Is Stress Eating Your Answer To Everything?

The other day I sat in an airport in Raleigh, NC. It was 10 a.m. and I was exhausted.

I had gotten up early to pack. My best friend wanted to have 1 last chance to go to breakfast before I left.

It had been a whirlwind trip, visiting friends and my old stomping grounds where I lived, worked and went to school for nearly 8 years.

Lots of memories there.

Did I say I was tired?

I ordered a bagel – not because I was hungry, but because I was tired. Normally, I can resist this type of conditioning and find something better to do than eat, but at the airport, there weren’t too many options.
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Stress Eating Is NOT The Problem

I can’t tell you how many posts I have read with statements like “I am gaining weight because I am stress eating!”

Many people seem to have an awareness that something is driving them to eat, and it’s easy to focus on that as the problem.

Stress eating itself is NOT the problem. It is whatever is driving you to turn to a drug, like food in the first place. When you are done eating the cookies, what drove you to the cookies in the first place is still there. Continue reading

Is The Stress Eating Battle Over?

On this month’s cover of  ‘O’ Magazine, there’s a bold declaration – “The battle is over…”

The ‘battle’ that Oprah is referring to is, of course, with her weight.

It’s always been curious to me that one of the most influential women in the world . . . with access to every resource . . . has not conquered the battle with weight. Continue reading

The Downside Of Losing Weight

What’s your downside of losing weight?

Hmmm . . . it could be any number of things . . . most commonly the fear of having to maintain it . . .  or having to give up the foods you love . . . or the fear of unwanted attention from others.

It can certainly go deeper than that as well. Once you start digging in this area, you are likely to find something.

Having a downside isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But if you want to be successful, you’d better figure out what it is and deal with it.

Because if you don’t, you won’t lose weight. Continue reading

Control Holiday Stress Eating and Cravings

I’m quite sure that there are carbohydrates in heaven!

But then, there won’t be any stress, so there won’t be any need for stress eating!

I once read a book by Suzanne Somers, and was quite shocked to see the line-up of supplements that she takes to control cravings for carbohydrates.

While it can seem like trying to stop a moving train, there are quite a few strategies to control cravings and stop stress eating during the holidays. Continue reading

More Chocolate – Less Stress Eating?

We all know intuitively that chocolate can uplift mood and help you feel good temporarily.

A new study at Nestlé Research Center (where else?) Lausanne, Switzerland, found that eating just over an ounce of dark chocolate daily for two weeks lowered stress hormone levels in highly stressed people (that would be us) and also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.

These are the same folks that published a photo of a Hersheys bar with the word “happiness” on it. Continue reading

Stress Eating Warning!

Whenever I walk into the lab to have blood work done, there is a sign that reads

Unattended children will be given an expresso and a free puppy!

It makes me smile whenever I see it. Even though it’s only a small, handwritten sign, the message is loud and clear!

Your behavior has consequences!

So I wondered if we should have a warning for stress eating. After all, stress eating does cause bulges and makes people miserable.

And now, new research shows that as you gain weight, your brain shrinks! Yes, it’s true! Research at UCLA shows that brains of obese, elderly people looked 16 years older than their healthy counterparts. Brains of overweight people were the equivalent of 8 years older.

Most of the brain tissue is lost in the frontal and temporal lobes, the seat of memory and decision-making, which results in a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Here is yet another reason to stop stress eating, in addition to higher risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease that go along with overweight conditions. Hang onto your brain cells – you may need them!

The Dark Side of Cardio

I used to love cardio exercise and have done a LOT of it in my lifetime. I was a (slow) long-distance runner and bike racer. I loved both the solitude of a long run alone and the camaraderie of a 50-mile bike ride with friends.

Last November, when I went to lose the LAST 10 lb., I did NOT focus on cardio. Frankly I was tired of it, and mostly what it did was increase my appetite! I knew I needed to amp up my workouts, but I didn’t want to spend hours in the gym.

The best thing about cardio for me, since I don’t have any heart health issues, is it’s ability to help with stress relief. As it turns out, cardio is not only a great way of coping with stress, but it’s also good for your brain, at least when you get outside in nature.

Researchers at the University of Michigan found that attention and memory improve when you spend time in nature, as opposed to a city environment.  This finding supports a theory that goes back to William James, suggesting that there are 2 types of attention: involuntary and “directed” attention, which requires more focus. Being in nature captures your involuntary attention, while allowing your directed attention to rest, freeing up mental capital. In other words, your mind is relaxed!

So if you want to do cardio, go find a park or a bike trail. I used a strength training program to build muscle and burn fat.

As it turns out, new research shows that the body’s inability to build muscle is the NUMBER 1 predictor of accelerated aging! The more capable we are of putting muscle on our bodies, the longer we are going to live.

So, get me to the gym – I just don’t want to spend the day there!

Spending time in nature will reduce stress, and you will get unexpected benefits of increased memory and attention. If you reduce stress, you will reduce stress eating. Just don’t expect the pounds to fly off by pounding the treadmill alone!

Stress Eating and Hormones

Research shows that 46% of Americans are less careful about what they eat when stress is high. People are also more likely to eat quickly and binge eat when stressed. Chemical messages governing what, when and how much you eat function less effectively when you’re under stress, making it more likely to overeat and harder to tell when you’ve had enough.

The first sign of stress causes hundreds of biochemicals to be released in the body. Your body is bathed in stress hormones that speed up aging, drain emotional energy and give you a gnawing feeling of living only to survive, instead of flourish. Stress hormones depress your mood and make you less resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

At the top of the stress hormone list is cortisol, which is often called “the stress hormone.” Cortisol is important because over time, it can cause sleeplessness, memory problems, retention of fat molecules, and fat buildup in the arteries which can lead to heart disease and a whole list of other problems.

Cortisol converts fat into energy to help you cope with stress, but if you don’t burn it off, it gets redistributed around the waist and hips.

Negative emotions create increases in cortisol levels. Every time you feel anxious, worried or annoyed having to cope with a stressful situation, more cortisol is pumped into your system. Excess amounts tend to make you feel even more anxious.

When the body can no longer bear the extra load of stress, it makes adaptations to try to adjust to it. You can end up feeling exhausted and less resistant to immune system failures.

Fortunately, you have hormones that help you reduce and cope with the stress response and increase mood. Stress and your emotional state are highly linked to emotional eating. If you feel good and your stress level is low, you are less likely to overindulge. It pays to strengthen your ability to face stressful situations calmly, use stress relief techniques consistently, and meet challenges with a positive perspective. Cultivating a positive sense of optimism will do a lot towards combating stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

So what about you? What do you do to keep your mood up and combat stress? Please share in the comment box!