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

Stress Is not All Just In Your Head

Stress Is Not All Just In Your Head

Everyone experiences  the effects of stress at some time.  Anxiety over a relationship….financial…frustration at work…the list is endless.  But, wherever it is coming from it is not “all in your head!

Do you wake up with the worst “what if’s”?  Worry about it all day, weeks?  Soon it is anxiety.   If your problem is ongoing, it can become a new normal…extra stress hormones floating around, then inflammation.

Adrenalin can be helpful in danger situations, such as survival in the event of an attack.  But over time it is very damaging.

Effects of Chronic Stress

Effects of Stress
Effects of Stress

Chronic stress interferes with your immune system, causes inflammation and then leading to chronic diseases.  Before long you may trigger high blood pressure, asthma and keep getting everything that is going around.

Stress gains momentum, growing until suddenly it crashes.  This could be at the expense of your health. You have trouble sleeping and and on emotional level you feel like burn-out.

Psychological stress is misleading, because no stress is only psychological…it’s not just all in your head.

When stress is chronic, your immune system becomes desensitized to cortisol, and inflammation is partly regulated by this hormone,  this decreased sensitivity raises the inflammatory response and allows inflammation to get out of control.  Chronic inflammation is the root of heart disease and many chronic diseases.

Prolonged stress can damage you brain cells and make you unable to remember simple things.  It can trigger a degenerative process in your brain that can result in Alzheimer’s disease.   Stress can induce weight gain and belly fat, which increases your cardiovascular risk.

Digestive problems can be increased because  of disrupted gut microbes.  Causing decreased nutrient absorption, and four times less blood flow to your digestive system, which leads to decreased metabolism.

Stress is also implicated in cancer,  not so much as a cause of cancer but it seems to fuel it’s growth.  In the case of excess cortisol, some cell receptors become muted, including receptors on immune cells.  This is one reason why people under stress are about twice as likely to develop a cold after exposure to a cold virus.

Positive Emotions

On the brighter side, positive emotions like happiness, hope, and optimism also signal changes in your body’s cells, even producing the release of feel-good brain chemicals.  You can artificially produce happiness by taking drugs or drinking alcohol, but the same dopamine and endorphin high can be achieved by healthy habits like exercise, laughter, hugging or bonding.  A 10 second hug can lead to a biochemical reaction in your body that can improve your health.

Regular stress management is important for everyone.  This might be turning off the daily news, restraining from social media, or staying away from negative people.  There are also stress management tools such as having a good cry, meditation, or practicing Heart Map. Also helpful is EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique by a simple tapping with the fingertips to specific points on your head and chest while you think about a specific problem. This combination of tapping the energy meridians and voicing positive affirmation works to clear the emotional block from your body’s bio-energy system.  This helps to balance your mind and body, which is essential for optimal health of chronic stress.

I’m Shirley Noah, I teach the 9 pillars for health.  A step-by-step approach to good health.  Let’s connect to see how I may best serve you in the near future.