Updated: Oct 28, 2019
Stress is something we all live with. It can be physical, mental or emotional. Not all stress is bad. A small amount of stress can assist in your focus or motivate you to accomplish a difficult task. However, this all depends on a person's perception of the stress they are receiving. Everyone's coping mechanisms is different when it comes to this, and most likely affects the person's diet.
Before I continue, I want to highlight that I will focus on how stress affects your diet, your health and how to become more aware of your behavior so you can make better food choices for yourself. Taking accountability for your actions and moving towards managing and graduating to preventative healthcare when it comes to stress.
Now let's talk about how it affects your diet. This may be something that already seems obvious to most, yet we all somehow fall prey to this cycle, at one point in our lives or another.
Stress affects your body in 2 ways:
Your behavior around food, driving what and how much you eat.
It creates a perfect scenario for fat storage and promotes an obesogenic state.
It's a main contributor to obesity and weight gain around the belly region, which comes with major risk factors for things like: cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.
When you are under stress, you are naturally driven to eat and most likely will overeat. The feeling of needing to stop eating becomes more difficult as the hormone response is affected by stress. The foods you crave in that moment are most likely not kale or broccoli and instead you crave comfort foods and snacks.
High sugar foods provide a quick source of energy that the body needs when it's stressed as it prepares for the 'fight or flight'. Comfort foods are typically highly palatable, high calorie, high fat and high sugar, which makes it hard to turn down most of the time, but most especially when feeling stressed. These foods offers a momentary escape or an immediate pleasurable experience in the midst of an unpleasant state, it makes it an ideal option for a quick fix to alleviate stress.
Highly palatable foods also lead to the release of dopamine (the feel good hormone) which is particularly attractive when you're stressed. Overtime, it leads you to seek out that feeling more and more, but eventually don't get that same reward. Therefore, the need to consume more and creates an addictive like or compulsive eating behavior that becomes difficult to control.
While these foods provide a short term relief for some, ignoring the root causes of the stress will result in strengthening your cravings for these types of food. Leading your risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease and more.
Determining how to alleviate stress can be challenging, but it's impact on your health goes beyond your waistline. It helps increase longevity, health and happiness. So what are some ways to release stress?
You can try meditation, by playing soft calm music as you quiet your mind. Imagine everything from your shoulders to your back, the weight being lifted off and away.
Yoga, breathing exercises and practicing loving, kindness exercises have seem to be all effective in helping alleviate stress.
While stress is always going to be a part of our lives, by becoming aware of your triggers, during stressful times and releasing it in a healthy way, can help save you from emotional eating, obesity and disease.