Survival Kit for Stress – Tool # 4

Stress Eating – Eat the Right Foods

"If the mind, that rules the body, ever so far forgets itself as to trample on its slave, the slave is never generous enough to forgive the injury, but will rise and smite the oppressor." ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

What is stress eating? Why do we have a tendency to reach out for that piece of chocolate or have another cup of coffee (or even alcohol) when we are feeling stressed?

Part of this response lies in our brain chemistry. When we are under stress, our brain cells need more serotonin, a chemical substance that carries impulses to the nerve cells in our brain. This in turn, triggers a craving for carbohydrate-rich foods, which stimulate serotonin production.

What you don’t realize is that eating and drinking certain things can only make you feel good for a while only. Eating a lot of sweets for example, depletes the Vitamin B in your body, leaving you feeling fatigued, anxious and irritable. If there is too much sugar in your body, you may end up with a headache or feel moody. Drinking caffeine laden drinks may keep you alert for a while, but it also stimulates the release of several stress hormones, and you are more likely to interpret events as stressful.

Drinking alcohol on the other hand, can increase serotonin level temporarily, but after the alcohol is metabolized, the level goes down, which is why we get the “hangover” the next day.

So, you may be stress eating if you:

  • eat even when you are not hungry
  • feel eating helps you cope with problems or stressful situations
  • eat to “have something to do” especially at social events where you don’t feel comfortable.

    To combat stress eating, simply understand your body and work with it to eat the right foods at the right time. By eating properly, you will have more energy and not gain unnecessary weight, as well as be able to handle stress better. Eat complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, carrots, beans, corns, tomatoes, squash, whole wheat grains, etc which produce more of the good feeling serotonin and are more nutritious than simple carbohydrates in foods like candy bars, potato chips and so on.

    Eating complex carbohydrates also triggers your pancreas to secrete insulin, which allows the amino acid tryptophan to synthesize serotonin. Dome foods high in tryptophan are: chicken, turkey, plain yoghurt, almonds, cashew nuts and sunflower seeds.

    So next time, you feel stressed, grab a carrot or celery stick to chew on instead of that candy bar!

    Look out for Tool #5 in the next segment of Health Coach International’s Survival Kit for Stress.

    To equip yourself with Tool #1 in Survival Kit for Stress, click here.