to obtain in your body and mind, such as antioxidants, vitamins, energy, etc.
  • Prepare small portions of food. Start tasting one by one each ingredient, observe them, feel their aroma, texture, and savor each bite.
  • Dont rush. Chew and process what you are eating in your mouth to improve the entire digestive process.
  • Ask yourself how you feel after eating and if you need more.
  • If you like, take a moment to be grateful for the healthy food you are eating.

Let’s be healthier together.

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Learn To Recognise Your Emotions

Stress eating is brought upon because of your emotions, so becoming aware of your mindset and emotions is really important. A simple but effective exercise is to start assessing how your feeling at the same time every day. It can be just before you start work, or as you get into bed each night. Make a note of it and if you find yourself feeling a little down, anxious or stressed for more than 2-3 days, acknowledge that stress eating may become apparent.

Recognising these emotions and periods of heightened stress will help in all areas in your life and will allow you to put an action plan in place to prevent out of control binges from occurring. Call a friend for a debrief, book yourself in for a massage, or simply schedule in 15 minutes for meditation or deep breathing to refocus your mind from a state of negativity into positivity and optimism.

Stress And Eating Behavior


The term stress refers to processes involving perception, appraisal, and response to noxious events or stimuli . Stress experiences can be emotionally or physiologically challenging. In addition, regular and binge use of addictive substances may serve as pharmacological stressors. Acute stress activates adaptive responses, but prolonged stress leads to wear-and-tear of the regulatory systems, resulting in biological alterations that weaken stress-related adaptive processes and increase disease susceptibility . Thus, mildly challenging stimuli limited in duration can be good stress or eustress and may increase motivation to achieve goal-direct outcomes and homeostasis this can result in a sense of mastery and accomplishment, and can be perceived as positive and exciting . However, the more prolonged and more intense the stressful situation, the lower the sense of mastery and adaptability and thus the greater the stress response and risk for persistent homeostatic dysregulation . The perception and appraisal of stress relies on specific aspects of the presenting external or internal stimuli and may be moderated or mediated by personality traits, emotional state, and physiological responses that together contribute to the experience of distress.

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Are You Stress Eating How To Spot And Prevent This Habit

If you’ve recently found yourself half way through a box of sugary cereal before realizing you weren’t even hungry, you’re not alone.

For many of us, eating based solely on hunger is a rare occurrence. Most people have been hit hard at one time or another with emotional eating, which is similar to cravings with its own complexity.

To put it simply, emotional eating is when you eat specifically due to your emotions and feelings rather than due to hunger. Both positive and negative emotions can alter eating behaviors in different ways, for different people.

And right now there are no shortage of negative emotions sending us in search of solace at the bottom of a tub of ice cream. You may find yourself nervously munching while watching the news or making one too many unnecessary trips to the fridge simply to break up the monotony of working from home during the pandemic.

Research has shown that stress can increase levels of ghrelin , which stimulates the release of of dopamine in the brain . So when youre feeling stressed, you have a stronger appetite and greater desire to seek out food. How you control your response to stress can help prevent overeating .

These are a few common triggers to be aware of and tips on how to control them:

Potential Role Of Insulin

Animal models have demonstrated that GCs act directly in a feed-forward manner that promotes food-associated drives and CRF and ACTH secretion. For example, adrenalectomized rats demonstrate reduced food intake, while GC administration increases food intake by stimulating the release of NPY and inhibiting CRF release , . However, these effects do not appear to increase feeding-motivated behaviors under all conditions. Adrenalectomy reduces chow intake, while subsequent corticosterone replacement normalizes it however, high corticosterone levels neither stimulate nor reduce chow intake . When rats were made diabetic using streptozotocin , a marked, dose-dependent effect of corticosterone on intake of rat chow was noted . Together, these findings suggest that insulin secretion, also stimulated dose-dependently by GCs, partially blocks chow intake stimulated by corticosteroids.

