More Chocolate – Less Stress Eating?

We all know intuitively that chocolate can uplift mood and help you feel good temporarily.

A new study at Nestlé Research Center (where else?) Lausanne, Switzerland, found that eating just over an ounce of dark chocolate daily for two weeks lowered stress hormone levels in highly stressed people (that would be us) and also partially corrected other stress-related biochemical imbalances.

These are the same folks that published a photo of a Hersheys bar with the word “happiness” on it. Continue reading

Stress Eating’s Evil Cousin

It’s that time of year where stress baking (stress eating’s evil cousin) can rear it’s ugly head.

Stress baking may be even more insidious than stress eating itself, in that you tend to eat even more sweets and generously “share” (read “push”) them on others.

The sharing part can be (of course) an innocent loving act, in which you share your homemade goodies that you know others will not be able to resist, and will sing your praises.

But for the most part, you aren’t doing them any favors, and you may be sharing your goodies so that you can have your cake and eat it too (just not ALL of it.)

It’s a strategy to control your own compulsive eating. Continue reading

Stress Eating Warning!

Whenever I walk into the lab to have blood work done, there is a sign that reads

Unattended children will be given an expresso and a free puppy!

It makes me smile whenever I see it. Even though it’s only a small, handwritten sign, the message is loud and clear!

Your behavior has consequences!

So I wondered if we should have a warning for stress eating. After all, stress eating does cause bulges and makes people miserable.

And now, new research shows that as you gain weight, your brain shrinks! Yes, it’s true! Research at UCLA shows that brains of obese, elderly people looked 16 years older than their healthy counterparts. Brains of overweight people were the equivalent of 8 years older.

Most of the brain tissue is lost in the frontal and temporal lobes, the seat of memory and decision-making, which results in a heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Here is yet another reason to stop stress eating, in addition to higher risks of cancer, diabetes and heart disease that go along with overweight conditions. Hang onto your brain cells – you may need them!

Stress Eating and Hormones

Research shows that 46% of Americans are less careful about what they eat when stress is high. People are also more likely to eat quickly and binge eat when stressed. Chemical messages governing what, when and how much you eat function less effectively when you’re under stress, making it more likely to overeat and harder to tell when you’ve had enough.

The first sign of stress causes hundreds of biochemicals to be released in the body. Your body is bathed in stress hormones that speed up aging, drain emotional energy and give you a gnawing feeling of living only to survive, instead of flourish. Stress hormones depress your mood and make you less resilient in the face of life’s challenges.

At the top of the stress hormone list is cortisol, which is often called “the stress hormone.” Cortisol is important because over time, it can cause sleeplessness, memory problems, retention of fat molecules, and fat buildup in the arteries which can lead to heart disease and a whole list of other problems.

Cortisol converts fat into energy to help you cope with stress, but if you don’t burn it off, it gets redistributed around the waist and hips.

Negative emotions create increases in cortisol levels. Every time you feel anxious, worried or annoyed having to cope with a stressful situation, more cortisol is pumped into your system. Excess amounts tend to make you feel even more anxious.

When the body can no longer bear the extra load of stress, it makes adaptations to try to adjust to it. You can end up feeling exhausted and less resistant to immune system failures.

Fortunately, you have hormones that help you reduce and cope with the stress response and increase mood. Stress and your emotional state are highly linked to emotional eating. If you feel good and your stress level is low, you are less likely to overindulge. It pays to strengthen your ability to face stressful situations calmly, use stress relief techniques consistently, and meet challenges with a positive perspective. Cultivating a positive sense of optimism will do a lot towards combating stress and feelings of being overwhelmed.

So what about you? What do you do to keep your mood up and combat stress? Please share in the comment box!

How To Handle Stressful Events Without Overeating

Stressful events create anxiety. Stress related eating occurs when the urge to eat is triggered by anxiety. Your emotional brain takes over and you experience a strong desire to eat.

Anxiety and stress go together. Sometimes, it’s a build up of stressful events over time.

Sometimes, it’s one big event that causes you to lose your composure. It feels like it’s too much to handle. Your feelings may be so strong that you don’t know what to do, or how you will get through it. Continue reading

Why Willpower Doesn’t Work For Stress Eating

If you are trying to use willpower to control  stress eating, you are probably feeling frustrated. Applying willpower doesn’t work because the eating serves a need – a normal human need, usually for distraction, soothing or comfort.

If the need goes unmet, then willpower is no match for the powerful emotions that are driving the need. Weight is not a food problem or a self-control problem. It’s an emotional, lifestyle and/or stress problem. [important] Excess weight is an indication that something in your life needs to change.[/important]

If you force yourself to stop stress eating, the habit will only be resumed or replaced by some other negative habit. The problem isn’t even the stress eating itself. Stress eating is just a symptom of something being out of balance. You are overextended, stressed and/or engaging in work or relationships that are not satisfying.

When you get away from the source of stress and are on vacation or engaged in creative tasks, then there is no need to escape it by stress eating. If eating is the most exciting activity you have going, then you keep going back to it. If you are unhappy with yourself for responding to stress in this way, it is misdirected, since you don’t lack willpower to begin with.

Yet the solution is not as simple as exercising self control. Stress eating is a symptom that a life change is needed, not that there’s something wrong with you.

Where to start?

Listen to your body.

Remind yourself (compassionately) “it won’t help.” Make a decision to reduce the stress and overwhelm in your life.

[tip]A psychological craving will never be satisfied with sweet treats…[/tip]

Recommended Resource Lose Weight Without Willpower CD

The Stress Eating Emotional Connection

Overeating is not a food problem. It’s a stress problem. It’s an emotional problem. It requires support. The cause of eating too much is too much stress and overwhelm. Overeating decreases when stress is reduced.

The root of all addictions is the addiction to a tranquilizing activity. Eating is the first and most commonly used (and misused) tranquilizing activity. If you consider yourself “addicted” to food, you very well may be. Stress management and stress reduction should definitely play a role in getting you back on track. Continue reading