If you feel stress or discouraged, do you reach for comfort food? Emotional eating is a topic deserving of attention, especially with many women (and men) feeling extra pressure over the holidays. Here’s Caitlin with more on this timely topic.
How stress affects physical health and mood
Being a known trigger of many serious conditions, including heart disease and depression, stress is one of the top health concerns around the world. However, it seems that most people mistakenly still do not take it seriously and view substantial amounts of stress as a normal part of life. That’s just one of many common stress myths.
Furthermore, you might associate stress primarily with things that happen around you and that have some sort of an effect on your mood, while completely disregarding what is going on inside you. For example, what you eat can have a profound impact on how you feel and cope with the things life throws your way.
This trigger happens because certain nutrients have an effect on neurotransmitters, blood sugar levels, and hormones – all the factors relevant to stress levels control.
So, if you are going through a hard time or a hectic period at work, here are a few healthy eating tips that could help you.
Overeating is never a good option
But, first, let’s start with what not to do. Stress eating is the term to describe the practice of eating high-sugar and high-fat meals in an effort to “deal” with personal stress.
However, emotional eating is more than counterproductive because this kind of food increases cortisol levels, thus elevating feelings of anxiety and uneasiness.
Also, the sugar-filled foods may seem effective because they dampen our emotions and block the stress response, which only pushes the stress in, instead of getting it out. Stress eating and overeating are best solved with exercise, counseling, and social support.
When going through a stressful period, it’s crucial to stay clear of foods and drinks that can make it worse. Some of the things that are definitely on this list are:
- Deep-fried food
- Processed eats
- Refined sugars
How you start your day matters
They don’t call it the most important meal of the day for nothing. If you start your morning distracted, unfocused, and anxious, the rest of your day will probably not get any better.
In that case, you’re setting yourself up for an emotional eating episode. Instead, a healthy, nutritious breakfast can be your best choice.
Protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs can keep your blood sugar levels stable until lunch and keep you full for longer. When you regulate the blood sugar levels, you will also reduce triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
Some of the foods that make an ideal breakfast include:
- Oatmeal with fruit and nuts
- Yogurt with berries and sunflower or chia seeds
- A bowl of whole-grain cereal
- A smoothie of milk, fruits, and flax seeds
Avoid inflammatory foods
Various dietary components influence the metabolism, digestion, and absorption of nutrients in a way that causes inflammation. That has a harmful effect on your entire system.
When prolonged, it can have an impact on the brain, turning into a neuro-inflammation and causing stress. It can even lead to severe mental health issues.
There are many guides available online on what are the best anti-inflammatory foods. Some great ones are:
- Fatty fish
Or you could look into a paleo lifestyle that includes recipes free of inflammatory foods and promotes good gut health.
Combat emotional eating: Stock up on healthy snacks
Between a crowded schedule and brain full of information and negative thoughts, it’s easy to reach for unhealthy snacks or junk food. This temptation can arise when at work and looking for something to beat hunger in a few minutes.
There is a better way to address this issue. Instead of these high-carb and high-fat snacks, keep healthy alternatives within your reach, both at work and at home. Suggestions include:
- Whole-grain crackers
- Raw vegetables
- Whole-grain granola bars
Protect your brain with healthy fats and oils
Fat is not necessarily the villain of every story.
In fact, deficiency in healthy fats negatively impact your mental health. Omega-3 fats, in particular, have a huge role in boosting memory, happiness, and cognition. They are most frequently found in fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines.
Furthermore, good fats and oils support mental health, protect against oxidative stress, support energy production, protect against neurodegeneration, and reduce inflammation.
Terrific sources of healthy fats and oils are:
- Chia seeds
- Full-fat yogurt
- Oils – Olive, canola, flaxseed, sesame, and walnu
Sip the stress away
Amanda Carlson, a registered dietitian who trains world-class athletes, explains research shows “being just two cups dehydrated can escalate your cortisol levels.” The link between dehydration and stress is well documented.
When dehydrated, human organs, including the brain, cannot function properly. That occurence can lead to stress.
Obviously, drinking bottles of water throughout the day won’t magically make all of your problems disappear. But, it will help prevent stress from additionally piling up.
Other beverages that can be useful your ongoing battle against stressors are:
- Green tea
- Fresh fruit or vegetable juice
- Smoothies packed with anti-stress ingredients
Bottom line on emotional eating and stress
While stress is an inevitable part of life, you do not have to accept it. The problems will come and go, but your health needs to remain priority number one.
In many ways, the food you eat can cause or worsen the negative emotions. Then again, what you consume can also aid in coping with problems efficiently.
The tips above can be part of a strategy to overcome “stress eating” and start “anti-stress eating” instead. So, hang in there, baby!
About today’s writer
Caitlin is a bookworm and recreational dancer. She is also a medical student in love with science in all its forms. When she is not trying to find the meaning of life and Universe, Caitlin is researching and writing about various health-related and well-being related topics.
She is happily addicted to art in all its forms, grilled tofu, and hiking. To see what Caitlin is up to next, find her on Twitter.
#Caitlin #reduceinflammation #stress #water