Have you ever heard that “stressed” is “desserts” spelled backwards? There’s good reason this witty one-liner has caught on. How many of us, in times of anxiety or uncertainty or stress, have turned to an extra slice of cake or just one more scoop of ice cream for the instant (although, very temporary) gratification? And then without much delay, comes the food guilt that just ultimately makes everything worse. This is because stress can drastically alter our food choices, oftentimes leading to over-consumption of fatty, sugary “comfort foods.”3
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. There’s a very real reason why we turn to food in times of stress. I am going to share with you below three healthy solutions to stop this emotional cycle with stress and food. But first, let’s take a closer look at how stress impacts our weight.
While short-term stress is a natural response, long-term stress cranks out the hormone called cortisol which increases appetite and, over time, wreaks havoc on our body and mind.2 Studies have shown that chronic stress is linked to higher body-weight and an increase in the amount of fat stored specifically around the waist.1 And when 25% of Americans rate their stress level as an 8 or more on a scale of 1-10, this becomes a very important topic of conversation for those who are trying to stick to an effective weight loss diet.2
Here are three proven ways you can stop the sinister stress cycle while improving your overall happiness and sticking to your weight loss goals:
- Get Enough Sleep
I know, I know, easier said than done, right? But what if I told you that better sleep and weight loss are linked together? When you get a good night’s sleep, cortisol drops and you become more likely to make health-conscious decisions throughout your day like exercising and eating nourishing foods. (Blog post on encouraging better sleep habits coming soon!).
- Move Your Body
Whether it’s a quick 10-minute “time out” walk, a 30-minute H.I.I.T. session, or a personal training session, breaking a sweat is proven time and time again to be a serious mood booster. According to the American Psychological Association, 62% of active adults claim exercise is an effective stress management tool, yet a mere 17% of adults reported exercising daily.6
- Practice Mindful Eating
Things such as skipping meals, guzzling caffeine, and chowing down on sugary or carb-laden foods (which spike insulin, triggering stress-like symptoms), all play a role in how you feel. When you’re feeling stressed, try finding a quiet place to sit down and practice the benefits of eating slow instead of falling into the grab-and-go mentality.
“”[Mindful eating] slows you down, makes you more aware of portion sizes and helps you get out of negative, automatic food habits like overeating while watching your favorite TV show,” psychologist Dr. Susan Albers writes on the Huffington Post.”5
Here are some food “dos and don’ts” for when you’re stressed:
Don’t: ice cream, soda, donuts, sugary drinks, chips, candy, fried foods, cookies, pretzels, pastries, alcohol, and coffee.
Do: black or rooibos tea, water, oatmeal, low fat plain yogurt, nuts, fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, dark chocolate, salmon, and healthy dessert substitutes.
Getting the social support and help you need is also a key component to ensuring stress and weight stay down. As a Master Personal Trainer, Fitness Nutrition Specialist and Weight Loss Coach, I have the tools to help you kick stress (and unnecessary weight gain) to the curb. Feel free to contact me if you need a helping hand!
- Scott, K. A., Melhorn, S. J., & Sakai, R. R. (2012, March). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3428710/
- Harvard Health Publishing. (2012, February). Why stress causes people to overeat. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
- Family Health Team. (2017, July 11). Can Long-Term Stress Make You Gain Weight? Study Finds a Link. Retrieved April 05, 2018, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/can-long-term-stress-make-you-gain-weight/
- American Psychological Association (2017). Stress in America: The State of Our Nation. Stress in AmericaTM Survey
- Huffington Post. (2013, April 24). 5 Ways To De-Stress In Just 5 Minutes. Retrieved April 04, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/24/easy-stress-relief-5-ways_n_3017084.html#slide=2300517
- Stress and Exercise. (n.d.). Retrieved April 06, 2018, from http://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/exercise.aspx