Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stress Eating

Image by Getty Images via Daylife
I realized something not so nice about my eating habits the other day. I was doing the taxes (yay, fun!) and I kept "wanting a snack" even though I wasn't hungry. Eventually I broke down and went to Burger King where, you guessed it, I didn't order the healthiest thing on the menu. (To be fair with myself, I stuck to a kid's meal so I didn't go toooo overboard.) I've realized that stress - particularly stress that stems from finances - triggers what I call "fast food hunger". It's the feeling that I need to go out to eat, or to eat something from a gas station such as a bag of chips. It's obviously an emotional response, and one I was unaware of for quite some time.

I never thought I was an emotional eater because for some reason I associated it with feelings of depression or anger. I am an anxious eater. I eat when the anxiety goes over a comfortable level. Since the recession hit our business very hard, anxiety has been a mainstay in our lives.

Here are some good websites on stress eating that I found interesting.

Stress and Emotional Eating: What Causes Emotional Eating?
Cortisol Cravings: Stress can bring on increased levels of cortisol, known as "the stress hormone." Cortisol has a beneficial function in the body, but excessive levels of cortisol brought on by chronic stress can cause a slew of problems in the body. Among other things, high levels of cortisol can create cravings for salty and sweet foods. In previous centuries, this enabled people to bulk up on foods that would sustain them during times when food is scarce; however, in modern times and industrialized nations, when food is rarely scarce, this previously adaptive mechanism causes excess weight gain.
Stop stress eating and lose more weight
Foods to choose, foods to avoid

In addition to general healthy eating guidelines, Stress Eater Diet offers tips on foods to avoid when feeling stress and foods to eat more of to keep moods more balanced.

For instance it says that when you’re feeling stressed, you shouldn’t turn to things that are probably exactly the foods you’re going for now, such as:

* caffeinated beverages, which can worsen anxiety and boost blood pressure
* junk and fast foods, which lack the nutrition to help you fight stress
* carbonated beverages, which can lead to excess carbon dioxide in the body, weakening the immune system
* high cholesterol foods like egg yolks, cheese and nuts, because stress already boosts the body’s cholesterol levels

On the other hand, there are foods that are great to choose to help limit feelings of stress in your daily life:

* foods with tryptophan, like turkey, bananas, red mead and nuts, which increase serotonin levels, making you feel calmer
* foods rich in B vitamins, like leafy greens, beans and tuna, which can boost mood and relieve stress
* foods with magnesium like dairy products, spinach, sweet potatoes and whole grains can improve depression
* selenium, found in some fish, Brazil nuts and green leafy vegetables, also helps the body produce serotonin

* vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), in beef, eggs, many vegetables and
pork, boosts the immune system, making it easier to deal with stress
Weight-loss help: How to stop emotional eating -
  • Learn to recognize true hunger.
  • Know your triggers.
  • Look elsewhere for comfort.
  • Don't keep unhealthy foods around.
  • Snack healthy.
  • Eat a balanced diet.
  • Exercise regularly and get adequate rest.


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