What To Eat When Feeling Stressed
Foods high in nutrients and antioxidants are not exactly what you might crave in a stressful situation, but they have been shown to decrease stress in the long run by improving immune function or giving a steady source of energy. Instead of reaching for that bag of chips, munch of a handful of fresh blueberries or almonds. Other foods that are high in nutrients and antioxidants are salmon, avocado, asparagus, grass-fed beef, and even dark chocolate.
Does Stress Causes Hunger
You have both physical and psychological relationships with food. Your physical relationship with food is based on the types of foods you choose to eat, your eating behavior, or habits and how your body responds biologically to your diet. Your psychological, or emotional, relationship with food is based on how you think about food, how you use food for reasons other than to relieve hunger, and how food relates your body image, or the way you feel about how you look.
Sometimes you eat to satisfy true hunger, to fulfill a physical need to eat and survive. At other times, such as when you stress-eat, you eat to satisfy your appetite, or your desire for a particular type of food, because you believe it will provide relief. Thats a psychological, or emotional, need that generally has nothing to do with actual hunger. Emotional hunger is a driving response to overwhelming feelings and emotions.
Of course, if youre hungry and stressed at the same time, you may well be eating to satisfy true hunger, adds Allison. But, at the same time, you may choose fast food or a sweet dessert over something more nutritious because, at that moment, youre not trying to eat healthfully.
How To Stop Stress Eating: 10 Ways To Kick The Habit
EMMIE SATRAZEMIS, RD, CSSD May 31, 2019
There’s a reason they call it comfort food. If you find yourself reaching for high calorie snacks and sugary treats when feeling stressed, you aren’t alone. There is a biological reason behind this common bad habit. Too much stress can do a number on your willpower and in addition, may cause you to make poor food choices, even when you don’t feel hungry. But have no fear, it is possible to kick the habit and regain control of your diet. Here’s ten tips backed by science to help you put a lid on stress eating and keep your emotions out of the kitchen.
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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.
Your Relationship With Food
Food is something we need to survive. It provides nutrients that keep us alive and healthy. It reminds us of home and makes us feel safe and of course, it tastes good. Theres nothing wrong with any of that food should be something we enjoy, not something we feel guilty about.
But sometimes our relationship with food becomes unhealthy. We start to see food as a magic bullet that can solve all our problemsor we see it as an enemy that we need to avoid. There are a few things we can do to bring our relationship with food back to a healthy place:
If your relationship with food gets out of control, it can lead to an eating disorder. Eating disorders are the deadliest type of mental illness, and they can be difficult to treat. If youre worried that you might have an eating disorder, take our eating disorder screen and read on to learn more about what eating disorders are and how theyre treated.
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Effective Ways To Deal With Stress Eating
- Dawn WilsonCrosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 202030 Nov
The reality of a joke during the Covid-19 pandemic hit home with me: Youve heard of the Freshman 15? This is the Covid-19!
During the early months of the pandemic, I struggled with stress eatingand gained 17 pounds! But the Holy Spirit brought my emotion-driven indulgence to a screeching halt with these words, I will help you with the stress, so you can deal with your out-of-whack eating.
Stress Eating, also called emotional eating, is a common problem for those who struggle with their weight, but overindulging regularly can harm physical and mental health. It doesnt fix emotional problems. It actually makes a person feel worse with guilt for overeating.
As I thought and prayed, the Lord gave me a process that helped me cope. I made signs with eight key wordsall beginning with the letter Pand I taped them to my refrigerator and cupboard.
Here are my 8 ways to deal with stress eating.
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.
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Strategy #: Go Ahead And Overeat
Our brains like patterns.
Many of our thoughts, emotions, and actions actually happen on autopilot. Theyre parts of sequences our brains know well from years of practice. Those sequences just need triggers in order to take place.
In the presence of a trigger, your brain dictates a given behaviorlike stress eatingwithout requiring any conscious decision-making on your part.
The physical sensation of hunger is the most obvious trigger. That stomach-grumbling, slightly shaky, even-Brussels-sprouts-sound-good sensation is one you can trust to tell you its time to eat.
But stress eating usually comes after other types of triggers, like certain sights, smells, people, and emotions.
For example, you might find yourself hitting the Girl Scout Cookies hard every Saturday afternoon. Youre always left wondering how it happened, and why you feel so crappy about it.
The process is so automatic you often dont have any idea whats triggering it.
But if you really started paying close attention, you might have an epiphany: Its also the time you talk to your mom every week.
So heres a wild idea: Give yourself permission to overeat.
