Monday, June 5, 2023

How To Reduce Stress Eating

What Is Stress Eating

How to Stop Stress Eating and Why You Do It

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.

Nuts Are A Great Stress

Nuts are full of nutrients, including B vitamins, along with healthy fatty acids. Meyerowitz says B vitamins are an important part of a healthy diet and can help reduce stress. Almonds, pistachios, and walnuts may even help lower blood pressure levels. According to a past study, pistachios in particular can have a role in reducing stress levels. Just remember to limit servings to just a handful a day to avoid excess calories.

Nuts and seeds are also high in magnesium, and thats a plus, Figueroa says, because magnesium has been linked to better anxiety management. Findings from a review published in April 2017 in the journal Nutrients suggested that magnesium benefits individuals with mild to moderate levels of anxiety, but more trials are needed before making this treatment recommendation across the board.

How To Relieve Stress Without Overeating

When stress affects someone’s appetite and waistline, the individual can forestall further weight gain by ridding the refrigerator and cupboards of high-fat, sugary foods. Keeping those “comfort foods” handy is just inviting trouble.

Here are some other suggestions for countering stress:

Meditation. Countless studies show that meditation reduces stress, although much of the research has focused on high blood pressure and heart disease. Meditation may also help people become more mindful of food choices. With practice, a person may be able to pay better attention to the impulse to grab a fat- and sugar-loaded comfort food and inhibit the impulse.

Exercise. While cortisol levels vary depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, overall exercise can blunt some of the negative effects of stress. Some activities, such as yoga and tai chi, have elements of both exercise and meditation.

Social support. Friends, family, and other sources of social support seem to have a buffering effect on the stress that people experience. For example, research suggests that people working in stressful situations, like hospital emergency departments, have better mental health if they have adequate social support. But even people who live and work in situations where the stakes aren’t as high need help from time to time from friends and family.

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Take One Mindful Bite

Think back: How often have you eaten the last cookie or potato chip in the bag only to realize you didnt really taste any of them? When youre stress eating, youre often so distracted and disconnected you eat too much but dont feel all that satisfied. Next time youre in the whirl of it, challenge yourself to slow down for one mindful bite, says Rickel. Get rid of all distractions, bring the food to your mouth, and take in the smell, sight, sound and feeling of it. Chew slowly to savor the texture and taste, and feel the food move down your esophagus and into your belly before you go for the next bite. Then, repeat the process as many times as necessary. As you practice mindful eating, you might find paying attention to the experience makes you feel calmer and more satiated.

What Are Some Of The Causes Of Emotional Eating

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  • Boredom: We all have different definitions of boredom, but it usually focuses around having nothing to do or the task we are doing just seems pointless. This can leave us searching for something to pass the time by, enticing us to eat and potentially leading to emotional eating.
  • Old habits: Maybe your work colleagues would order fast food for the office for lunch every day, and even though you’re in a new job now, you still find yourself ordering fast food several times a day. I always say that habits are learned, which means they can be unlearned and replaced with a new, healthier habit.
  • Finances, work stress, and social interactions: Too much or too little social interaction can influence our cravings. If you’re pent up with your spouse or roommates, and they tend to eat a lot of junk food, you may be tempted to do so as well. Maybe after a big blowout fight you feel the need to eat lots of sugar, or perhaps you just feel lonely and a warm cookie feels like a big hug at the end of the stressful work day. This is all fine if you truly listen to your body, honor your cravings, and feel in control. But if stress seems to be leading your emotions to get the best of you and resulting in poor food choices over and over again, it may be time to make a change. Food is food it’s not your best friend and it’s not your worst enemy. If you’re looking to food to solve your problems, you’ll quickly realize it won’t.

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Learn Mindful Eating Techniques You Can Implement At Meals

Thanks to our hectic modern lifestyle, we often rush through our meals distractedly without tuning into the pleasure of eating. When we stress eat, we often arent fully aware of the meal or snack in front of us.

Mindful eating can help to change your relationship with food by cultivating moment-to-moment awareness and gratitude. The next time youre eating, try using all of your senses to experience it with these tips:

  • Look at your food with curiosity – what can you learn about it?
  • Listen to the sound the food makes, or the noise of you chewing your food.
  • Smell your food with curiosity – this can help heighten the enjoyment and taste!
  • Taste your food – identify and savor the different flavors.
  • Explore the feeling and texture of the food in your mouth.

