Relationship between Stress and Food Choice
Eating wisely keeps you healthy and fit, which enhances your quality of life. Diet and eating behaviors are critical for optimal growth and development as well as disease prevention. Unhealthy diets and nutrition are responsible for a variety of health issues. Many of these issues impair people for the rest of their lives, and some are even fatal.
Healthy eating for good health necessitates a fundamental understanding of foods and the nutrients they supply. Several factors, including psychological issues and stress, influence eating habits and behaviors. It affects many people at some point in their lives. However, when a person indulges in foods as the primary means to cope with stress, his/her life, wellbeing, contentment, and weight can all be significantly impacted.
Some people are prone to neglect their hunger pangs and abstain from eating for long periods of time as a result of stress. Others become emotional eaters who eat impulsively when they are stressed.
Why stress leads to a change in eating habits?
When you are stressed, your brain transmits signals to your body. In such a situation, your body produces cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. Since your brain believes it requires fuel to combat whatever danger is triggering the stress, cortisol makes you crave sweet, salty, and fatty meals.
It’s not uncommon for individuals to have difficult or unpleasant feelings and emotions. There is an urge or a need to solve or eradicate these negative feelings as quickly as possible, which can contribute to unhealthy behaviors. There are some physiological reasons why stress and intense emotions might lead to change in eating patterns:
High cortisol levels – Stress can cause the appetite to diminish at first in order for the body to cope with the circumstance. If the stress continues, cortisol is released. Cortisol stimulates hunger and can lead to overeating.
Cravings – Stress can boost food cravings for sweet or fatty foods by raising cortisol levels. It is also linked to an increase in hunger hormones, which may lead to unhealthy food desires.
Effect of stress on the metabolism
Stress not only impacts your eating patterns but also affects your metabolism. After eating a high-fat meal, stressed people burn fewer calories than non-stressed ones. This in turn leads to potential weight gain.
Our metabolism is at its greatest when we are in equilibrium on all levels – physical, psychological, mental, and spiritual – and uses calories in the most effective way feasible. Our metabolism is jeopardized when we are out of equilibrium on any or all of these factors. Since we accumulate calories as fat rather than utilizing them for energy, we require more calories to perform the same metabolic processes.
Stress is one of the greatest dangers to a healthy metabolism. When the body is exposed to any sort of stress, it responds by releasing anti-stress hormones. Our body’s metabolism comes to a standstill – or at least slows down – as a result of hormonal imbalance.
People are at a greater risk of stress eating due to the daily pressures of work and home life, as well as the frequent use of electronic devices. Being aware of what prompts stress eating and being prepared to battle the impulse is the best way to combat stress or emotional eating.
It is quite challenging to change a person’s dietary habits. The most efficient techniques to cope with stress are to eat modest amounts of food more regularly, at a slower and more frequent pace, avoid fatty and high-sugar foods, reduce salt and caffeine intake, and avoid skipping meals. Some other measures which can help are mentioned below:
- Stock up on nutritious snacks. If you still feel the urge to nibble, you’ll at least be nourishing your body by consuming healthy food.
- Keep your blood sugar in check throughout the day. This will keep your emotions stable and body in check.
- Make a habit to take a five-minute break now and then to shut your eyes and take a few deep breaths.
- Consume an adequate and balanced diet. A balanced diet strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, and mitigates the effects of stress.
- Take time out to exercise regularly. It serves as a distraction from stressful conditions and functions as a buffer against the surge of hormones that collect as a result of daily stress in several ways.
- Practice meditation. This permits the mind and emotions to be quiet, letting the body release stress.
- Get adequate sleep every night. A good night’s sleep makes it easier to deal with the stress of the day.
It may be beneficial to talk to an expert nutritionist about different strategies to disrupt the pattern of stress eating. A nutritionist may also be able to give you extra information on how to develop healthy eating habits and improve your attitude towards food.
Foods that ease stress
The adrenal gland is one of the organs in the human body with the largest concentration of Vitamin C. It is essential for the creation of stress-related hormones such as cortisol. Adrenal glands are known to benefit from fruits, vegetables, and snacks high in nutrients including Vitamin B & C, and magnesium.
Vitamin C-rich foods include cauliflower, broccoli, sweet & white potatoes, green & red peppers, spinach, and tomatoes, among others.
Magnesium levels in the body are likely to be low when you are stressed. Magnesium deficiency, on the other hand, can make you more prone to stress. Foods rich in Magnesium include seafood, leafy green vegetables, raw cacao, tamarind, fruits, and cashews.
Some of the finest fruits for stress relief include kiwi, papaya, pineapple, grapefruit, strawberries, cantaloupe, mango, and guava. You can incorporate a few of these items into your daily diet, based on availability.
Emotional eating is when people eat to defeat or relieve negative feelings like stress, fear, anger, boredom, and loneliness. When you’re emotionally vulnerable, the biggest eating cravings might strike. When confronted with a challenging task, worried, or bored, you may resort to food for comfort – knowingly or unknowingly.
Stress eating is a typical occurrence that is rarely linked to physical hunger. Some individuals succumb to it on a regular basis, while others may notice that it has an impact on quality of life and may even put their health and emotional well-being in jeopardy.
Anyone who has negative feelings about their eating habits must speak with a nutritionist about their concerns. This will aid them to come up with solutions or coping strategies.