Slow Down – The Stress Food Connection

 In Diet, Digestion, Mental Health, Nutrition, Stress

Eating under stress is not good for our health, but we’ve been doing it for so long that changing our habits can seem out of reach. In fact, stress eating can often feel like a good friend. Someone (or rather something) that is always there for you when no one else is. But let’s take a harder look at this old friend.  

What does stress actually do to us?

↑ Increases cortisol which can lead to weight gain (especially in the midsection). It is also associated with the inability to lose weight or build muscle.

↓ Decreases muscle mass which means more flab and a slower metabolism.

↑ Increases blood cholesterol by raising LDL levels.

↑ Increases salt retention leading to high blood pressure.

↓ Decreases gut flora population which can lead to skin disorders, digestive upset, nutrient deficiencies, and immune problems.

↓ Decreases sex hormones. This can mean low to no sex drive, decreased muscle mass and low energy.

↑Increases Nutrient Deficiencies especially vitamin C, vitamin B, zinc, iron and selenium.  

↑ Increases the risk of osteoporosis. Stress causes the urinary excretion of calcium, magnesium and boron.  Decreased bone density has been shown in stressed and depressed women.

↑ Increases inflammation which is behind every major disease.

And the list goes on ….

We know that stress is a normal part of our life these days, but do we see how much it impacts us besides just making us feel cranky and sad?

Grabbing breakfast to eat in the car during our hectic commute to school or work. Eating at your desk while looking at the dozens of emails you have to reply to. Scarfing down dinner so that you can get the kids to bed and get some more work done. You could be eating the healthiest, organic, free-range, grass-fed, non-GMO foods in the world but if you’re eating them in an anxious state, your digestion is drastically diminished.

How we eat is just as important as what we eat.  

It’s the reason behind why you go on vacation and eat more than usual and don’t gain weight. It’s believed to be the reason behind how the French can smoke a lot, exercise very little and eat a ton of cheese and other high-fat foods, yet they’re thinner and healthier than their American counterparts. Yes, their dedication to using fresh foods and high-quality ingredients is part of it, but the fact that they take their time to savor their meals while enjoying the company of others, plays a major role.

As we begin to experiment with what we eat, let’s dedicate equal energy to how we eat. Take some time to notice:

  • Do you tend to eat more when you’re anxious? Or do you tend to eat less when you’re anxious?
  • What’s going on when you eat this way? Is stress-eating work or family related? Does it happen at certain times of the day? The week? The month?
  • How often do you eat under stress? What percentage of the time is this? 30%? 80%?
  • Are there certain foods you eat when you’re anxious? Actually make a list and star the ones you eat most often when you’re stressed.
  • Do you feel full or hungry after stressful eating? Are there any other physical symptoms you experience?

Now focus on the meals you’ve experienced when you’re relaxed. The meals where you’ve felt satisfied and fulfilled once they’re complete. When does this happen? Who are you with? What foods are you eating? Where are you eating? How much time are you taking with these meals?

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