Stop 'stress eating'

May 10, 2018

Does stress make you overeat?

Find yourself reaching for a tub of ice-cream after a busy day at work? You could be overeating due to stress. Research has found that workplace stress can be directly responsible for overeating. Eating due to stress is also referred to as emotional eating. The term emotional eating means your emotions dictate when and how much you eat not your body’s needs.

Where is this stress coming from?

Being under stress causes the release of a multitude of hormones into your bloodstream, chief among them are adrenaline, CRH (Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone), and cortisol. Cortisol signals your body to replenish your food supply. This happens because stress in the prehistoric world was linked to fighting off wild animals and your body would need the energy after a ‘fight or flight’ response. But in the modern world stress is caused due to overworking or other social situations.

The reasons for your stress could be something as simple as being unhappy in your job, having a heavy workload or too much responsibility that weighs you down. More complex reasons can include poor management with unclear expectations, having no say in the decision-making process, being insecure about your chance for promotion or the risk of termination, among others.

Stress and unhealthy eating

Stress can make you choose ‘feel-good foods’ that may be extremely unhealthy. Chomping down on comfort foods that are fat- and sugar-filled will reduce the activity in those parts of your brain that produce and process stress-related emotions. So if you are stressed you may be more likely to eat something unhealthy, like a bowl of ice cream or fat-rich junk foods.

Eating unhealthy food is addictive. Higher your stress level, higher is the tendency to indulge. This tendency to binge and ‘eat emotionally’ can lead to the aggravation of several health conditions including diabetes and heart disease. Another unhealthy fallout from stress is skipping meals that can again result in you overeating during the meals that you eat.

Ways to deal with stress

  • Proper sleep
  • Meditation
  • Workout
  • Yoga or Tai Chi
  • Music
  • Reach out to others
  • Laugh out loud
  • Be grateful

Be mindful of what you eat

Overeating due to stress can be cut down completely by using a technique known as mindful eating. This technique involves being aware of everything that goes into your body. The first step to mindful eating is eating at regular intervals so that you do not let yourself get hungry. It is important to have small portions and appreciate your food completely. Be sure to take in all aspects of what you are eating including the smell, color, texture and aroma. As you chew the food try identifying all the ingredients that are part of the dish. Chew slowly and take your time to enjoy what you eat thoroughly.

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