Some thoughts on overeating and stress

The dog puked on your new shoes. The car had a flat tire on a major highway. The in-laws showed up unannounced and the house is mess. Ahhh! Stress rushes into your brain and body.

You missed a deadline at work. You are late on your mortgage payment. You had another huge argument with spouse. Ohhh! More stress.
Stress eating
You feel annoyed, angry, and overwhelmed. You grab a package of cookies. “I’ll just nibble a few,” you mumble. Before you know it, the contents of the entire package are in your belly.

Stress eating, comfort eating, emotional eating; words that describe overeating. Short-term you feel better, but long-term you feel worse. Stress-induced cravings create a habitual pattern of using food to self-soothe, temporarily escape emotions, and avoid problems. Frustration, guilt, and remorse visit.

According to a 2011 article in Harvard Health, “Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effect of high-fat, sugary “comfort foods” push people toward overeating.”

The adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol which increases appetite. You give in and gobble gooey goodies: cookies, cake, candy bars. Or you gorge on fried salty foods. You overindulge until you feel uncomfortable or stuffed.

The more unmanaged stress in your daily life, the more apt you are to turn to food for emotional relief and comfort.

Read the book, Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers, by Robert Sapolsky. Examine Richard Carlson’s books: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff About Money or Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff with Your Family.

“The definition of stress for most people tends to focus on the negative feelings and emotions it produces. Almost every definition of stress also discusses certain resultant physical, physiological or biochemical responses that are experienced or observed. A very comprehensive definition of stress that includes these and more is the biopsychosocial model, which, as it name suggests, has three components. This definition of stress distinguishes between an external element, another that is internal, as well as a third that represents the interaction between these two factors,” according to The American Institute of Stress.

In August 2017, the American Psychological Association conducted its annual Stress in America survey. Most common sources of stress included: Future of our nation, money, work, political climate, and violence/crime. Stress issues in the nation included: Heath care, the economy, trust in government, crime and hate crimes, terrorist attacks in the U.S., high taxes, unemployment and low wages, environmental issues, and thinking about problems in our nation. press/releases/stress/2017/ state-nation.pdf.

How do American’s cope with stress? According to the APA survey, physical activity, listening to music, spending time with friends/family, yoga/meditation, and prayer were among the top techniques of stress management.

Learn 5 Things You Should Know About Stress from the National Institute of Mental Health. health/publications/stress/ index.shtml.

What is Mindful Eating?
The practice of mindful eating focuses on being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and senses, while eating food. Slow down your chewing. Savor the flavor. Appreciate and enjoy food.

Intentionally become aware of your reasons for wanting to eat. Are you hungry, bored, anxious, overwhelmed? Are you eating out of habit? Are you wanting to comfort eat because of stress? Identify your feelings.

The takeaway 
Only eat when you’re hungry and stop when your stomach is full. Identify sources of stress and patterns of overeating. Tune into emotions before snacks and meals. Use stress management tools.