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What Is Stress Eating

Stress eating, often synonymous with emotional eating, is the act of eating food in response to feelings. This typically occurs when you may not even be truly hungry, but some sort of emotion triggers you to eat more. When we feel stressed , our body releases a steroid hormone known as cortisol. This hormone has several roles in the body, including helping to control blood sugar levels and regulate metabolism. A short-term activation of your stress system is fine and can actually suppress your appetite. But chronic stress can lead to high levels of cortisol that stay elevated, which subsequently increases blood sugar and appetite. This in turn can make you crave sugary foods or even fatty/greasy foods, which both tend to be very high calorically and can lead to excess weight gain, as well as a negative relationship with food.

Avoid Running On Empty

Ways to avoid stress eating and boost your health

One of the top reasons people stress eat is because they are genuinely hungry, but this quickly turns into a binge. A simple way to prevent this from happening is to ensure youre always feeling satisfied.

Eat at regular times throughout the day we suggest breakfast, lunch and dinner with a snack in between each meal. And be sure to include a moderate portion of protein each time you eat. This can be anything from a serve of plain Greek yoghurt or a boiled egg, to a palm-sized piece of grilled chicken or red meat.

Also read:What to Do Immediately After a Binge

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Identify Your Emotional Eating Triggers

The first step in putting a stop to emotional eating is identifying your personal triggers. What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food? Most emotional eating is linked to unpleasant feelings, but it can also be triggered by positive emotions, such as rewarding yourself for achieving a goal or celebrating a holiday or happy event.

Physical Impact Of Stress

There are also some physical reasons why stress and strong emotions can cause a person to overeat:

  • High cortisol levels: Initially, stress causes the appetite to decrease so that the body can deal with the situation. If the stress does not let up, another hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol increases appetite and can cause someone to overeat.
  • Cravings: High cortisol levels from stress can increase food cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress is also associated with increased hunger hormones, which may also contribute to cravings for unhealthy foods.
  • Sex: Some research shows that women are more likely to use food to deal with stress than men are, while men are more likely than women to smoke or use alcohol.

It is very easy to mistake emotional hunger for physical hunger. But there are characteristics that distinguish them.

Recognizing these subtle differences is the first step towards helping to stop emotional eating patterns.

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Strategy : Restrict Access To Unhealthy Snacks

As the saying goes out of sight, out of mind, therell be less temptation to snack if theyre kept away from you when your mouth starts itching. Start with these simple steps:

Remember to only list down things you need on your shopping list, rather than snacks and unhealthy foods!

  • Make a shopping list: Before grocery shopping, make a list of what you really need and stick close to it. Supermarket shelves and food packaging are designed to tempt us into buying things that we might not need. A list acts as a reminder for us to reflect on our purchases, before reaching out for something that had not been included.
  • Keep junk food out of sight: Although you may have just bought a few packets of chips, hide the snacks away in a cupboard or a high shelf that is difficult to access. By making your snacks more inaccessible, you are less likely to reach out to them, when you feel the urge chomp down on something.

Do You Stress Eat Regularly Do This

How to Avoid Stress Eating

In addition to making a list of non-food ways to address your feelings, and questioning yourself in the moment, building regular meditation, exercise, and healthy eating habits into your day will holistically reduce and prevent stress eating. These healthy habits help lower your stress hormone levels and nourish your body with nutrients that support a calmer, less-anxious, and happier mood.

Have you tried these tips? Have they helped? What is your experience with stress eating? Tell me in the comments below.

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Stress Eating And The Reward System

Exposure to acute stress during a positron emission tomography scan revealed that both stress and cortisol release enhanced dopamine release from the NAcc . Another study similarly found that individuals with greater cortisol reactivity released more dopamine in the ventral striatum, suggesting a strong interconnectictivity between the two . In parallel, peripheral homeostatic regulators of energy balance, such as leptin, ghrelin, insulin, and orexin , can also regulate behaviors that are non-homeostatic and modulate the rewarding properties of food , . These neuropeptides may be involved with food intake regulation by interacting with the dopaminergic system through cognate receptors on VTA dopamine neurons.

Choose Filling Nutritious Foods

Stocking your kitchen with filling, nutrient-dense foods can not only help improve your overall health but also combat the tendency to stress eat highly palatable foods.

