Why Do We Feel The Urge To Eat Badly Under Stress?

What causes the urge to eat unhealthy foods when you’re under stress? If you’re sad and worried about a situation, comfort foods that are soft, sweet, and connected to a fond memory where you felt safe are often the food of choice. Crunchy food can release frustration, while any sweet treat can help make up for the injustice you feel has occurred.

Stress triggers the fight-or-flight response.

The fight-or-flight response was invaluable for early man to survive. It caused changes in the body to either help fight an enemy or predator or run like the wind. It sent more blood to the limbs, made the heartbeat faster, and increased breathing rate. The face is often pale due to the change in blood flow, and pupils dilate to see better. Stress increases your appetite to build the extra calories for running or fighting.

Stress has different causes than caveman times.

Many things can cause stress today, but the response hasn’t changed. That includes increased eating. Your children are misbehaving, your boss is calling, or another driver just cuts you off in traffic all add stress, but running or fighting isn’t a logical response. You may not do that but you might eat a few snacks to help you make it through the stress. Whether you grab a candy bar or eat crunchy salty potato chips, you’ll only feel better for a few minutes.

You can avoid stress-eating with these strategies.

Before you smear that bagel with cream cheese, pause to assess why you’re eating it. Make mindfulness a habit. One technique is S.T.O.P. It stands for stop, take a breath, observe your feelings, and whether you’re really hungry, then pick an option that matches how you feel. Food might be the first option you consider, but calling friends to commiserate can be another. Relaxing, going to a calming place, finding a saying that will help, or doing a distracting activity can divert your attention from food.

  • Learn meditation or breathing techniques to help you relieve stress. Close your eyes and breathe deeply in through your nose, picture that breath absorbing all the stress and even changing a dark color as it absorbs the stress. breathe out the dark-colored air, then replace it with clean, stress-free air.
  • Have a warm cup of tea. Green tea, black tea, chamomile, and lemon balm tea are good for destressing. Green and black tea have both lower cortisol levels. Add cinnamon to the tea for even more relaxation.
  • Find a diversion that will keep your hands and mind occupied. Whether you choose needlework, macrame, woodworking, or other activity, make it something you enjoy.
  • Ask for help when overeating becomes compulsive or has qualities of an eating disorder, such as being followed by purging or self-loathing.

For more information, contact us today at Wellness On A Dime Coaching

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