Do You Stress Eat?
We all deal with stress. And we each have our own way of dealing with it. A very common way to deal with it, especially chronic stress, is eating. When stressed, our body releases cortisol, a stress hormone. It also releases 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 we are feeling stressed, we have an intense desire for foods that give us pleasure and a burst of energy.
But, how do we know when we are eating because we are hungry and when we are driven by anxiousness?
Stress Eating Versus Physical Hunger?
There are a few differences between eating when stressed and eating because our body needs food. Yet, when we’re stressed it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.
Here are some of the main differences between stress eating and when we need to eat.
- When we are hungry because of anxiety, it comes on quick and feels overwhelming. Physical hunger comes on more gradually and doesn’t demand instant satisfaction. When we are hungry, all food sounds good. We just want to eat. But, when our hunger is due to the anxiety we will crave specific foods, such as pizza or chocolate.
- When we are eating due to stress, we are eating in a mindless fashion without thinking about how much we are eating. (Like when we eat the whole bag of chips). But, when we eat for physical needs, we tend to be more aware of how much we are eating, and when we are full.
- With physical hunger, we stop eating when we are full. If we are stress eating, our mind will still want more food even when our stomach is full. This is because this hunger does not come from the stomach. We may not be experiencing any more hunger pangs, but we fixate on the texture, smell, or taste of specific foods.
- When we are eating to deal with stress, we often have feelings of guilt after we eat. This can be because we ate the whole bag of chips or the whole pint of ice cream, and we know that is not good for us.
How Can You Stop Stress Eating?
Knowing that we are stress eating is the first step to being able to overcome the habit. We acknowledge that our eating is an issue. The real cause is that we need to deal with our stress before we 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. Besides, it is being more aware of the taste of the foods we are eating.
Eating to make ourselves feel better is not always a bad thing. Recognizing the reason, we are snacking, and doing so in moderation is alright. We can do this by focusing on the taste and texture of the foods. We can enjoy one brownie or one small bowl of ice cream without feeling guilty. Eating for joy is healthy if we are reaching for those snacks and can do so in moderation.
I am Shirley Noah, an internationally known stress expert and entrepreneur. I would love to connect further with you to help you improve your health and wellbeing.
If you are interested in learning more about eating for stress. Check out How To Eat To Relieve Stress.
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