In our high-paced, modern lifestyle it’s easy to fall susceptible to stress eating since food provides pleasure.
FACT: Research shows that the human body is physiologically predisposed to seek out high-calorie “comfort” foods when we are under stress.
For example, when we are suffering a lot of stress, the body releases the stress hormone cortisol, which stimulates our hunger for simple carbs. Eating carbs leads to the release of the hormone insulin, which is the opposite hormone to cortisol, meaning that when insulin goes up, cortisol goes down.
Carb cravings are something of a protective mechanism to help moderate cortisol release and keep your experience of stress from getting out of control.
Stress increases appetite and food intake as well. Studies show that when cortisol is elevated your brain’s sensitivity to food intake is diminished, meaning that you can be eating, but the incoming energy doesn’t register in the brain and has no effect on lowering your hunger. The result is that people who are stressed will overeat without any awareness that they’ve consumed more calories than they need.
Stress affects your ability to make rational food choices. Not only will cortisol activate parts of the brain that make you crave pleasurable foods, but goal-oriented parts of your brain are reduced. This means that even if you have every intention of eating a healthy meal of protein and vegetables, you’ll be overwhelmed with a desire for pizza, cake, or some other high-carb delight when stressed.
We can make the impact of stress even worse by skipping meals, not recovering effectively from exercise and eating junk food.