With 85 per cent of us reporting feeling stressed regularly, it’s no secret that it has a negative impact on our food choices.
But at the same time, what we eat has a direct impact on our bodies’ ability to deal with stress – so stress-related bad eating habits can create a vicious circle.
In this article, MyHealthcare Clinic’s dietician Orli Rhodes-Kendler (below) discusses what stress is, how it impacts on eating habits and how our eating habits affect our ability to cope with stress.
What is Stress?
Stress is a reaction triggered when we need to adjust or respond to a ‘stressor’ or unexpected event – whether environmental, emotional or physical. We release stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, to trigger a physical or emotional response to what our brain perceives as danger.
Although stress is something we tend to view as negative, it is actually a normal bodily function that is vital to our survival. We need a little bit of it in order to function effectively. But when stress actually stops us from functioning in our daily lives, that’s when it becomes a problem.
Stress and nutrition
When we are faced with stress, many of us turn to the wrong types of food to help us cope. Carbohydrates in particular offer us a quick fix, causing our bodies to release the ‘happy hormones’ which bring short term relief. While this isn’t harmful occasionally, it can lead to feelings of guilt – resulting in a cycle of more stress and further comfort eating.
The first step to breaking this cycle is to learn to forgive yourself – and to work on finding more positive coping mechanisms.
Tips for breaking unhealthy stress-related eating habits
Finally, if you’re finding that stress related dietary habits have become unmanageable, seek the help of a professional.