Is Stress Making You Eat More?

Why Do You Eat?

We all deal with stress.  And we each have our own way of dealing with it.  A very common way to deal with stress, especially chronic stress, is eating.  When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol, a stress hormone.   In addition, another hormone that is released is ghrelin  a hunger hormone.

Ghrelin stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, this tells the body that it wants to eat.  Cortisol is what triggers our food cravings such as salty, sweet, and fried.  In other words, when you are feeling stressed, you have an intense desire for foods that give you pleasure and a burst of energy.

However, how do you know when you are eating because you are hungry and when you are driven by stress?

Stress Eating
Stress Eating

What is Stress Eating and Physical Hunger?

There are a few differences between eating when you are stressed out and eating because your body physically needs food.  However, when you are stressed it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.  Here are some of the main differences between and stress eating and when you physically need to eat.

  • When you are hungry because of stress, it comes on suddenly and feels overwhelming. Physical hunger comes on more gradual and doesn’t demand to be instantly satisfied. When you are physically hungry, all food sounds good.  You just want to eat.  However, when your hunger is due to stress you will crave specific foods, such as pizza or chocolate.
  • When you are eating due to stress, you are typically eating mindlessly without really thinking about how much you are eating. (Like when you eat the whole bag of chips).  However, when you eat for physical needs, you tend to be more aware of how much you are eating and when you are full.
  • Physical hunger is satisfied when you are full. If you are stress eating, your mind will still want more food even when your stomach is full. This is because stress hunger does not come from the stomach.  You may not be experiencing any more hunger pangs, but you are fixated on the texture, smell or taste of specific foods.
  • When you are eating to deal with stress, you often have feelings of guilt after you eat. This can because you ate the whole bag of chips or the whole pint of ice cream, and you know that is not good for you.

How Can You Stop Stress Eating?

Knowing that you are stress eating is the first step to being able to overcome the habit, because you acknowledge that your eating is an issue.  The real cause is that you need to deal with your stress, before you can overcome this habit.  Mindfulness training would be a great place to start.  A study published by the Journal of Obesity found that women who engaged in mindfulness training were less likely to stress eat.  This training involves stress reduction techniques and how to effectively recognize hunger.  In addition, it is being more of aware of the taste of the foods they were eating.

Eating to make yourself feel better is not always a bad thing.  Recognizing the reason, you are snacking and doing so in moderation is alright.  You can do this by focusing on the taste and texture of the foods.  One brownie or one small bowl of ice cream can be enjoyed without feeling guilty.  Eating for joy is healthy if you are reaching for those snacks and can do so in moderation.

For further information check out :The Stress-Proof Brain offers powerful, comprehensive tools based in mindfulness, neuroscience, and positive psychology to help you put a stop to unhealthy responses to stress—such as avoidance.

HEALTH IS A CHOICE-LEARN HOW TO USE IT!

Shirley Noah

Watch for my new book-Understanding the Stress Connection: Break the Power of Chronic Stress with Healthy Eating and Healthy Habits

Relaxing the Mind: Deep Breathing and Mindfulness Meditations

Mindfulness is a State of Being

Mindfulness is a state of only being aware of things in the present state.  Science has proven that a meditation practice can alleviate stress, decrease anxiety, reduce chronic pain, reduce insomnia, and possibly combat heart disease. But if you spend your life anticipating a bunch of stressful situations, you cannot relax your mind.  If you worry about things outside of your control, such as your past or your future can put your body in a stress response.

Meditation-Mindfulness
Meditation-Mindfulness

With that in mind, today we will go over how to make a habit of mindfulness and develop a new behavior into your life.  It’s simple:  When you start with a specific outcome, the easiest way to get there is to build a new habit to help you achieve your goal.  Here are some guidelines.

Relax the Mind

When you want to relax your mind, breathe deeply and fully.  Do not “think” about anything.  Just focus on your breathing; deep, full breaths.  You will allow nothing but your present state of being.  There are wonderful apps, (one of my favorites is CALM) MP3’s, CD’s and downloads for purchase to help you reach this relaxed state.

You can use controlled breathing to de-stress, improve mental health and improve your circulatory system.  Being in a state of stress seems to get you stuck in an energy that does not serve you well.  This effects your circulation, as stress restricts your blood flow.  This is the root of some blood pressure and heart issues.

Observe the way you breathe

Focus on how you breathe in and breathe out.  Monitoring this unconscious process helps you to focus on what is your true present moment.  When doing this process, you temporarily set yourself free from worries and fears.

Inhale deeply, using a count of four.  Take a full four count to breathe in through your nose, then breathe out for the same four count, again through the nose.  This technique can be used anytime and anywhere, and it is great to practice right before bed to help you fall asleep.

Get also benefits from abdominal breathing.  With one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest.  Breathe in deeply through your nose, stretching your lungs.  Breathe deep into your abdomen.  Aim for six to eight breaths per minute, ten minutes a day, and see how clear and stress-free your mind becomes.

Progressive Body Scan

The are multiple relaxation body scan techniques.  Dr Herbert Benson revealed a technique that allows you to use stress and anxiety as triggers that promote mental health.  Yes, you can use stress to make yourself think more clearly and feel better.

The concept is that you can act as your own internal x-ray machine and scan your body.  You move your attention into different parts of your body and sense any tension or discomfort.  With practice you can learn to recognize the difference between relaxed muscles and tense muscles.  Letting go of physical tension promotes a calming effect.

The Relaxation Response

In his book The Relaxation Response Dr. Benson introduced the approach to relieving stress, his book became an instant national bestseller. Since that time, millions of people have learned the secret — without high-priced lectures or prescription medicines. Dr. Benson is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and author of twelve books that have sold over 5 million copies, proclaims that by focusing on using the power of the mind to deliver marvelous results. The Relaxation Response has become the classic reference recommended by most health care professionals and authorities to treat the harmful effects of stress and high blood pressure.

Get in Touch with Your Senses

Practice connecting with all your senses.  Try to be mindful of hearing, touch, sight, taste and smell.  When your thoughts drift away you are not connecting all of your bodily sensations.  Make an intention to focus on the present moment.

Stop being Judgmental

When practicing mindfulness, you may find yourself having difficulty overcoming any anger, sadness, anxiety or frustration.  It is best to acknowledge these emotions and not be judgmental.  Acknowledge them, accept them and then let them go.

Mindfulness improves attention span and memory

People who regularly practice mindfulness experience an expansion of working memory.  This is because mindfulness helps to avoid intrusive and unhelpful thoughts and focus more on the task at hand.  It also improves the ability to focus for longer by keeping the brain simulated and engaged.

HEALTH IS A CHOICE-LEARN HOW TO USE IT!

Shirley Noah

Watch for my new book-Understanding the Stress Connection: Break the Power of Chronic Stress with Healthy Eating and Healthy Habits