I once saw a funny quote about stress eating that said: Don’t judge me by my grocery cart. You have no idea the kind of emotions I’m trying to eat away.
Sadly for many people, stress eating is anything but funny. It’s a frustrating cycle that is SO hard to break and takes a hefty toll on your health.
But when you understand what is going on with stress eating and take effective steps to overcome it, you can start to break out of that vicious cycle and feel MUCH better.
Let’s first look at…
The price of stress eating
Stress eating takes its toll on your health in many ways, starting with your weight.
Since most stress eaters reach for refined carbohydrates, not only can this cause you to pack on the pounds, but the repeated influxes of glucose into your bloodstream can eventually make you a candidate for insulin resistance and Type 2 diabetes.
Plus excess glucose in your bloodstream can irritate the internal layer of your blood vessels and increase your risk of hypertension.
In addition, the sugar from refined carbs feeds the harmful bacteria in your intestinal tract. This can lead to digestive problems like gas and bloating as well as impair your immune system functioning (since your gut houses 70 percent of your immune system).
The cycle of stress eating seems pretty straight-forward—get stressed, crave carbs, eat carbs, feel better.
But here is what is really going on:
It’s all in your hormones
Back in our caveman days, when faced with the stress of an enemy or vicious animal, our bodies would release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones would raise the heart rate, dilate the blood vessels and mobilize fat and carbohydrates as quick energy for the "fight or flight" reaction.
Once the stress was over, adrenaline would subside, but cortisol would remain high to help refuel the body and bring it back to balance.
As a result you’d get a HUGE appetite that would drive you to replace the carbs and fats you used up.
Now our modern day stresses more emotional and psychological. But your body's hormonal reaction to those stresses is the same.
So that’s why the intense cravings are hitting you, especially for carbohydrates.
The effects of chronic stress
When you're under chronic stress, your cortisol levels are raised and remain high. This creates a buildup of abdominal fat (our primitive energy supply)—so that’s when you may see the emergence of a spare tire or muffin top.
In addition to GI symptoms, depressed immune function and blood sugar problems, chronic stress can also cause low thyroid function, impaired memory and concentration, adrenal fatigue and eventually chronic illness.
Break the stress eating cycle
Clearly, it's essential to break the cycle of stress eating and chronic stress.
First and foremost, you’ve got to address what is causing your stress and do as much as you can to eliminate it.
And as far as stress eating goes, here are 10 strategies for safely and naturally conquering those cravings and fighting the physical effects of stress:
1) Wait 10 minutes before caving
If you can distract yourself by answering an email, doing a load of laundry, making a phone call, feeding the cat or running an errand, your craving may pass.
2) NEVER skip meals
Hunger can trigger intense cravings for sugar, so be sure to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. If you are busy and miss a meal, snack on protein foods like meat, cheese or nuts.
3) Eat fruits and vegetables
Fresh produce is full of antioxidants and phytochemicals that eliminate the free radicals caused by stress.
4) Support your adrenals
Being in a prolonged state of stress and adrenal overload depletes your body of its vitamins and minerals. Plus your cells become unable to function properly, hypoglycemia can set in as well as an overall weakening of all of the major organs of the body.
Dr. Salerno’s Adrenal Factor can help provide the nutritional support you need to keep your adrenal glands healthy and help prevent adrenal burn-out.
5) Turn off the TV and computer
TV and computer ads expose you to endless numbers of food commercials that are specifically designed to trigger cravings.
6) Get enough Zzzz’s
Fatigue and sleep deprivation lead to carb cravings because glucose is our primary source of energy, and carbs are converted rapidly to glucose.
The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.
7) Move your body—more than to the refrigerator and back
Exercise counteracts stress and cravings by releasing endorphins, the hormones that produce calm, feel-good feelings.
It's not necessary to join a gym or buy expensive equipment. Even brisk walking is fine, and nearly everyone can do that. Get your doctor’s OK and get moving.
8) Drink enough water
Many people mistake thirst for hunger, so what may seem like a craving could be your body telling you to drink more water.
You should aim to drink at least eight 8 oz. glasses water a day.
9) Eat foods with anti-stress nutrients
These include foods with Vitamins A, B6, C and E as well as potassium, magnesium, calcium and zinc. Here are some good sources of each:
- Vitamin A: Carrots, sweet potatoes, greens, bell peppers
- Vitamin B6: Bananas, salmon, potatoes, chicken, turkey and spinach
- Vitamin C: Strawberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, cauliflower
- Vitamin E: Sunflower seeds, almonds, olives, spinach, blueberries, greens
- Potassium: Yams, spinach, avocado, lentils, winter squash, bananas
- Magnesium: Black beans, navy beans, salmon, spinach, sesame seeds, halibut
- Calcium: Greens, sesame seeds, dairy
- Zinc: Lean beef or lamb, turkey, green peas, shrimp, sesame seeds
10) Support your gut health
Stress throws your intestinal flora balance completely out of whack and compromises your immune system. This makes you susceptible to every bug, cold, virus or infection around, and weakens your body’s ability to fight diseases like cancer.
So it's essential to make sure your body has the levels of beneficial bacteria that it needs to counteract the effects of stress and keep you healthy.
In addition to eating foods that nourish your army of good guys (like fresh vegetables) it's helpful to supplement with a potent probiotic product.
Super Shield's 13 strains of potent beneficial bacteria are feisty and ready to claim their place on your intestinal walls, helping to fight off harmful bacteria and pathogens and beef up your immune system.
In addition, these good guys can also help enhance nutrient absorption, which is critical to help avoid food cravings.