Stress eating. It is a real thing.
This is what has been killing me with the Transform Your Body Challenge that I joined at my local gym. Under the stress that I have been experiencing lately, my healthy eating habits and regular workout schedule have been impossible to maintain.
Some people think stress eating is just an excuse, and that would be because they have most likely never experienced it themselves. I have had several people tell me that they think that stress eating is just a way to keep eating and eating without trying to look bad; like you have a “condition”. Yeah… whatever.
I do have a “condition” of some sort. That being stress. Some people find comfort in alcohol, shopping… I find my comfort in food. It did not use to always be this way. I use to run a few miles when I got annoyed or felt like I was going to flip out. Boxing was an awesome alternative! I fell away from these things when an ex told me I was useless no matter what I did and that I would always be stressed as long as I was alive. Unfortunately, I was stupid enough to listen to him.
For those of you that still think that it is a joke, read on.
First off, what causes stress eating? Well, stress of course! Whether it is money woes, your realtionships, conflicts at work, health worries, fear, loneliness, I mean this list can go on and on! Any sort of thing that brings up negative emotions within you can trigger your mind into wanting food. Some people actually eat less than normal or even worse, just STOP eating all together.
Now for a more complex side of things, what happens once the stress is initiated? In steps a hormone known as cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”. This hormone is produced by the adrenal gland as part of your daily hormonal cycle and excess amounts are often secreted into the bloodstream during the body’s high levels of stress. It is important to keep your stress levels in check because this beneficial function can actually aid in forming a state of chronic stress.
When the higher levels of cortisol are released during stressful times people tend to have higher insulin levels and increased appetites, usually craving food with higher carb counts and salty and sweet foods which can result in over-eatting. Elevated cortisol is said to cause fat deposition most commonly in the abdominal area.
And that is how stress eating is born!
I mean come on, how many of you have turned to food at one point or another when feeling a tad bit stressed (Hello, chocolate anyone?!); don’t tell me that you haven’t because we have all turned to this craving at one time or another.
The sad part is that over time, stress eating becomes automatic. You do NOT even think about it anymore. People will automatically turn to food – consciously or unconsciously – as a way to ease their stress, comfort them or just flat out distract them from their current issue and keep them emotionally stable. I do it all the time, I’m not going to lie. You have a bad break up, grab some ice cream, have a bad day at work, hello chocolate bar, bills bills bills, extra large extra cheese pizza please, too frustrated to even think about cooking, welcome to McDonalds… you want fries with that, a recent look at the gas prices, helllllloooooo cheesecake!
I know, I know. Get a hobby right? Not that easy.
For some it gets to the point of seeking professional help, therapy and sometimes ending up with the diagnosis of an eating disorder.
How many of you all watch the Golden Girls?? I do and have loved this show since I was wee little! Think back to the show, when Blanche has a bad date, or the girls all get stood up on Valentine’s Day or something bad happens to the crew what did they always fall back on to comfort them? Cheesecake!
Yeah, I went there. LOL
Anytime the girls had a problem and needed to talk it out they did so over a nice slice of cheesecake. This is good and bad. Good to get the emotions out in the open, bad because then this forms a social eating setting in which you may soon rely on always having that cake when you discuss your problems, but then again good because there is more than just you there to watch just how much you are actually consuming.
And wasn’t there an episode where Blanche was talking about something she ate when she was little that she was craving?? Was it something Big Daddy gave her… or was it her grammy?? I honestly cannot remember at this point. LOL Anyway, this also brings up another eating issue.
Remember getting that report card with the As on them? Winning the baseball game? What usually happened when these things occured? I know after a ball game we always went out and had pizza. The good report card brought brownies. Birthdays were spent at Chi-Chis! We ate to celebrate. So maybe in a way when we are eating these sweets during stressful times we are trying to tell ourselves that things are going to be okay and slowly revert back to those childhood habits and trying to go back to the happy times?
I read an article recently, God I wish I had kept the link to it, that explains that some people actually become “orally fidgetity” when stressed. Bitting nails, grinding of teeth and stress eating all fall under that category. They explained that lots of people do this because they are uncomfortable with confronting emotions. Wana hide anger or fear? You may start to rely on food to help you with these issues and to slowly put your mind at ease as a distraction.
