Why do I eat when stressed?
The sugar, salt, and fat found in desserts and other comfort foods, act like jet fuel for your brain, inducing positive, energizing sensations. No wonder it can feel so soothing to munch on a bag of crunchy chips when you are stressed. Stress eating and overeating are common problems among adults. Emotional eating is “when a person eats over any emotion, such as fear, anxiety, worry, guilt, even happiness,” explains Dr. Coral Arvon, PhD, LMFT, LCSW, the Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Center, in Miami, Florida. “It’s eating to comfort yourself.” Unfortunately, emotional eating leads to struggles with weight, mood, and sleep. Luckily, there are helpful foods to eat when you are stressed that can help you boost your mood, sleep better, and maintain a healthy diet.
Can eating relieve stress?
Sinking your teeth into that decadent, fluffy piece of moist, chocolate fudge cake can make you feel as if your stress is melting away. However, any relief is only temporary, and isn’t going to help you manage your stress. “You do not need to eat to cope,” explains Dr. Avron. She suggests, if you are reaching for food because you feel stressed or bored, use an ‘if’ and ‘then’ condition. For example, if I want to eat a donut, I have to go for a 10-minute walk first. Surprisingly, you may discover your donut craving was caused by boredom – and, now the craving seems to have literally walked away.
What you can do instead of stress eating
Piece together a puzzle, stroll around the block, or turn up your favorite tunes and have a kitchen dance party. “Remember that eating is one coping mechanism used to manage stress. It works for the short term, but we can pay a price – in our health, energy, weight gain…” remarks Kimberly Gomer, Director of Nutrition at the Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa. “The key is to find other coping mechanisms… my favorites are walking or running outside, or listening to books on tape.” Meditation is also a wonderful stress release, and is just one of 9 ways to cope and manage stress put together for you by Pritikin experts. Or, head on into the kitchen – cooking a new healthy recipe can be a fun way to help you manage stress. Kimberly has 8 ways to maintain a healthy diet when you are stressed.
How to Stop Eating Comfort Food
In times of stress, many of us find ourselves hanging out in front of the pantry, or fridge, foraging for comforting foods. Why do you crave unhealthy food in times of stress, or boredom? Most unhealthy foods contain sugar, salt, and fat – a dynamic trio which cause a pleasurable sensation that is addictive to the brain, making you crave them in times of stress, or boredom. The best way to stop eating comfort food is to reach for healthy food regularly – avoid getting to the point of hunger where your body feels deprived, and depressed. This can make your cravings for unhealthy foods stronger. “You can’t say, ‘I won’t eat the cupcake!’ But, eventually you will realize that you don’t need the cupcake. When you are choosing healthy foods… the cupcake doesn’t taste very good,” explains Kimberly Gomer. It may be hard to imagine that eating healthy can become easy. But, it is possible! The Pritikin Longevity Center and Spa can help you understand what foods are best for you to reach your health goals. Plus, Pritikin experts show you how to master a positive mindset which makes it easy to eat healthier food, as well as help you master the culinary skills needed to cook them.
Top 8 Foods to Eat When You Are Stressed
Dig into these 8 easy foods when you are stressed and feeling hungry. From medical experts to researchers, there are certain foods that can help relieve stress:
- Household availability of ultra-processed foods and obesity in nineteen European countries. Public Health Nutrition, 21(1), 18-26.
- Exogenous stimuli maintain intraepithelial lymphocytes via hydrocarbon receptor activation. Cell 2011 Oct, 147(3): 629-640.
- Food for Mood: Relevance of Nutritional Omega-3 Fatty Acids for Depression and Anxiety. Front Physiol 2018; 9: 1047.
- The effects of tea on psychophysiological stress responsivity and post-stress recovery: a randomised double-blind trial. Psychopharmacology (Berl) 2007 Jan; 190(1): 81-9.
- High vitamin C status is associated with elevated mood in male tertiary students. Antioxidans (Basel). 2018 Jul; 7(7): 91.