What Is Stress Eating?Posted: September 26, 2009 in Healthy Eating by Craig Primack MD FACP
Stress is a word that is tossed around quite a bit, but what does it really mean? Truthfully, the definition of stress can be a little bit different for everyone because it is a subjective feeling and people experience feelings in different ways. For one person, just the thought of speaking in public can trigger feelings of stress, while others find this same situation highly motivating and even enjoyable.
Basically, stress is the body responding to change. There are often physical signs of stress and these can include things such as headaches, upset stomach, problems with sleep and even high blood pressure. Stress can also make you feel angry, anxious or even depressed, depending on how you react to it in your life.
During stress our bodies release the hormone cortisol which, in turn, triggers many of the reactions we have for dealing with stressful situations. In stressful situations our bodies look for energy sources to ensure there are enough reserves to maintain the heightened awareness and activity levels usually needed in high stress situations. We crave high energy foods like sugar and fat. Not only do these foods provide energy, they make us feel better because they tell the brain it can turn down the amount of cortisol being released. So, through this mechanism, food actually decreases our feelings of stress.
Managing stress without overeating is part of healthy living, but it can be a challenge. In order to do this, you have to first define the things that cause you stress. Sometimes it can help to make a list of things that make you feel stressed out so that you can begin to see any overall patterns or issues that you may want to address. Since stress can affect your well-being, it makes sense to try and find ways to cope with those feelings in your everyday life.