Ever noticed how you reach for a bag of chips or chocolate bar when you are feeling low or anxious? Stress eating may seem like a quick fix for anxiety, but in time you’ll see its effects on how you look, feel, and, yes, weigh. This vicious cycle can also lead to problems ranging from acne, bloating, and puffiness to hypertension and heart disease.
Stress And Your Eating Habits: The Science Behind It All
1. Stress Response: When you become stressed, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode. Cortisol, the stress hormone, is secreted to help you cope. It assumes your body needs more calories and tries to provide this extra energy – by prompting you to eat more!
2. Cravings And Overeating: Cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism and also affects your blood sugar levels. High amounts of cortisol, over time, causes your body to be starved of glucose.
The more that happens, the more you crave calorie-dense foods that will boost your energy quickly – making you reach for the ice-cream and cake rather than the fruits and veggies!
3. Weight Gain And Other Health Problems: This cycle creates a pattern of overeating and weight gain over time. Besides making you feel sluggish and fatigued, obesity is linked to health issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
Be Mindful And Fight Stress
Working toward de-stressing and relaxing will bring many benefits – physical, mental and emotional. Add these simple steps to your routine:
1. Identify what triggers stress you out, making a note of them. Avoid them as much as possible or learn coping mechanisms to deal with them better.
2. Add simple stress management techniques to your routine – doing yoga, keeping a journal, meditating, going for a walk, listening to music are all great!
3. Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night. Poor sleep can increase the effects of stress and heighten cortisol levels in your body.
4. Start exercising. Exercise releases endorphins in your body that elevate your mood. Include light weights, running, swimming, and resistance training for variety.
5. Stay well hydrated. Drink plenty of water through the day and switch that cup of coffee that also increases cortisol to a detoxifying green tea.
6. Avoid the “hanger” pangs by always having a stash of healthy snacks to munch on. Carry a bag of nuts, seeds, or dry fruits with you.
7. Steer clear of excessively strict diets that over-limit your calorie intake and force you to deprive yourself. This could just make your food cravings worse.
8. Make sure your meals are balanced – tuck into healthy carbs (whole grain bread, oats), protein (lentils, lean meats), veggies and fruits, and healthy fats (avocado, olive oil, peanut butter) at every meal. This will curb the stress hormones and also ensure food isn’t causing you to stress out.
9. Avoid rushing through your food to get to the next thing. Slow down and savor every bite, chewing slowly. This way, you’ll know when you are full and can avoid overeating (and then stressing about it!).