Although you cannot blink and have your stress eating solved, there are ways to slowly help yourself while fighting it out. I have been trying my best to follow the ideas below and so far I am doing okay. Some things still pop up though and I fall off the wagon so do not worry if this happens to you! Try your best to do what you can and remember that any little improvement is an improvement from your previous state.
The one thing that I do daily is keep my food journal.
Keep track of what you eat, the calorie count, when you eat, how much you ate and if you wish, how you feel after your meal and whether or not you felt full.
Back in 2008 a study was conducted by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research; they discovered that people who kept food journals lost almost double the weight of those who did not.
After 5 months, regular participants lost an average of almost 13 pounds. However, those who kept a food journal lost almost twice as much as those who didn’t and they even kept the weight off! One of the journal writers even said that he attributed much of his success to the ability to gain immediate information and “see the error of your ways”.
This can also be very helpful when you are working with your doctor to lose weight. They can review your journal to see if there are any patterns, habits or triggers that may be contributing to your weight gain and may bring up any dieting errors that may have gone unnoticed without the journal.
Next up, get rid of any foods that may make you slip!
When I decide to start a diet or just try to clean up my eating habits I always clean out the fridge and cabinets of any sugary sweets or anything that I know that I would binge snack on during a stressful moment. If it is something hard for me to resist, it has to go!
I do not allow myself to hit the grocery store either during these moments because I know I would have a cart full of stress food.
Think about it, are you REALLY hungry?
Before you go diving into those cookies or chips, stop for a minute and think about if you are really hungry or is it just your nerves??
If you ate just recently and your tummy is not rumbling around, 9 times out of ten you probably really are not hungry! Get caught up in a book, the internet or anything to take your mind off of food for about 10 minutes. After they pass, are you still really feeling hungry?? Most likely not…
Are you sure you are not just thirsty?
I don’t know of anyone else out there that might feel this way, but sometimes when I want to eat away, I make myself drink a glass of water instead of eating. Turns out half the time I may have just been needing something to drink and I end up basically drinking my stress and that hunger away. Then again, maybe the water tricked my tummy into think I was full. Either way, it’s usually a win-win situation.
Make sure you get rid of that boredom!
Just kind of sitting around, bored… feeling like a snack…. well, distract yourself! Get rid of that boredom! Watch a movie, walk the dog, make a to-do-list and finish it, surf the net, read, catch up on your favorite show, anything to keep your mind off of that food that you know you do not need!
Sometimes just to keep my self from bored eating I actually go ahead and prep my food for that night or the next day. Just being around the food, but not actually consuming it seems to help a great deal, at least it does for me. Give it a try!
A biggie, cut that stress!!!
Sure, a truly balanced, stress free life is probably next to impossible, but you can try to come close!
Tame your stress! A few slow breaths can help a great deal, especially if you are feeling totally overwhelmed. Try to switch your thoughts to something that calms you and brings you to a temporary moment of peace. Anything to get your mind to slow down for a minute.
Back in November of 2009 the UK Daily Mail actually reported that research shows a small bar of dark chocolate a day (approx. 20 grams) can help keep those stressing hormones in check. Not good for a diet, but you’re allowed little cheats here and there right? ;o)
My fave stress calmer is yoga! A mini workout and mind easing all at the same time. If you are a first timer though, make sure to start slow. When I first started I jumped right in and well, we will just say that I had leg cramps from HELL after! Actually, just a nice calming bath may be the best choice. LOL
If you absolutely MUST eat when you know you’re not really hungry…..
Snack on those healthy things!!! Pack as many fruits and veggies that you can in the fridge and cabinets instead of all of those Little Debbies! One of my fave fast snacks are the Fiber One 90 calorie bars. I get my chocolate fix and I don’t go on a crazy binge after eating one. Anything that is low in fat and low in calories will be your best friend.
Salads are an amazing filler, make sure to load up on plenty of items from the short list below! These are all water rich vegetables which are beyond amazing for those diets!!
Broccoli – 91% water
Cabbage – 93%
Carrots – 87%
Cauliflower – 92%
Cucumbers – 96%
Green Peppers – 93%
Lettuce – 95%
Spinach – 92%
If all else fails….
Please, please, please check with your doctor. They can help you out in so many ways and if things are really out of control they can at least help you get the medication or therapy you may need to help you out.
This link may also lend a helping hand and supply you with some helpful info.