Stress Eating and How to Avoid It
We all have it, to some degree. It’s almost unavoidable in today’s super-charged, fast-paced world of business and communication. Stress is on everyone’s shoulders, there’s no doubt about it. But how we deal with stress varies from person to person. Some people let it out with recreational sports or gaming while others hold it in and let it gnaw at them in unhealthy ways.
One of the biggest culprits of eating disorders and unhealthy addiction to food is stress. It’s natural for many people to eat when feeling stressed. It’s an understandable reaction. Stress is caused by an increase in the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine, which put the body on edge and increase muscle tension and emotional anxiety. When you eat sugary or otherwise satisfying foods, your brain releases the reward chemical dopamine (similar to the effects of heroin).
Any guilty pleasure releases these reward chemicals in the brain and trains you to turn to whatever gave you the burst of feel-good hormones when the stress returns.
If you’re in a stressful environment, whether it be with small children or the idiots at your office, be aware of your stress levels. Practice things like deep breathing, meditation, stretching, going for walks, or listening to calming music periodically throughout your day to release and alleviate the symptoms of stress. This way you won’t be so tempted to reach for the thing that you know will give you just enough of a good feeling to push back on the stress.
Stress eating is common in those who work in stressful offices where there is little physical exercise but a lot of brain clutter and busy work topped with social stress of the work environment. You’ll notice weight gain because you’re making poor eating choices to deal with the stress around you.
Practice good relaxation techniques and be overly conscious of your food intake so as to avoid the stress eating that is known to cause unhealthy weight gain and long term health problems.