Its going to feel counterintuitive at first.
But view it as a learning experiencea necessary step in the process.
Replace Sugary Beverages With Water
Drinking sugary beverages like soda and juice could lead to weight gain and increase the risk of certain diseases like diabetes .
Studies have shown that consuming sweetened drinks with meals may be linked to overeating as well.
A review of 17 studies found that adults who drank sugar-sweetened beverages with meals consumed 7.8% more food than adults who consumed water with meals (
Fortunately, taking certain actions can help. For example, try taking on a new activity thats enjoyable. It may help prevent boredom and distract from the urge to nibble.
Also, spending some time thinking about what triggers overeating can help determine the type of help to seek. If depression and anxiety are contributors, getting proper treatment from a mental health professional might assist with reducing overeating.
Every person is different, so its important to find the right treatment plan for your needs.
Summary Think about the feelings during episodes of overeating and seek help to address the issues behind the behavior. Depression and boredom are two common reasons. A mental health professional can provide guidance.
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Indulge Without Overeating By Savoring Your Food
When you eat to feed your feelings, you tend to do so quickly, mindlessly consuming food on autopilot. You eat so fast you miss out on the different tastes and textures of your foodas well as your bodys cues that youre full and no longer hungry. But by slowing down and savoring every bite, youll not only enjoy your food more but youll also be less likely to overeat.
Slowing down and savoring your food is an important aspect of mindful eating, the opposite of mindless, emotional eating. Try taking a few deep breaths before starting your food, putting your utensils down between bites, and really focusing on the experience of eating. Pay attention to the textures, shapes, colors and smells of your food. How does each mouthful taste? How does it make your body feel?
Practice mindful eating
Eating while youre also doing other thingssuch as watching TV, driving, or playing with your phonecan prevent you from fully enjoying your food. Since your mind is elsewhere, you may not feel satisfied or continue eating even though youre no longer hungry. Eating more mindfully can help focus your mind on your food and the pleasure of a meal and curb overeating. See Mindful Eating.
Stress And Binge Eating: Why We Do It And How To Avoid It
Whether its an upcoming deadline at work or moving to a big city, stressful life events tend to trigger cravings for comfort food. Sitting in front of the TV with a cheeseburger and chocolate ice cream may seem like the easiest solution for emotional woes, but halfway through the pint of Rocky Road is when guilt and frustration usually set in. Eating is a common coping mechanism for stress, but studies have shown it does nothing to decrease stress levels and can lead to serious weight gain.
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How Can You Manage Stress Eating
1. Practice mindful eating. Know that your craving may be a result of a stressful event, and then ask yourself, are you truly hungry? Wait a few minutes before eating.
2. Find healthier options. If you still feel the need for a snack, consider a lower-calorie, lower-fat option than what you may have previously chosen. Here are some healthy snacks I enjoy:
- Something sweet: Cut up an apple and spread some nut butter on it. The combination of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fat should help curb your appetite and satisfy your need for a sweet.
- Something savory: Consider adding hummus to deviled eggs for a lower-calorie, high-protein snack option.
3. Watch portion size. Instead of taking the whole box with you, put a snack-size amount on a plate. Check the package to see what one serving size is, and try to stick to that.
Its always a good idea to consult your doctor or a dietitian when you make changes to your diet.
This article is written by Erin Gager, R.D., L.D.N., a dietitian at The Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Identify Your Emotional Triggers
First and foremost, its crucial to know yourself and know what triggers these harmful emotions for you. Sometimes, they can be small: a work event, a stressful family situation, or the loss of a friendship. Or maybe youre dealing with larger stressors: prolonged trauma, the death of a loved one, or depression.
An emotional trigger can cause lots of unwanted stress, no matter the scale. Recognizing the emotions youre feeling when you do reach for those comfort foods is the first step in redirecting those emotions away from food. If you want more information on emotional eating, check out this article.
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Difficulty Dealing With Emotions
It is common for people to also struggle with difficult or uncomfortable feelings and emotions. There is an instinct or need to quickly fix or destroy these negative feelings, which can lead to unhealthy behaviors.
And emotional eating is not only linked to negative emotions. Eating a lot of candy at a fun Halloween party, or too much on Thanksgiving are examples of eating because of the holiday occasion itself.
How To Manage Your Stress
While avoiding all sources of stress is impossible, limiting your stress and developing strong stress management skills may help limit your health risks. Some things you can do include:
- Identify your sources of stress
- Explore ways to avoid or minimize your stress
- Develop healthy coping mechanisms
- Write in a gratitude journal
Making lifestyle changes and developing healthy coping mechanisms can help reduce stress and protect your mental health.