Each time you are distracted by another thought, bring your focus back to the food. Each time you are tempted to scoop up your next fork-full anticipating a future mouthful, instead of paying attention to your present mouthful gently return your attention to the food in your mouth at the moment.

Give Volumetrics A Try

Volumetrics is a way to eat that focuses on filling up on low calorie, high fiber foods like non-starchy vegetables.

Consuming foods that are low in calories and high in fiber and water before meals can help you feel full, which might decrease overeating.

Examples of volumetrics-friendly foods include grapefruit, salad greens, broccoli, beans, tomatoes, and low-sodium broth.

Eating a large salad or bowl of low-sodium, broth-based soup before lunch and dinner may be an effective way to prevent overeating.

Summary Use the volumetrics method of eating fill up on healthy, low-calorie, high-fiber foods to help promote feeling full.

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Stress Eating Hormones And Hunger

Stress also seems to affect food preferences. Numerous studies granted, many of them in animals have shown that physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both. High cortisol levels, in combination with high insulin levels, may be responsible. Other research suggests that ghrelin, a “hunger hormone,” may have a role.

Once ingested, fat- and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect that dampens stress related responses and emotions. These foods really are “comfort” foods in that they seem to counteract stress and this may contribute to people’s stress-induced craving for those foods.

Of course, overeating isn’t the only stress-related behavior that can add pounds. Stressed people also lose sleep, exercise less, and drink more alcohol, all of which can contribute to excess weight.

Stabilize Your Blood Sugar Levels

How should I eat to help reduce stress? | Herbalife Nutrition

Eating white bread, cookies, candy, and other carbs with high glycemic indexes will likely cause blood sugar levels to spike, then fall quickly.

This rapid blood sugar fluctuation has been shown to promote hunger and can lead to overeating .

Choosing foods with lower glycemic indexes will help prevent blood sugar spikes and may reduce overeating. Beans, oats, and brown rice are all great options.

Summary Eat foods that help keep blood sugar levels constant. High-glycemic foods like candy and white bread can make blood sugar spike then drop, which may lead to overeating. Instead, choose foods like beans, oats, and brown rice.

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Fast Facts About Emotional Eating:

  • There are both physical and psychological causes for emotional eating.
  • Often, emotional eating is triggered by stress or other strong emotions.
  • Coping strategies can help a person trying to alleviate the most severe symptoms.

Emotions, such as stress, are not the only triggers for emotional eating. Other common triggers that people report include:

  • Boredom: Being bored or having nothing to do is a common emotional eating trigger. Many people live very stimulating and active lives, and when they have nothing to do will turn to food to fill that vacuum.
  • Habits: These are often driven by nostalgia or things that happened in a persons childhood. An example might be, having ice cream after a good report card or baking cookies with a grandparent.
  • Fatigue: It is easier to overeat or eat mindlessly when fatigued, especially when tired of doing an unpleasant task. Food can seem like the answer to not wanting to do a particular activity anymore.
  • Social influences: Everyone has that friend who encourages them to get a pizza after a night out, go out for dinner or drinks after a difficult day, or as a reward for a good day. It can be easy to overeat when with friends or family.

Is There Such A Thing As Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is when someone eats without paying attention to or enjoying what they are consuming.

An example is eating an entire container of ice cream while watching television, having not intended to eat that much. This behavior usually happens with emotional eating, not eating through hunger.

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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.³ but, unfortunately, stress itself can prevent some people from taking steps, like exercising, that could make a difference in their mental and physical health. 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.

  • More on this topic


    Eating To Manage Stress

    Fight Stress With Healthy Eating

    How and what you eat can have an impact on your stress levels. Simple things from skipping meals to how much coffee you have in a day can contribute significantly to your overall wellbeing. If you often find yourself stressed out or tense, consider the following eating and lifestyle tips and strategies to help better manage your daily stress levels.

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    Take A Few Mindful Deep Breaths

    “In those moments when you feel really stressed out, take a couple of slow deep breaths,” says Wagner. “The breath can have a naturally soothing impact on the nervous system and also has a calming effect on the mind and body, providing stress-relief that does not involve eating. Try out this brief, seated meditation to support mindful breathing.”

