Call it what you want – stress or emotional eating. It’s an undisputable fact that it’s not healthy. Its most immediate effect is sabotaging one’s weight loss goals.
Stress can shut down appetite, unless it is chronic. The adrenal glands release cortisol, and it increases appetite and may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat, according to Harvard Medical School.
Once a stressful episode is over, cortisol levels should fall, but if the stress doesn't go away — or if a person's stress response gets stuck in the "on" position — cortisol may stay elevated.
The expression “you are what you eat” is a cliché because it is true. The worse food you put in your body, especially in excess quantities, the worse you will feel.
Unhealthy eating habits lead to inflammation, which causes oxidative stress, which is imbalance between the production of free radicals and the ability of the body to detoxify their harmful effects, making you look and feel older.
So how do you fix this?
“I encourage people to conduct regular check-ins about how they spent their time each day, to REALLY hone in on whether or not their choices are making them the person they want to be,” Andrea Marcellus, fitness expert and founder and CEO of and/life, says.
Nowadays people often get into living a “checklist-lifestyle,” when each day becomes about completing tasks with little room for curiosity, discovery, imagination. This lack of stress-fighting stimulation is exactly when the day can overtake you, causing you to check-out from the checklists with mindless munching, Marcellus adds.
“And yes, we have all been told a thousand times to figure out beneficial go-to’s for when we’re feeling stressed – things like journaling or venting to a friend, taking the dog for a walk or maybe taking up a hobby like knitting,” Marcellus says.
Most people end up munch munch munching a way – and then feel guilty about it on top of it because “they knew better.” “I say give your humanity a hug and realize the only foolproof way of avoiding this type of eating – or at least keep it to a minimum - is to have a stomach that just can’t do it,” Marcellus says.
The and/life eating plan combats stress eating in several ways, no willpower involved, she adds.
1. When you start eating simple, “one step away from a tree” food for all the meals you don’t share, your tastes change. So even if you feel like you might give in to downing half the bag of potato chips or 16 cookies, not long into your mission, don’t be surprised if you find your favorite stress-food to be too salty or sweet and decide to walk away.
2. When you start eating to a point of satisfaction rather than “full” at each meal, it ratchets your stomach size down a few notches so you can’t eat as much – providing a second line of defense against a stress-induced feeding frenzy. “Too much” is still too much, but it’s way less than it used to be. The means the occasional binge won’t throw you off your game.
3. When you start eating real food all the time in satisfying portions on a pretty consistent schedule, you’re never running on empty. Mindless grazing between meals simply stops feeling like something you want to do and, even when you try (which you will), quickly loses its appeal.