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How To Approach Stress Eating:
Step #1: we need to curb the guilty feelings about stress or emotional eating.
I started this guide off by highlighting the frequency of stress eating amongst our Online Coaching clients.
You are not the only one struggling with this.
Most humans do.
And robots with human-like emotions and taste buds
Well come back to this idea again, because ending the shame of emotional eating will be critical for moving forward.
Step #2: allowing ourselves to stress eat will help us learn why we do it.
Were going to be playing detective here, to see if we can piece apart your actions and routines.
At the end of the day, our lives are a cumulation of habits. Stress eating is one such habit.
So lets learn about it!
To do so, were gonna record some Emotional Eating Notes.
During an episode of stress eating, its important to ask:
- What am I doing?
The purpose of theseEmotional Eating Notes?
To look for patterns!
Perhaps youll notice some of the following:
- After my recent Tuesday morning conference call, when I got grilled by my companys leadership, I grabbed some chocolate chip cookies. This happened the week before too.
- Around 2pm, when I get the afternoon slumps, I normally grab a Coca-Cola. This little boost gets me through the end of the day. This is almost a daily practice.
- Last Sunday evening, when thinking about the start of the workweek, I had a couple glasses of wine. When looking back at my notes, this takes place at the end of most weekends.
How The Diathesis Stress Model Works
Everyone has vulnerabilities due to genes, genetic abnormalities, or the complex interaction of various genes. But just because these predispositions exist does not mean that an individual will develop that condition.
In many cases, a disorder will only emerge when stress-related pressures trigger the underlying diathesis. This exposure to stress can trigger the mental disorder’s onset or worsen existing symptoms.
However, it is essential to note that not everyone with a predisposition will develop a mental disorder, just as not everyone who experiences stress is destined to experience mental illness. The diathesis-stress model is one way to explain why some people are more vulnerable to mental illness than others. It also explains why some people may develop a mental disorder after exposure to stressful life events while others do not.
The heritability of mental illness ranges from 35% for depression to 60% for schizophrenia.
However, it is essential to remember that in most cases, no single gene is responsible for causing a mental disorder. Instead, it is often the result of many genes or other biological factors interacting with environmental variables that determine overall risk.
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In Need Of Stress Relief The Answer Might Be In Your Diet
Stress-relief doesn’t just come from exercise.
Not that these practices aren’t great ways to relieve and manage stress, but since they sort of “steal the spotlight,” if you will, diet is often overlooked as part of the stress-fighting picture.
“Eating a healthy diet can reduce the negative effects of stress on your body,” said Matthew J. Kuchan, Ph.D., a senior research scientist at Abbott. “A healthy diet builds a solid, more enduring foundation for your body by reducing oxidation and inflammation and by helping to reduce weight gain.”
Of course, and especially when we’re extra busy and, subsequently, more likely to be stressed, eating healthy is certainly not an easy habit to maintain. For many, prepping healthy meals doesn’t always fit into a busy schedule and dining out is the norm more often than not.
“This generally contributes to a less healthy diet,” Kuchan said. “We all know how easy it is to treat ourselves to that rich, high-fat meal we have been craving but would usually not fix for ourselves.”
How Exactly Do Healthy Foods Reduce Stress?
“Stress negatively affects blood pressure and blood flow,” Kuchan said. “There is a strong relationship between fluctuations in brain blood flow and brain health and these compounds over time.”
Nutrients from healthy foods, Kuchan explained, can help improve blood flow in the body.
Kuchan also mentioned that more recent studies are uncovering the stress-fighting effects of plant compounds.
What Is Stress Eating
Stress eating, or emotional eating, is pretty much what it sounds like its when you eat in order to escape whatever bad feelings youre experiencing, in the hope that food will make you feel better.
Sometimes its a conscious decision, but more often than not, its just a mindless response to a vague, negative emotion that you cant quite put your finger on. Stress and boredom can also trigger emotional eating. It might lead you to order in comfort foods that are higher in calories than your usual meals rather than cooking a healthy meal at home, or skip meals altogether and just graze on a series of unhealthy snack foods.
Stress can bring on fatigue or depression, so healthy eating might take a back seat to foods that are comforting. Those high-calorie comfort foods can stimulate the release of certain chemicals in the brain that make us feel good, but also make us want to keep eating. In a vicious cycle, overeating can lead to weight gain increasing stress and which, in turn, can lead to more overeating.
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