You May Eat When You’re Stressed
When stress first hits, it shuts down appetite as your hypothalamus preserves your resources for “fight or flight.” But ongoing stress can lead to binge eating. That’s when cortisol comes into the picture. Cortisol is a hormone that increases hunger, and it rises with chronic stress.
Cortisol can influence the kinds of foods that you hunger for, too. Studies show that cortisol inspires craving for high-fat, high-sugar foods. These foods have been shown to reduce stress, so that may explain why staying in a state of stress can lead to unwanted weight gain.
How to Avoid Stress Eating
There are two approaches that seem to be helpful to avoid stress eating. One is to keep high-fat, high-sugar foods out of your kitchen. By avoiding these foods at the grocery store, you can anticipate a moment of weakness and force yourself to snack on something healthier such as fresh fruits and vegetables.
Another tried-and-true strategy is to find ways to reduce your stress. Friends and family can help by providing emotional support. Getting low-intensity exercise helps reduce cortisol, and with it, stress. And meditation has been frequently shown in studies to reduce stress.
The nice thing about these two approaches is that you don’t have to choose. You can keep unhealthy foods out of your kitchen and still focus on lowering your stress. And if you recognize yourself as someone who copes with stress by indulging in unhealthy food, why not try both?