For example, filling your fridge and pantry with foods that can help fill you up in a healthful way rather than foods rich in empty calories like candy, chips, and soda is a smart way to prevent the chances of noshing on unhealthy choices.

Filling foods are ones that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, and eggs are just some examples of nutritious, satisfying choices that can help fill you up and prevent overeating (

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Check In With Yourself

One of the most helpful ways to prevent overeating is to understand why its happening in the first place. There are many reasons why you may be compelled to overeat, including being stressed out or bored.

If you find yourself eating too frequently or eating too much in one sitting, take a minute and check in with yourself. First, its important to determine whether youre eating because youre hungry and need nourishment, or whether theres another reason.

Before you eat, pay special attention to how youre feeling, such as stressed, bored, lonely, or anxious. Simply pausing and evaluating the situation can help you understand what compels you to overeat and may help prevent overeating in the future.

That said, combating overeating is rarely easy, and you may have to seek professional help, especially if its a common occurrence or you eat to the point of discomfort and experience feelings of shame or guilt afterward. These may be signs of disordered eating (

Bring Out Your Inner Chef

How to avoid stress eating, sugar cravings during the COVID-19 lockdown

Some good things come along with being stuck at home. Not having the option to eat out at restaurants makes you cook more meals yourself, which has been shown to improve overall health.

For example, a study in 11,396 people found that eating home-cooked meals more frequently was associated with a greater intake of fruits and vegetables.

Plus, it found that people who ate home-cooked meals more than 5 times per week were 28% less likely to be overweight and 24% less likely to have excess body fat, compared with those who ate home-cooked meals less than 3 times per week .

Whats more, planning your meals a few days ahead can help you kill time and has even been shown to improve diet quality and reduce obesity risk (

15 ).

To combat dehydration, add a few slices of fresh fruit to your water to boost its flavor, which may help you drink more water throughout the day without adding a significant amount of sugar or number of calories to your diet.

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Post Reminders Of Your Why

When youre stressed out, its easy to lose sight of the long-term benefits of making healthy food choices because you just want to feel better ASAP. To get yourself back on track, post reminders of why you want to lose weight on your cupboards or fridge, such as a photo of the grandchildren you want to see graduate high school or the 5K route you want to tackle. These tactics can create that imperative millisecond of space and time in which you can choose not to seek comfort in food, says Rickel. Another option: Write yourself reminders on Post-It notes about how good you feel when you get through a night without stress eating.

Prepare New And Interesting Meals At Home

Explore the culinary arts and improve your relationship with food by preparing your meals at home. Find recipes that involve new ingredients or make items youve never before tried to cook yourself.

By preparing your own food, you are more conscious of what you put into your body, and studies show home-cooked meals generate multiple benefits. People who cook more meals at home consume more fruits and vegetables and are less likely to be overweight.

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Ways To Handle Stress Eating

In order to get control of stress eating, you have to control your stress levels. The best way to deal with stress is to address current situations head-on and, at the same time, learn to be prepared to handle stressful situations in the future before both the problem and your eating behavior get out of hand. These 5 steps can help you manage stress and avoid stress eating:

  • Know your stressors. Identify the circumstances and emotions that lead you to stress-eat. These are your emotional eating triggers, and once you recognize them, you can take steps to avoid them or at least be prepared for them.
  • Exercise to reduce stress. If youre physically fit, youre more resistant to the effects of stress.3Exercise causes chemical changes in the brain that reduce stress but, unfortunately, stress itself can prevent some people from taking steps, like exercising, that could make a difference in their mental and physical health.4 If your personal circumstances make it difficult for you to get to the gym or even do formal exercises at home, try to increase the amount of walking, gardening, cleaning and other lighter forms of movement and exercise you normally do from day to day.
  • Reach out for help. Talk out your feelings and your unhealthy responses to stress with close friends and family who can give you the support you need to get through tough situations. If you often feel guilt, shame or regret over your eating habits, you may want to speak with a professional counselor.
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