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How Can Stress Affect Your Eating Habits?

How Can Stress Affect Your Eating Habits?

Being under intense amounts of stress can have direct effects on our eating habits. Although, this connection won’t look the same for everyone. Excess levels of stress can either contribute to us over-eating, or not eating anything at all. Either results can be disastrous for our goals and overall health. Keep reading to learn more about our eating habits and stress.


What is stress eating?

Stress eating, also known as emotional eating, is an eating habit where an individual uses food to help them cope with being under stress or when they are experiencing a stressful situation. Many of us have experienced emotional eating at one point in our lives. It can include times when we have eaten a bag of chips when we were bored, or indulging in a chocolate bar or two when we have had a hard day at work. 


Still, when individuals participate in emotional eating often, or if emotional eating becomes the only way an individual can deal with their emotions, then this has negative consequences on their life, health, overall happiness and weight. 


How Stress Affects the Metabolism

Not only does stress take a toll on your mental wellbeing, it can also influence the way you eat and how your body feels over time. Studies have shownthat it can have effects on your metabolism, too. Participants in the study who had reported being in a stressful situation recently burned fewer calories than non-stressed individuals after eating a high-fat meal. 


Researchers found that being in one or more stressful events the day before you eat just one high-fat meal can cause the body’s metabolism to slow down so much that you could gain up to 11 pounds per year!


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Resisting Stress Eating

Our daily demands that come from work and from home, not to mention the added layer of having to deal with a global pandemic, can put most of us at high risk for overconsuming and eating due to stress.


One of the best ways to fight stress or emotional eating is to understand what triggers stress eating and to be ready to fight it. One way you can ensure you are prepared is to keep some healthy snacks around the house. This way, when you feel the need to snack you can reach for something that can nourish you instead.


When you eat foods that help regulate your blood sugar levels throughout the day, it will not only help keep your physical body stable, but your emotions will be more even as well. Some other things that could help is to keep your work space clutter free, and to take short breaks often, or maybe do some deep breathing exercises. 


Getting regular exercise and getting enough sleep each night can also help you when dealing with the challenges and stressors that can come up in our daily lives. 


Other Ways to Relieve Stress

When stress has an effect on how we eat, what we eat and how our bodies look and feel, it can feel like a stressful domino effect. These are some other ways you can help combat feelings of stress without overindulging:


Meditate. There are countless studies out there that show the health benefits of taking five or ten minutes a day to meditate. Meditation has been proven to reduce stress and become more mindful when it comes to making choices around food. By having a regular meditation practice, one could be able to pay more attention to their impulses to reach for unhealthy snacks and help prevent it. 


Exercise. We all know that getting off the couch and exercising is good for us. Overall, exercise is able to curb some of the adverse health effects that stress can have on us and our bodies. Certain activities like yoga or tai chi are combinations of both exercise and meditation. 


Spend time with loved ones.Your friends,family or other sources of social support can help keep feelings of stress at bay. Research suggests that those who work in stressful environments are able to maintain better mental health if they are able to receive social support. But even those who don’t work in high stakes environments could use some help from friends and family from time to time. 


Dealing With Appetite Loss

While it might be common for many of us to binge eat when we become overwhelmed with feelings of stress, others might have the opposite reaction. According to a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 31 percent of people say that they have skipped meals because of stress.


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If you are one of those people who find it difficult to eat when you are going through a tough time, then you can try following some of these steps to regain your appetite:


Identify stressors.Your first step is to understand what your stressors are so that you can get to the root of the problem. Once you can identify them, you can work with a professional to learn how to control them. 


Get enough sleep. Getting the right amount of sleep is a crucial part of fighting a loss of appetite from stress. If you aren’t getting enough sleep then it will be more difficult for you to escape the cycle of not eating. 


Eat on schedule.Your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues can only function when you are eating regularly. Someone who is eating less in response to stress might need to start eating on a schedule to help their hunger cues return. 


Find foods that you can stomach.Typically, when someone isn’t eating due to stress they won’t want to eat a big or indulgent meal. Get to know what you can stomach when you are feeling this way. For example, eat foods that are mild in flavor, such as brown rice with chicken broth or white rice and a small piece of salmon or meat. 


What’s next?

Getting to know what happens to your body under stress so you can minimize its impact is important. It’s just as important as knowing where you should start when making changes to your diet and lifestyle. Working with a professional like a nutritionist can help give you additional information and guidance.


Getting a better understanding of how your body responds to certain nutrients or eating patterns can help you optimize your diet and health. 


Learn more about how a dietary DNA test and personalized nutrition can help you create the perfect diet for your genes.

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