Welcome to our blog series about stress! We include research, health facts, and solutions to handling stress in each article.
When our brains send stress hormones throughout our systems, our bodies also release glucose (sugar) as well as fats from storage. This gives our muscles fuel. Unfortunately, with chronic stress, typically it isn’t our muscles that need the extra fuel boost, and the cortisol makes us crave junk food more than ever.
Because of our “fight or flight” response to stress, our appetite increases. Our bodies think they’re preparing to run away from a threat, but with chronic stress, our systems don’t need more fuel. This makes us hungrier, even if we’re still sitting at our desks all day.
Too Much Cortisol
Cortisol, one of the stress hormones, increases with stress. When this cortisol isn’t used to “fight or flight” the perceived threat, it remains in our systems. As the perceived threat (chronic stress) continues, our bodies continue releasing cortisol. The ongoing cycle is bad for our overall health but also for our eating habits.
The more cortisol we have in our systems, the higher our insulin levels climb. Our blood sugar continues to drop. Then we keep eating fatty, sugary foods to cope with the stress.
It doesn’t help that the junk food we eat is called “comfort food” for a reason: when we eat sugary, fatty foods, our bodies respond by releasing chemicals. Researchers think these chemicals have a calming effect on us. This further reinforces our harmful eating patterns, as we continue eating junk food to feel the relaxation of those chemicals.
Solution: Food Diary
One potential solution for overeating during stressful times is to keep a food diary. When we write down every item that we eat during the day, we become more conscious of our diets. The more we think about what we’re eating, the more likely we are to choose a vegetable or fruit instead of the cookies or donuts in the work lunchroom.
Instead of rushing into the breakroom and gulping down your own lunch plus three donuts and four cookies, we should try taking a full lunch break. We can take this time to write our meal in our food diaries. Using our lunch times differently can make us feel more relaxed for the rest of the work day.
Stress And Weight Gain Solutions At Nature’s Trail Wellness Center
For additional information about how stress affects our systems, visit Nature’s Trail Wellness Center to speak with our naturopathic doctor.