It feels somewhat ironic that this year’s Stress Awareness Week coincides with the start of Lockdown 2.0. Last lockdown 47% of us gained weight, according to some surveys, with stress being cited as a primary reason. So why does feeling stressed cause us to eat more and what can be done to overcome stress eating?
WHY DO WE EAT MORE WHEN STRESSED?
When we get stressed our body releases increased levels of stress hormones.
Part of the reason for this is because in biological terms, we haven’t evolved much since caveman times, when stress meant a need for ‘fight or flight’. Both of these activities envolve energy expenditure XXXX
One research study found that people who experience stress at work ate more and made less healthy food choices at dinner.
STRESS AND ABDOMINAL WEIGHT GAIN
Increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol have been linked to increased fat storage around the middle. When too much cortisol is produced (such as during prolonged periods of stress caused by work, moving house, divorce and so on) it promotes fat storage, particularly around the abdomen. Storing fat around the middle is particularly harmful to health as it increases our risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and stroke.
HOW DO I KNOW IF STRESS IS AFFECTING MY HEALTH?
At our clinic, we see many clients who are dealing with the unwelcome side effects of leading a stressful life. Symptoms of excess stress include feeling:
- Irritable or impatient
- Anxious, nervous or worried
- Over-burdened (like you have more on than you can handle)
- Low mood / a lack of interest in life
- Trouble sleeping and issues with concentration and memory are also signs.
HOW TO TEST YOUR STRESS
There is simple test that can be carried out to accurately identify the levels of your stress hormone cortisol over different points in the day. We provide this to clients at our clinic but we can also organise this as an at home test kit for you at home. Our Adrenal Stress Test is available to purchase here.
HOW TO TACKLE STRESS
If you feel that stress is an issue for you, here’s a short exercise you can try to help you get some clarity around your stress and what you can do to help manage it.
- What is the cause of my stress? (thoughts, people, events, finances)
- How do I respond to stress? (become tense / irritable, overeat, worry, etc.)
- How much of the stress am I in control of? If you can identify the stressors you do have control over, then you can decide what needs to change (e.g. avoiding the stressor) What do I not have control over, but could react to differently?
- What strategies can I implement to overcome this stress? Can I get someone to help me?
You might also like to consider these evidence based supplements for stress.
An optimal diet and a balanced lifestyle plan can make a huge difference when it comes to helping you deal with stress and its negative effects on your health and your weight. Aside from optimising your nutrition to support stress, we also work with you to create healthy lifestyle habits, so you’re less likely to eat more when you experience stress. If you would like support with managing your stress levels, improving your health or losing weight, we invite you to book in for a complimentary call with to discuss how we can help you.