    What Cortisol Does

    Cortisol plays a number of roles in the body, including:

    • Regulating sleep cycles.
    • Managing how the body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
    • Controlling blood pressure.

    Importantly, cortisol is sometimes known as the stress hormone because your adrenal gland releases it when youre in a stressful situation, or when your body is under physical stress . Its the key to helping your body manage its fight-or-flight instinct which is a good thing.

    Cortisol is healthy for a short period of time as a protective mechanism, Barth says. It gives your body the energy you need to respond to a short-term stressful scenario.

    In the long-term, though, too much cortisol actually creates stress in your body, leading to more inflammation and increasing your blood pressure essentially, the opposite of all the good things it does for you in short-term scenarios.

    Managing stress is the number one treatment for lowering cortisol levels, Barth says.

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    How Diet Can Help

    Eating a balanced and healthy diet is key to helping our bodies to manage the physiological changes caused by stress. An important part of any stress response includes identifying and reducing the causes of stress. Adrenal function is significantly influenced by blood sugar levels, therefore much of the dietary advice below aims to stabilise levels of sugar in the blood.

    Choose whole, natural foods and ensure a minimum of five portions of non-starchy vegetables per day and eat a rainbow!

    More on fruit & veg intake…

    Try not to skip meals. Ensure that you eat regularly, taking healthy snacks as necessary. Small, regular meals will help to maintain energy levels and mood, while decreasing tiredness and irritability.

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    Avoid highly refined foods such as white bread, pasta, chocolate, biscuits, sweets or foods with added sugars. Hidden sugars are also in many cereals, breads, tinned produce and processed or packaged foods. Replace processed foods with the unrefined foods such as brown bread, rice, oats and rye. Note that excess alcohol can also cause imbalanced blood sugar levels.

    More on sugar…

    Why Is Stress Bad For Us

    Health Hack: Avoiding Stress Eating

    We need the bodys stress response to get us through tough times. When you sense a threat or danger, your body rises to the challenge by releasing stress hormones, tightening your muscles, making your blood pressure rise and your heart and lungs work harder, and releasing a surge of fat and sugar to give you energy. When danger subsides, your body goes back to normal operations.

    If you get stressed out frequently, however, the stress response can become constant and cause ongoing harm, including chronic inflammation the persistent activation of the immune system, which sharply raises the risks for many diseases such as dementia, heart disease, and stroke.

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    Try A Healthy Eating Plan To Reduce Stress

    One reason busy, stressed people tend to gain weight is that they more often eat fast food, or go out to eat. This is understandable after a busy day running around, you may not have time to come home and cook something from scratch. But healthy eating at home can help you stave off extra pounds when stressed, as meals you make are usually much better for you. Cooking at home can save you money, too, which may indirectly decrease your stress level by putting you under less financial strain. It may seem like a daunting task to come home and cook something healthy or new after a long day, but its easier than you may think. Here are some quick and simple guidelines to help you eat more healthy meals at home:

    There is a huge wealth of recipes for the Instant Pot, as well as online communities and recipes for those who are learning to use them.

    Herbal Tea Helps Promote Feelings Of Warmth And Calmness

    Sometimes it’s the feeling that food or drinks induce, not their nutrients, that helps reduce stress. Drinking a warm cup of tea is one way to help make yourself feel calmer, says Sandra Meyerowitz, MPH, RD, an online nutrition coach and owner of Nutrition Works in Louisville, Kentucky.

    Past research has suggested that holding and sipping a warm beverage increases feelings of interpersonal warmth and friendliness. There’s a soothing effect of sipping a warm drink, regardless of the flavor but certain herbs, like lavender and chamomile, have been shown to have a relaxing effect on their own, Meyerowitz says.

    Figueroa agrees herbal tea is great for winding down but says green tea is perfectly fine when you need a small jolt of caffeine because its full of flavonoids, which studies show support brain health. They can help protect neurons against injury induced by neurotoxins, suppress neuroinflammation, and promote memory, learning, and cognitive function, according to previous research.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, a cup of brewed green tea contains between 25 and 29 milligrams of caffeine versus black brewed coffees 95 to 165 mg per cup. Therefore, green tea can also be a preferable choice compared with coffee if youre looking to chill out.

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