Eating To Reduce Stress

I should put a question mark at the end of that title now shouldn’t I?  How many times have you reached for food to calm yourself down when you are stressed out?!  I know it has hit me many times and it’s not fun.  It’s instinctual to reach for those so called “comfort foods” because they actually do calm you down for the moment but cause lots of Dis-Stress afterwards.

The physiological explanation is that carbohydrates help to create blood flow from the brain to the stomach for digestion, we start to feel at ease, and ultimately relaxed. When we gorge ourselves with food (specifically starches and sugars), we escape in a somewhat “unconscious” way which produces a “sugar high,” which can result in a “numb” feeling, taking us away from what we really feel.

Then we also have a release of cortisol from the adrenal glands into the bloodstream when we are stressed out which causes our levels of serotonin, a hormone responsible for relaxed and content feelings, to decrease.  This is why we crave carbohydrate-rich foods to create more serotonin!!!!  This makes sense doesn’t it?

There is hope and here are 20 tips to help you respond to stress in a healthy way.  When you feel an overwhelming desire to eat, make a deal with yourself to complete three things on this list before you can eat it.

20 Activities You Can Do Instead of Eating:

  1.  Read a relaxing book or magazine (nothing to do with work though)
  2.  Do some Google research on a topic of interest
  3. Go for a walk
  4. Go for a walk with a friend
  5. Call a friend you haven’t talked to in a while
  6. Go window-shopping
  7.  Play an old-fashioned board game
  8. Go outside and play a game of fetch with your pet, Frisbee with a friend, kick ball
  9.  Exercise for 20 minutes to a video or go to the gym
  10.  Do laundry
  11.  Vacuum, dust, water the plants
  12.  Clean up your spice rack (if it’s older than 6 months ditch them)
  13.  Clean out your closet and donate anything you haven’t worn in one year to a homeless shelter.
  14.  Volunteer at a homeless shelter
  15.  Start a flower or vegetable garden
  16.  Meditate or pray
  17.  Arts and crafts:  they keep your hands busy!
  18.  Dance like no one is watching
  19.  Brush your teeth with a minty toothpaste
  20.  Buy yourself some flowers

Longer-term Solutions

The best way to decrease the urge to binge on high-calorie foods when experiencing stressful feelings is to get at the root of the problem: that is, get at the root of what’s eating you.

Consume healthy fats daily and limit stimulants. Healthy fats, especially Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, help to feed the brain and keep you calm.  Stimulants do just that, they stimulate your nervous system which intensifies your stress response so it’s best to stay away from them.  Alcohol can actually increase your appetite as well as leave you uninhibited and you will eat more junk.

Exercise Daily

It’s a known fact that when you move your mASS you feel much better as it helps to reduce stress and boosts those “feel-good” endorphins.  Exercise also decreases you appetite.  So make sure you take a walk, especially with a friend, when you feel stressed or, even better, on a regular basis and you’ll be sure to feel good often.

Relax Daily

Yoga, meditation, or even deep breathing can help to take the edge off. Visualizing a peaceful place can be a soothing way to “escape” from reality, for just a few needed seconds.

Here is my challenge of the day:  respond to this post with your three stress reducing activities of the day and let me know which foods they helped you pass up.