I’m intimately familiar with seesaw weight loss/gain. I’ve found myself caught in this cycle for most of my life. Like many of you, I once thought it was because something was wrong with me. Little did I know that my problem was what we now call “stress eating.”
One day, I would do very well in controlling what I ate. Then, the very next day, something would happen and I would fall off the wagon. That “something” could be anything like when I got asked to move for work or the time when my boyfriend was hospitalized, or when I got a promotion at work.
Food: My Antidote to Stress
When I was in the moment, I didn’t feel like it was something big and stressful. I didn’t want to disappoint anyone or not be successful, so I just marched on, struggling to maintain the image of the capable and successful woman everyone knew me to be.
You see, those moments were as stressful for me as they would be for you, BUT I had a very effective way of dealing with stressful events—disconnection. As soon as I felt the stress coming, I would disconnect from the sensation in my body. It was my favorite defense mechanism. I would disconnect by overworking, overextending myself, and overeating.
I responded to stress by eating. It was my way of protecting myself. Being the strong woman I was, I ate in secret.
This was my way of reacting to how my hormones affected my body. I also ate to soothe the stressful emotions and sensations that I was experiencing in my body.
The Mechanics of Stress Eating
Not only is stress eating a reaction to an emotion aka stress, but it is also a physiological reaction to the biochemical component of stress: the hormone cortisol. Studies have shown that cortisol increases appetite and causes the body to store fat in the belly.
When the stress hormone cortisol is present in the body, it sends signals to the brain that it is in danger and that the body must be ready to protect itself. It releases glucose in the blood, raising your blood sugar. Then, the body will try to balance off the sudden blood sugar spike by releasing insulin.
This cycle of hormones will lead to cravings: specifically sugar/ carb cravings. This vicious cycle will not stop until the body stops releasing cortisol.
Stop Stress Eating: 2 Effective Ways to Do It
I recently spoke with Evan Brand on The Beyond The Food Show, the podcast I’m hosting. Evan is a functional medicine practitioner. In the podcast episode, he taught us the inside and out of what stress does to our body and how it stimulates cravings. He also told us what we can do to prevent the negative side effects of stress in our lives.
Here are the three ways on how to stop stress eating :
- Do a full lifestyle evaluation. Write a pros-and-cons list of everything and everyone in your life. This includes your job, friends, and family members. If something or someone turns out to be toxic to you, you have to remove them from your life. The most difficult part is getting toxic people out of your life, but if they keep bringing you down, it’s a necessary step.
- Find the big WHY behind your health goals. What is it that you actually want to be healthy for? It could be to live long enough to see your grandchildren. Perhaps you want to have more energy to pursue your other goals in life. Whatever that big WHY is, identify it and be clear about it. It will give you the motivation to keep going.
Evan shares even more insights on stress eating on The Beyond The Food Show. To know more, you can listen to the podcast episode here and have access to the show notes. Or you can play the audio or video file below:
How I Deal With Stress Today
As I’m writing this, I’m sitting on my couch in my living room. I’m about to go write some more, but before I do that, I’m going to get up, walk around for a few minutes and take a few deep breaths. This is what I call stress prevention 101. I no longer wait to be a victim of stress so I’m working hard on preventing it!
Today, stress is still present in my life (it never goes away), but I now have a different perspective. First, I have tools to help me cope with the sensation of stress in my body and to release it. Breathing and journaling are amazing for this. The real food and low carb nutritional lifestyle is a blessing because it helps us stabilize our blood sugar in response to stress.
These tools are exactly what I teach in the Crave Cure Program. If you need help with stress eating, I invite you to download my free Crave Cure Guide. It’s my gift to those who want to find food freedom and take charge of their eating habits. Get started today! Grab your free copy of the Crave Cure Guide here.