All of us have unique challenges in every day and bigger life events (health problems, job changes, and family struggles) that can trigger an “alarm system” in our brain (release of cortisol and adrenaline). A perceived threat or overloaded schedule can be felt as a “fight-or-flight” response. This body arousal can make it hard to relax. Some of us are walking through each day with this body “alarm system” going off non-stop. This can lead to serious health problems (headaches, back pain, stomach issues, decreased immunity, weight gain, trouble sleeping) and affect relationships, our job and quality of life.
What habits do we normally associate with a stressed out lifestyle?
|Lack of sleep||Gulping coffee/caffeine|
|Sitting a lot||Lack of physical activity|
|Grabbing fast foods||Skipping meals|
|Using alcohol to unwind||Being preoccupied/overcommitted/hard to focus|
How can stress lead to weight gain?
- Stress can make it harder to eat healthy and be active.
- Lack of sleep due to stress can increase appetite and carbohydrate craving due to changes in ghrelin and leptin, two hormones that control appetite.
- The stress hormone cortisol stimulates muscle protein breakdown, increased abdominal fat and decreased metabolic rate.
- We use food to push down feelings and cope with life.
What steps can you take if you are a stress eater?
- Re-evaluate your schedule/commitments.
- Be tuned into what stress feels like for you (irritable, H/A, tense muscles).
- Be a “mindful eater” asking whether you are tense, frustrated, angry, bored or actually hungry. Enjoy fully food’s taste, texture, and appearance.
- If you are not hungry, delay 20 minutes, do something else that distracts you.
- Don’t skip meals but nourish yourself every 3-4 hrs (emphasize protein and low-fat, high fiber choices).
- Be tuned into what your trigger/comfort foods are and don’t buy them! (or only eat them away from home in small amounts)
- Keep a record of your behavior to identify stressors and eating patterns.
- Practice relaxation skills like yoga, pilates, meditation, prayer or a massage.
- Use exercise (strength and aerobic) to release stress and sleep better.
- Let friends and family know how they can help and carry burdens.