Are you a Stress Eater?
Are you giving stress the ability to impact your relationships, work, or eating habits? Stress is the state of mental and emotional strain resulting from undesirable circumstances. We can all say stress has affected us at some point in our lifetime- however the way we decide to react to it is what matters. A common coping strategy is “stress eating” which means when stressed one can have the tendency to overeat, this is connected to psychological or physiological stressors without a biological need to eat.
Does this sound like you? Keep reading.
You might’ve heard of the “flight or fight” response, which is a reaction that occurs in response to a perceived harmful event, or in this case, stress. The sympathetic nervous system releases hormones that cause changes in the body to shift all its energy towards fighting off a threat. Let's say you were running from a tiger- the last thing your body is thinking about is digesting what you had for breakfast this morning. Your body is putting all the energy you have in your leg muscles to help you run away. For someone who is in a chronic state of stress, your digestive system can be in danger. Under stress, your body is not focused on digestion and proper gut health, leading to developing symptoms similar to those with Irritable Bowel Syndrome. This includes constipation, diarrhea, bloating, nausea, and/or lack of appetite.
Stress also causes us to have an emotional response. Do you usually grab the tub of ice cream, cookies, or candy to satisfy that craving when you're under stress? This is common, when we consume sugar we release a hormone called serotonin. This hormone causes us to be relaxed, happy, and satisfied. This is also the hormone that is released when one does drugs, therefore those sweets have the ability to be addictive. This habit can put one at risk for obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
But I know what you're thinking...giving up cravings is easier said than done, right? What we can try doing is practice being mindful.
It is important to recognize emotional hunger vs. physical biological hunger. The next time you get a craving ask yourself these questions: Are you craving something specific? Is it sudden? Do you feel guilty or unsatisfied after? This is emotional hunger and it is beneficial to stay away from these cravings. If your hunger/craving is broad, comes about gradually, can wait, and leaves you feeling satisfied after; this is your biological hunger which you should respond to.
All in all, we must address the root problem first- which is your stress. There are many outlets out there to help you combat stress to then overcome your stress eating. Aside from practicing mindfulness, develop a good support system, meditate, learn from your mistakes, and remove negative influences and temptations.
I believe in you!