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!

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Psychologist, Master Certified Coach and Certified EFT Practitioner. She is one of the world’s leading experts in using Emotional Freedom Techniques to help people lose weight without dieting, stop binge eating, and reduce anxiety and stress. She is the author of 4 Books on Emotional Freedom Techniques, the EFT Tips Newsletter, the Binge Eating Teleseminar and the EFT Weight Loss CD. Carol has a thriving coaching practice and is passionate about helping others succeed.

12 thoughts on “Stress Eating and Hormones

  1. I am so kicking my cortisol to the curb!!

    Now, how do I replace that with endorphins on demand? Hmmmn.

    Funny, I may have only these gold fish crackers and a big beer for dinner. And frozen Almond Joys for dessert — well they do have protein with those almonds in them. It’s Friday and the night is young.

    But back on topic because I don’t want to get in your bad books so early in our blogging relationship… stress for me = carbs.

    To keep my mood up I fling my undergarments into the rhododendrons, but usually only after dark.

  2. Too funny, Jannie! I think I’m going to call myself Carol Funster for the entire day and see if my mood improves!

  3. Hi Carol. There are two things that work for me to combat stress. Either veg on the couch with a good movie or a favourite television sitcom, or take a long walk. Well, there are others… but not good for me. Sometimes comfort food is what I reach for while I’m on that couch.

  4. Thanks for this — I’ve definitely resonated with the books I’ve read that talked about food serving as a “mommy substitute” when we’re afraid and want to be comforted, and how really loving ourselves can help us let go of the habit. I tend to use working rather than eating this way, but the basic idea is the same.

  5. Kathy – yes, can you relate to this image??? I can!!!

    Davina – nice to meet you! And yes, you have to watch the comfort food on the couch. We are definitely conditioned to reach for it to relax.

    Chris – that’s a good term for it – anything that reduces the anxiety is appealing – and that’s why it’s so hard to give up!

  6. Carol — I can’t top Jannie’s comment, but she did help with my stress because she made me laugh. I use laughter and lots of it to combat stress. I watch a funny video, movie, talk with my boyfriend, JC, as he’s very funny:~) For me, laughter really is the best medicine!

    Hey…it’s nice to see familiar faces here…so cool:~)

  7. I suffer from Panic Disorder, so low stress is very important to me. To relieve myself of anxiety and stress I do yoga and breathing techniques. Also taking a nice cool shower helps me too. Thanks for the article. It was very informative and helpful =)

  8. Great info here, Carol! Overeating when stressed is very common but I feel it should be channeled into other forms of energy as much as possible. We all don’t want our stress levels to cause premature aging or lower our energy levels and self-esteem or even lead to certain diseases. I also tend to stay busy and preoccupy myself if feeling somewhat overwhelmed. After practicing this for several years, I don’t often find myself stressing…especially over little things. I’ve learned the importance of channeling my energy elsewhere, towards something useful. During these stressful times, I enjoy working out, going for a run, or watching a movie. One last note, surround yourself with positive people and people who mean the most to you. Thanks again for your great post Carol, and all the others that followed.

  9. I like the idea of eating an ounce of dark chocolate every day for medicinal purposes such as stress relief. Now that I’ve decided to do this it will be interesting to see if I am able to restrict myself to just one, as I do love chocolate.

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