“Adopting the right attitude can convert a negative stress into a positive one.”

How Stress Affects Your Food Intake and Weight

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Stress is a part of life of every individual regardless of age, gender, and race. We experience stress not only in our personal lives, but also in our career. It affects everyone at every point in their lives. It’s just inevitable. Stress can be bothersome especially when it affects an individual to an extent where he/she cannot function normally. The effects of stress depend mainly on how a person handles it. There are different coping strategies and not are helpful or beneficial to an individual. Some people do not utilize healthy strategies in coping stress and it sometimes affect their eating habits and tend to gain or lose weight in the process. Others who are stronger keep their normal behavior and won’t develop outward signs of depression.

There are studies that show that stress can lead to “overeating” and reduced food consumption. Studies also show that stress invokes changes in food options such as consuming more glycemic food due to common belief that it can ease emotional distress. Some people rely on “fake food” such as french fries and chips to keep themselves occupied while trying to forget their problems. Once a person ingests a high sugar or high fat food, it sort of inhibits certain activities in the brain that create emotion-related processes. So if a person perceives them as stress inhibitory, they tend to increase their intake to counteract stress. It is evident that the increasing problem with obesity is related to the increase in different stress-inducing situations people are facing every day. Obesity has now become an epidemic because a lot of people cannot find a healthier way to cope with stress.

Stress is defined as a non-specific body response whenever it encounters certain factor that affects its ability to maintain balance or homeostasis. Imbalance causes sudden behavioral changes to a person that is related to his/her coping mechanism. There are lots of coping strategies to deal with difficult situations. Some people become emotional eaters who retort to stressful situations by eating. These individuals will suddenly increase in food intake to handle stress; however, this is a very unhealthy coping strategy. Consuming more food than what is needed to get rid of anxiety and stress will lead to unwanted weight gain. Overeating can cause weight gain but it’s not the only behavior that contributes to it. People who are stressed sometimes can’t sleep, are not motivated to exercise and drink more alcohol. These also can make a person overweight.

Stress, on the other hand, can decrease your food intake and shut down your appetite. When a person is stressed, the hypothalamus in his/her brain releases corticotrophin-releasing hormone which is known to curb appetite. Epinephrine that is released by the adrenal glands stops the kidneys from pumping out this hormone, therefore putting the food intake on hold.

The best way to deal with stressful situations is to talk to a person you trust, accept the situation and plan on how to deal with it in a healthy way. Hitting the gym to exercise can also help because exercise releases endorphins to keep a person happy. Meditation is also a good idea as it is proven to relieve stress as well as reduce high blood pressure and heart problems.

You may be interested to watch this video and learn some helpful stress management strategies.

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