Most of us are not strangers stress. Through all of life’s ups and downs, whether it’s a big life change like moving (that’s what we did there) or the daily stress of work, social plans, and the inevitable, we all know that at some point we’ll feel overwhelmed. You should feel that you can. of our control. While it’s okay to feel a little stressed every now and then, research shows that chronic stress can lead to long-term stress. Health effects. In the short term, stress can affect your sleep and mood, and subconsciously affect what and how you eat.
The word “diet” encompasses many factors such as the type of food you eat, your appetite, and your digestion, and stress can affect all of these, often in ways we don’t expect. . In other words, stress can interfere with your health goals in a variety of ways. In addition to the direct effects that chronic stress has on the body, stress can affect the brain and change habits and decision-making, often resulting in unhealthy eating habits. Read on to find out how stress affects your diet and what you can do to prevent stress from damaging your health.
1. You may experience changes in appetite
When under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. This serves to increase appetite and the body’s motivation to eat food. Conversely, short-term stress can trigger the flight or fight response and suppress appetite. Because of these two different biological responses, each body’s response to stress is different. Comforting foods such as sweets, salty snacks, and other ultra-processed foods (also known as “stress eating”) can be used as a subconscious way to temporarily calm yourself down, or as a response to your body’s increased appetite due to stress. ”). Cortisol. Some people also feel sick to their stomachs or are not hungry (because the fight-or-flight response stops digestion), so they don’t eat enough food and aren’t getting the nutrients their body needs.
What to do about it: Food has no moral value. Some foods provide more nutrients, keep you energized, or cause pleasure, but they may not give you the long-lasting nutrition you need. While there’s nothing wrong with reaching for comfort foods from time to time, it’s important to nourish your body with both nutritious and comforting foods to balance out the effects of stress. Also, if you lose your appetite due to stress, try consuming easily digestible foods such as bananas, sweet potatoes, brown rice, and eggs.
2. You’re more likely to eat out more often
One of the last things you want to do when you’re under extreme stress is to spend extra time cooking a balanced meal. Especially when delivery is just a click away. Although there are plenty of healthier fast food options these days, preparing meals at home has been proven to be associated with long-term health benefits. Even healthier options like salads and chicken and vegetables can sneak in processed oils and added sugars. Eating at home is always a healthier option because you know exactly what’s in your food.
What to do about it: If there’s one thing that helps when it comes to ordering takeout three nights in a row, it’s having a plan. This is a great way to always have key ingredients on hand to make easy, nutritious meals, or to avoid the extra stress of trying to answer the age-old question of what to eat for dinner. It may look like preparing a meal.
3. Digestion can be slowed down
Research shows that the gut-brain connection is strong, so it’s no surprise that when you’re emotionally stressed out, your digestion takes a physical toll. As mentioned earlier, stress can stimulate your body’s fight-or-flight response, which can lead to delayed digestion, bloating, gas, and general discomfort. There are biological reasons for this. When a threat is present, the body must focus its efforts on fleeing or fighting rather than digesting food. In 2023, most of us won’t have to worry about running away from a tiger, and stress will look like a busy day at your desk, but your body will be no different. The biological response to stress is to stop digestion.
What to do about it: While you may not be able to eliminate all stress from your life, there are steps you can take to start your body’s natural “rest and digest” response. Taking a short walk after meals, practicing meditation or breathing exercises before or after meals, and drinking peppermint tea are all ways to help promote digestion during times of stress.
4. You’ll probably eat more mindlessly.
Similar to stress eating, which is characterized by eating more than usual or eating differently than usual, mindless eating is when you reach for food without intending to. Think about grabbing a snack as you pass through the kitchen or munching on popcorn while watching a movie or show. When you’re stressed, especially if you have to rush between tasks or activities, you may find yourself unconsciously eating more often than usual.
What to do about it: To bring yourself back to the present moment, try turning meals and snacks into mindfulness activities. Plate your food intentionally and sit down. Remove distractions such as your work laptop, phone, and TV. Before you start eating, take a short break and take a deep breath. Notice how the food looks and how the first bite tastes. Bonus: Taking your time to eat mindfully also improves digestion.
5. More likely to rely on food and drink for energy
When you’re stressed, your sleep quality may suffer (like waking up more often) or you may go to bed later to finish off your to-do list. If you have to hold back too many yawns during the day, you may end up reaching for extra caffeine or sugary snacks to overcome your daytime fatigue. Not only that, but sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels (the hunger hormone) while decreasing leptin levels (the hormone that tells you you’re satisfied and have had enough), making you more likely to eat more. It can cause you to eat more than you actually need or reach for that cookie after lunch without feeling satisfied.
What to do about it: To combat this never-ending cycle, it’s important to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep (even or especially if you’re feeling stressed!). To avoid trouble falling asleep, stop drinking caffeinated beverages by the early afternoon (or about 8 hours before you plan to go to bed) and develop a nighttime routine that calms your mind and prepares your body for sleep. Sho. If you’re having a bad night’s sleep, try eating more protein and healthy fats beforehand to help you feel full, and avoid consuming too much caffeine.