Domination’s the name of the game. Overcome bad eating habits when stressed.

cat-wings

St. Lucia

Songs are back in my head. It’s Depeche Mode today so that’s where I got part of the title. I’m not going to get into the song this is from, since it is far…far off topic! Today I’m talking about what stress can do to how you eat.

Stress may cause you to eat more or less than is healthy. If you have an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia and binge eating, stress can trigger a relapse.

I don’t find I eat more or less when I’m stressed, but I do have an overwhelming urge to eat sour cream and onion chips. Either that or I’m in a constant state of stress, and I assume my eating habits don’t change because I’m always functioning one way.

Why stress causes you to eat too little

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There is a strong correlation between stress and the digestive system. In highly stressful times, your hormones tell your stomach to either shut down or speed up so that the body responds to a threat (stress). It’s the reason you may lose your appetite or get nauseous when you are in a very tense situation. High stress levels can trigger a constant level of anxiety in which you truly can’t get food down. When you have too many competing stressful factors, you may not even feel hungry because your mind is distracted.

If you’re eating too little because of your stress

  • Talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist to help you appropriately adjust your intake to healthy levels.
  • Schedule time in your day to ensure you’re eating. Choose healthy food options that give you the recommended daily nutrients.
  • Try eating small meals more frequently (e.g. five to six portions a day) so that they’re easier to digest.
  • If you’re finding it difficult to get food down: Begin with easy to swallow foods such as soup. Protein shakes, and supplements such as Boost or Ensure may also be helpful.

Why stress causes you to eat too much

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Apples sculpture, Bellagio Hotel, Las Vegas

The milder anxiety of less extreme stress may cause you to eat in excess for distraction, comfort or to release your tension. When you’re under stress, you’re more likely to eat too rapidly, reach for higher-calorie foods or whatever you have around, and to eat more often. Excessive eating can trigger unwanted weight gain, leading you to eat even more for additional comfort, or not enough to make up for the increase. Either option perpetuates the unhealthy eating cycle started by your stress.

If you’re eating too much because of your stress

  • Talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist to help you appropriately adjust your intake to healthy levels.
  • Schedule in eating times during your day and make a real effort not to reach for food until those designated times.
  • Make sure you keep healthy snacking alternatives within reaching distance so that you opt for them instead of chocolate or chips.
  • Try eating small meals more frequently (e.g. five to six portions a day). In time, you’ll get used to the smaller portions. Eating this way throughout the day can help keep your sugar in balance and your energy up throughout the day.
  • Ensure you follow the recommended daily food guidelines to keep healthy.

What you can do to manage your stress

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If your weight or the way you eat has changed as a result of stress, your health is most likely being affected in other ways as well. See if there is anything you can change to make your life less stressful. Here are some ways you can moderate your stress.

  • Exercise to release endorphins (hormones) that can help manage your stress.
  • Use visualization: one easy visualization technique is to imagine that you’re in a peaceful place, smell the air and imagine the beautiful view.
  • Take a walk.
  • Read or listen to music to calm your mind.
  • Spend some time with friends or family.  Go to dinner, to the movies or do anything you enjoy.
  • Deep breathe: take several deep breaths using your stomach muscles, hold it and then let all the air out. Feel the tension exit your body as you relax.
  • Stretch: shrug and rotate your shoulders. Clasp your hands behind you and raise them to a comfortable height and then stand up and reach for the ceiling. Lastly, bend side-to-side to stretch the muscles of the torso.

Talk to a registered dietitian or nutritionist if you’re eating too little or too much. If you’re having trouble managing your stress, speak to a healthcare professional.

22 replies »

    • Yes a walk on the beach would be so fabulous to relieve stress (thinking about it is helping me right now!) and the gym is my favorite way to do it too. Thanks for sharing what works for you Susie! Have a wonderful start to your week!

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  1. Great advice! I switched over to the 5-6 portions a day. I can eat but I can’t eat big meals anymore.
    I agree to go see a professional and that’s exactly what I need to do next.
    But I have managed to control my stress some with Meditation. That’s what’s helping me a little more.
    I see you had put the breathing tip in there.❤
    Definitely going to try out some of the other tips you suggested.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks a lot Karen! I found a nutritionist very beneficial in helping me determine my next steps and to see if changes need to be made every now and then based on any changes in my life. Meditation is an amazing stress reducer. I have to get better at doing it. Thanks for sharing what works for you too! Have a wonderful start to your week.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Well written post with some great advice. I am also sure many will be comforted to know there are physiological reasons for there erratic eating during stressful times. I would second your recommendation to limit the availability of bad food at your home to avoid the temptation. Thanks for sharing

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Great advice! I do eat less when I’m under major stress but yes drinking fluids such as shakes or soup it definitely something worth mentioning. I have to learn how to deep breathe! I also listen to music and drive for hours (last one probably not the best idea)

    Liked by 1 person

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