Friday, January 28, 2011

Stress Feeding

Stress Feeding

Ever made it through a stressful scenario only to be gripped with a sudden compulsion to eat? Those cravings probably come courtesy of cortisol, a hormone made in the adrenal glands and unleashed into the blood when the body faces a real or perceived threat. Elevated cortisol levels arouse the appetite, especially sugar and fat cravings. Just knowing that can make you more conscious of what motivates your food decisions.

Mind-Body Toll
Like an air traffic controller, cortisol signals where energy is delivered inside the body. And studies show that cortisol prefers to divert extra calories into deep abdominal fat (a.k.a. visceral fat), which is more detrimental to health than the superficial flab in, say, love handles.
Stress also reduces your gut’s acidity and, consequently, its ability to absorb key nutrients. A final insult? Not only does stress-induced cortisol damage your body’s ability to digest properly, it also decreases your body’s ability to repair itself.

Exercise your options
If stress sends you running to the refrigerator, remind yourself that eating won’t erase the stress, says May. Try making a list of things you find relaxing, such as a hot bath or taking your dog to the park, and keep the list on the pantry or refrigerator door. Next time you are stressed and tempted to reach for a snack, pause to look at the list and consider your alternatives.

Conserve your energy
Keep in mind that the setup for stress-induced splurges can build over the entire day, says Kay. Practicing self-awareness, such as noticing negative self-talk, and taking deep breaths at the first signs of stress, can put you on a different path. Taking more frequent breaks can also help dispel stress, making it more likely that you’ll get through the day with your self-awareness intact.

Cut yourself some slack
Beating yourself up after a stress-induced splurge only fuels negative feelings. Instead, acknowledge what happened and move on. Turning to food at times of stress is part of being human. Stress eating only becomes a real problem when it’s your only way to deal with stress.

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