Are You Stress Eating?

Have you ever found yourself mindlessly eating a whole block of chocolate while you brood over your latest breakup or eating a hamburger or pizza or fries in front of your computer as you furiously try to make a work deadline? Perhaps you’re a busy mum, eating sweets or cookies in your car as you take the kids back and forth to a million activities. Or you’re a business owner desperately trying to make ends meet when you suddenly realize that your waistline has expanded. If you recognize yourself in any of these scenarios, you’re not alone and it’s probably not your fault. Stress that goes on for a long period is a triple whammy for weight gain- it increases our appetites, makes us hold onto fat, and interferes with our willpower to implement a healthy lifestyle.

The days when our ancestors were fighting off tigers and famine, their bodies adapted by learning to store fat supplies for the long haul. The unfortunate result for you and me is that when we are chronically stressed by life crises and work-life demands, we are prone to getting an extra layer of “visceral fat” deep in our bellies. Your belly has an ample supply of blood vessels and cortisol receptors to make the whole process flow more efficiently. The downside is that excess belly fat is unhealthy and difficult to get rid of. The fat releases chemicals triggering inflammation, which increases the likelihood that we will develop heart disease or diabetes. And it can make it more difficult to fit into those lovely jeans you splurged on, leading to more stress about money wasted! Unfortunately, excess cortisol also slows down your metabolism, because your body wants to maintain an adequate supply of glucose for all that hard mental and physical work dealing with the threat.

Here’s what you can do to avoid all this mumbo-jumbo of stress and weight gain:

1. Exercise regularly- exercise can decrease cortisol and trigger release of chemicals that relieve pain and improve mood. It can also help speed your metabolism so you burn off the extra indulgences.

2. Eat consciously- eating consciously can help you slow down and tune in to your sensory experience of the food, including its sight, texture or smell. Which in turn can lead to eating less and thereby aiding in weight loss.

3. Find rewarding activities to occupy your time and mind- go for a walk, read a book, go to a yoga class, go to the gym, get a massage, play with your dog, or make time for friends and family. All these things can help to relieve stress without adding on the pounds.