Are You A Stress Eater?

Do you eat when you’re stressed?

Recently I was reading Deepak Chopra’s "What Are You Hungry For?” (which I TOTALLY recommend, by the way!) and it really made me reconsider the way I think about eating.

Actually, it made me think about what I was thinking about when I eat.

Turns out, I overeat when I feel tense. And I’m not talking mentally tense, which is what I work so hard to combat. I realized I was actually physically tense and that had a connection to the amount I ate. Weird, right?

Turns out, it’s actually pretty normal.

I started focusing my attention on releasing tension in my body through the day and I’ve been REALLY surprised. I had no idea that every little stressor was adding tension to my body and by the time I sat down to eat, my brain was desperate for any kind of release.

When we eat, we naturally release dopamine (AKA the happy chemical) and that release gave me the release I was looking for. The dopamine allowed me to feel happiness, which also meant my muscles could relax, and I’m hooked to that feeling.

Probably because my body knows that, as soon as I’m done, that tension will come right back!

I decided to follow the instructions in the book to make sure I’m getting the right foods and meditation, but I also tried one more thing. I decided to take a minute or two to take a deep breath and give gratitude for my food, where it came from, and how it heals me.

The effects were immediate. I’ve started eating less at each meal (and even feeling full!) and I haven’t been getting cravings to snack in between meals. By continuously bringing myself to a place of awareness, I’ve been able to reduce my food intake significantly!

The shift was so surprising, I knew I had to bring this awareness to my blog and share it with you! In the book, Chopra provides a quiz to help you discover if you’re a stress eater and if you think this might be an issue for you, I highly suggest taking the quiz!

Are You A Stress Eater?

Deepak Chopra’s: What Are You Hungry For?

“Check the items that apply to your eating and general situation.

___ Are you a woman? (Women are more likely to be stress eaters)

___ Are you sedentary?

___ Are you lonely or isolated socially?

___ Do you snack when you’re feeling nervous or restless?

___ Do you cope with stress entirely on your own?

___ Does daily stress and strain make it hard for you to fall asleep and keep sleeping for at least 7 to 8 hours?

___ Do you find yourself grabbing food between meals to relieve boredom or pressure at work?

___ If you feel stressed, do you immediately reach for sugary, fatty snack foods?

Score: ___

Rating yourself:

If you checked 1-2 items, you are likely not a stress eater. You haven’t set up a feedback look between daily stress and food. A score of 5-8 items (AHEM, ME) puts you firmly in the category of stress eating. You are coping with life using food, and a feedback loop has been set up so that the more you use food for comfort, the less effective it is, leading to even more eating.”

If you are a stress eater, don’t fret! Being aware of it can only help you improve. Start noticing how tense you feel, physically, emotionally, and mentally, and give yourself a few minutes to release that tension around food.

Did you take the quiz? Were you surprised by your results? Let’s start a conversation about it! Comment below and let me know your results!

Is Stress Good For You?

   Since we're always talking about the negatives, I'm going to take a moment to stick up for stress.

    We need stress to be able to react to dangerous situations. It's what keeps us alive as a species, just in case we're threatened or attacked. Positive stress (eustress):

  1. Releases hormones into your bloodstream to get your heart pumping and give you energy.

  2. Burns off your sugar stores to give you fast acting sugars for an energy turbo boost.

  3. Creates a cushion around your cells and tissues in case you get tousled up in a fight or fall.

  4. Pauses digestion so you don’t have to waste time.

  5. Clears your mind by creating  so you can be totally present and focused.

Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight response) to get through difficult and life threatening situations. It’s the basic goal of the body to survive and it uses stress as a warning bell to keep us alert and alive when attacked.

I mean honestly, how amazing is your body?! Take a moment.

The reason why stress gets so much flak is because the nervous system doesn’t realize that we’ve evolved and made a society that creates a lot of mental stress without a physical threat. In today’s world, when we experience stress through the day, it’s usually not because we’re in physical danger.

Still, it’s triggering those benefits I listed above EVERY TIME we stress. Think about that… Let's say, hypothetically, that lava is pouring out onto the floor you're standing on. If you needed to climb a flight of stairs once or twice to escape, you could handle that and survive no problem. But what if you had to climb 10 flights? What about 50? Or 100? You’d be on constant alert, stressed, and absolutely exhausted. But that’s what we’re putting our mind and body through every day. Lots of us are living in a constant state of stress (77% of Americans reported physical symptoms as a response to stress!) and that lava is burning out the positive benefits! That’s negative stress, distress, and chronic distress is what people are talking about when they hate on stress.

Chronic distress:

  1. Gets your heart pumping over and over again through the day, creating fatigue and high blood pressure.

  2. Completely depletes our sugar stores making us crave sweets and carbs for a quick refuel.

  3. Creates a cushion, inflammation, around our cells and tissues that stimulates the immune system (affecting those with autoimmune and inflammatory diseases).

  4. Leads to digestive disorders and imbalances.

  5. Creates inflammation around the frontal lobe so our conscious decision making becomes hazy and strained.

    Distress is what everyone is talking about when they connect stress to chronic health issues. If you feel like you manage burnout more often than stress, understand that the first step in overcoming it is becoming aware of it. Don’t let it upset you, but simply notice how often you feel stressed through the day. Notice how fast your thoughts race through all the worries of the day. Become aware of how you feel energetically at the end of the day and whether or not you have cravings. Take time to pay attention to how your body feels physically, mentally, and spiritually.

Stress is a natural part of life, but distress - especially chronic distress, can negatively impact your entire experience every single day. Being aware allows you to recognize and begin to stop situations where stress takes over.  

So don’t hate on stress, it can do a lot of good. Just be mindful and remember... Everything in moderation.