How many times have you thought something like this – “I ate because my sister had a diagnosis and I was so freaked out. I ate because my grandchild had the flu and was up all night. My job is so stressful, I will never get out from under all the work. I went out after that stressful meeting and ate what I wanted to relieve the stress.” These are what I call stress thoughts.
Isn’t it interesting that when we are stressed, we are drawn to foods that send dopamine to our brain; not so much to food that nourishes us.
When we look at the evolution of our brain from primitive time, it can be observed that while it got us here, it has yet to have evolved to where it will automatically choose what is best for us in today’s world. Yesterday’s survival is today’s peril.
Eating highly palatable designer taste foods lead to poor nutrition; eating them when we are stressed increases the problem.
Not all stress is bad.
Did you know some stress is beneficial? Exercising, learning a language or learning how to play music is stressful. Being a beginner is good stress. The brain responds and grey matter increases.
Acute Stress could save your life. A car is barreling toward you, your body goes into fight or flight preparing to respond to imminent danger. You jump out of the way. Life saved. Body calms down.
Chronic stress is a problem. It is a killer of health and dreams.
Chronic stress stems from ongoing worry, disappointment, catastrophizing, indecision and thoughts about the scarcity of time.
Our ancestors probably didn’t have to contend with psychological chronic stress. It is a modern discovery. It is the result of continued fight or flight responses because of images or thoughts we have about danger to our lives, when there is no actual physical danger. We live in homes with AC and heat. There is an abundance of water and food. Pleasure is easily gotten. What we struggled for no longer takes physical struggle. It’s all in our heads.
If you are continually worrying, you are likely stress eating.
Worry doesn’t create a solution to a problem nor does it influence an outcome in a positive way.
What does worry give? Worry can give the illusion that you are doing something.
This habit of picking up food when we worry, like ice cream and pie, seem to make me feel better. It never lasts for very long.
I propose eating non-nutritious reward foods does not make you feel better in the long run.
Stress eating never solves the problem and creates a new problem. I kind of wish it did solve the problem, but in my many, many experiences, it does not.
Here are 3 things you can do to handle stress and avoid stress eating.
#1 Eliminate beliefs that cause stress.
- Journal and identify and write down your thoughts and worries.
- Practice of looking at what you believe and what you are saying to yourself throughout the day and how that feels.
- Write out a list of alternative thoughts and see what it might be like to believe them.
#2 Cultivate beliefs about the benefits of good stress. This means doing hard things. Exercise or learning something new.
- Identify 5 good stressors - activities that you want to engage in, knowing this will make you grow and develop and stay younger.
#3 Create non-food related recipes for experiences of No Stress.
- Walking in nature
- Time with friends and family.
Chronic stress will kill your dreams and steal your health. You can make a small change today to manage stress in your life.