Is stress eating real?
In a word.
Stress does weird and wonderful things to us, but firstly let’s address what stress is. We throw this word around but what does it actually mean to be stressed? Stress is a modern word for fear.
Worrying fearful thoughts and conflicting feelings create a stress response inside our bodies which escalates our stress hormones. Stress responses can be triggered by life threatening danger and it can be triggered by worrying thoughts.
Us Mum’s know this feeling oh so well.
Our li’l Johnny isn’t coping with his school work, so we worry for him. Our little princess is having difficulty with friendships, so we invest much thought into how to help her socially adapt.
Our bodies have gone to the pack and we fear we are no longer attractive.
In a nutshell, we have a thought about a life situation and attach an emotion to it, if this emotion is worry, anxiety or frustrations then our body releases stress chemicals to give us the feeling the thought and emotion have described.
Stress starts with a thought.
As does inner peace.
If we were to have positive thoughts and emotions our body would release feel good chemicals to reflect this.
Our thoughts are the catalyst for stress or calm.
The distraction of food!
If you have had a stressful thought the anxious feelings begin to consume you. It isn’t a nice feeling, so we look for a band-aid to make it go away. We want to be distracted and we want a different chemical cocktail than the stress response we have created.
Food is the PERFECT escape. The action of eating distracts us, the amazing sensation of sugar absorbing under our tongue as we eat is sensational and then when it hits our blood stream, look out!! A nice little high is on its way. Sugar gives us a rise in energy and mood, although short lived, and suppresses our stress chemicals momentarily so all is good in the hood…. For fifteen minutes.
And then the crash occurs. The sugar has left our bloodstreams and our energy drops as does our mood. This can create habits of binge eating as you continually try to bring back the short lived high. This can also create more stress, as you feel guilty for the unhealthy goodies you demolished and look for another band-aid to fix it… ah what the heck, I will open the other box of biscuits to drown in.
And so the cycle begins.
This is stress eating. And to think, it all started with a thought.
So how do we step in and stop this vicious cycle??
The art of space
If we want to stop stress eating, then we need to create space. You see, we only reach for that chocolate bar when caught in the routine. If we create a little space, this is enough to make changes to your patterns. It is natural for us Mumma’s to worry and feel concern for our families.
It is typical for women to be challenged trying to find a work / family life balance whilst not losing our marbles from lack of time for ourselves too. Luckily, we have the power of choice.
If we can choose to catch the wigged out thought as it occurs and redirect it to a positive variation this will create a different emotion and chemical reaction in our body.
An example of this could be; My boss wants this document finished today but my son is home sick and I can’t see myself getting to it amidst all this vomit and washing I have to do! I feel so pressured to be and do everything. That is your stressed version of the story. Your calm version would be; Ah, I know this paper is due, but if I am a day late will the sky fall down? (Pretty sure it won’t unless you’re an environmental scientist who knows something I don’t!) I can only do what I can and right now my son is my priority. I will calmly explain my situation to my boss and if she is angry I know that is just her inner frustrations and I cannot control anyone but myself. I know that pressure can only come from within so I choose to let go of the demands and focus on what I can do.
Creating space between your initial response and opening the fridge door is your first step to alleviating the stress that was building up.
The art of redirection
Now that you have created space and changed your thinking, redirect your thoughts to positivity and ask yourself, What can I do for myself right now that will calm me?
If you have time, it may be a walk to clear your thoughts and get you away from the pantry. If you can’t leave the house, then try putting on a podcast or audio book while you potter about getting chores done.
Listening to a talk on positive thinking or inspiring stories is an amazing way to get your focus onto something other than chocolate. If you are at work, simply stand up and stretch your body, create some movement to clear the chemicals building up inside.
The idea is to try something new, that is all it takes to break a habit. Let go of the illusion that stress eating has given you. It does not help calm you nor does it take away your problems.
Acknowledge you have given food way too much power and redirect your energy into a ritual that will help reduce your stress response.
Catch yourself at any stage in the cycle, it is never too late. If you missed the opportunity to create space and you just licked the bottom of the empty Tim Tam packet before realising what you were doing, it is ok.
Realise in this moment that stress eating was your old habit and remind yourself it isn’t any longer. Take a moment to do something for yourself such as a few breathing exercises or journaling.
Do not hate on yourself, habits are tough to break, and they take time and attention.
The art of happy eating
Implementing healthy habits helps you avoid stress eating. When you eat foods that naturally boost your feel-good chemicals in your bod, such as GABBA (calming), Serotonin (happiness and mood stabiliser) and Dopamine (motivating, reward and pleasure) the better you feel.
If you are feeling calm, happy and motivated why would you even contemplate a binge session? You already feel the bomb!
Tweaking your diet to have foods that give you a natural happy all day long will help you avoid stress eating and stress altogether.
The happy diet is a free meal plan that is rich in all the vital nutrients that will keep your neurotransmitters thriving.
Or for a quick D.I.Y guide, ensure you have plenty of the following in your diet (if you have no intolerances to these foods);
- Sunflower seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Grass fed meats
- Wild caught oily fish such as Salmon & Barramundi
- Almonds & brazil nuts
- Rolled or steel cut oats
- Green leafy’s
Happiness is a state of mind, when we find this, healthy eating comes naturally to us and carb loaded treats are no longer required. I take my hat off to all other Mumma’s out there, committed to their families and their work.
Enjoy your happy diet and watch the calm come over you in all arenas of your life.