Does Sadness Lead To Snacking?
Emotional eating is pretty common and we have all succumbed to naughty cravings during times of high stress at some point in our lives.
But why do we do it and why do we reach for the chocolate and not the blueberries?
During times of emotional stress, we experience a cascade of hormonal responses that influence our food choices.
According to the Harvard Medical School stress shuts off our appetite receptors. I’m sure you’ve experienced that feeling when you’re so stressed out that you almost feel sick to your stomach, well that’s because of those hormones.
After a while your brain signals you to put energy into your body and then we get cravings for sugar and fats, which explains why ice cream is a favourite binge food for people on a low emotional ebb.
These foods seem to have the effect of lowering some of those stress hormones. But studies show that not only does the binge not improve the mood after eating, it often creates feelings of guilt which only exacerbates the situation.
Of course, if this is something that’s happening to you regularly then you probably need to get to grips with why. Are you not controlling the stress influences in your life as effectively as you should?
Interestingly high stress levels affect our sleep quality. But poor sleep also increases stress and can also lead to cravings so are you stressed because you’re not sleeping or are you not sleeping because you are stressed?
In one study performed on high school children (1) it was noticed that girls reacted to a combination of emotional factors while boys only binged when “emotionally confused”. It has been observed in various other studies that females are definitely more prone to emotional eating during times of high stress.
Therefore, implementing strategies to reduce stress are important. Here’s my suggestions:
- Manage your time better by improving productivity
- Learn to switch off and relax – meditation, yoga. Tai chi, or just take a walk (but leave your phone at home)
- Keep a gratitude log to switch you into a more positive mindset
- Get a good night’s sleep
- Make sure you are adequately hydrated – yep, dehydration increases your stress levels
- Ensure that your diet is adequately nourishing – very low calorie diets are stress inducing
- Be flexible with your diet – banning certain foods will make you crave them even more
- Exercise 3-4 times a week. Exercise helps us to deal with stress but excessive exercise causes the same symptoms as chronic stress.
1. Martin et al. “Change in food cravings, food preferences, and appetite during a low-carbohydrate and low-fat diet” Obesity (Silver Spring) . 2011 October ; 19(10): 1963–1970. doi:10.1038/oby.2011.62