Eating at Time of Stress

I wanted to write this post because whenever I am stressed I eat and when I say eat I really mean eat. It became obvious to me recently when my mum was having a seizure cluster and I spent at least 2 days doing nothing but eating, anything I could get my hands on. Luckily I have a lot of healthy snacks around so it was not so bad but something that is good to get over.

Firstly I wanted to consider what eating due to stress is like and also what foods might help and foods to stay away from, so this is like a little guide to diet during stressful times. Ok so show do you know you are eating due to stress? Well for me it is constant hunger, not like you experience before you have breakfast in the morning and have not eaten for at least 8 hours and then you fell better after.

Stress hunger is something completely different, usually hunger due to stress will appear out of nowhere, make you crave sugary, salty or fatty foods that are carbohydrate based and not be satisfied. When I am feeling stressed I find that I will eat a big bowl of porridge in the morning then as soon as I am finished and washed up my bowl I am thinking about what else I can eat and that feeling does not leave me for the whole day.

There are lots of thing you can do to take control of the eating which I find very difficult, it is like a constant noise in the back of my head telling me I need to eat and I find it almost impossible to resist. Some good things to do when you get the urge to eat include distracting yourself or finding some other activity that could help fill the void like reading. You should also look at exercise, meditation and other relaxation techniques to help reduce stress overall. However if you do have a bout of sudden stress and feel the urge to eat then it is a good idea to eat the right things to help improve your mood and reduce the problem.

Foods That Are Great Stress Busters

  • Oranges – a great source of vitamin C they are excellent stress busters. Usually when you are stressed your body will use up vitamin much more quickly than usual and so this can leave you a bit depleted if you stick to your normal diet. So when you fell the urge to eat something due to stress, grab and orange.
  • Berries – whatever berries you go for they are excellent for stress. Any antioxidants can help to reduce stress and berries are full of them plus they also contain vitamin C so like oranges will give you a boost there too. One great thing about berries is their sweetness comes from Xylitol which is great for keeping you blood sugar in check and so berries win as a snack all the way round.
  • Oats – a complex carbohydrate they are an excellent option for those carb cravings you get during stressful times. Also oats help to increase serotonin levels which will have the effect of improving your mood and reducing the stress response. Also oats can be seen and comfort food and so will be a bit like giving yourself a little hug.
  • Walnuts – all nuts have benefits but walnuts are my personal favourites. Walnuts are a great source of omega 3 and there have been studies conducted on walnuts that show they help to reduce people’s blood pressure and response to stress when placed in situations that they deemed stressful. Be careful though as walnuts are high in calories and so if you are feeling stressed try eating 2 or 3 walnuts with a handful of berries it could have a great calming effect. You could also replace olive oil on your salad for walnut oil when you feel a bit more stressed.
  • Avocado – funnily enough this is always the food I crave when I am really stressed, it could be my body’s way of telling me what I need. Avocado is a really great source of B6 and Folic acid both of which are though to help reduce stress. As well as that avocado contains high levels of potassium which can help regulate your blood pressure.
  • Dark Chocolate – it has been shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate 2-3 times a week can actually help reduce your blood pressure which again can help those suffering from stress. It also contains other vitamins and minerals that can promote your overall health. On the downside too much chocolate is bad for you but a very small snack of chocolate can keep your hunger and bay and calm you.
  • Camomile Tea – This is one of my favourite options. I know it is not technically a food but maybe try replacing one of your snacks with a cup of camomile tea, particularly near bed. It is very calming and relaxing and could help to reduce your stress reactions.

Foods That Are Bad For Stress

  • Caffeinated Drinks – often if you are stressed and tired it is easy to turn to caffeine but this is the worst thing to do. It will over stimulate you and lead to a crash a little while later when you will feel even worse, plus if you have too many it can reduce your sleep quality and increase the stress levels and hunger the next day.
  • Sugar – this is one food I try and avoid as much as possible causing great highs and then lows when your body comes down from the sugar you effectively become and addict. Giving up sugar can cause quite strong reactions in the body but a times of stress it is an absolute no-no.
  • Junk Food – this includes fried food and foods with high levels of salt that you get at popular take away restaurants. These have little or no nutritional value and only deplete your body of everything it needs to fight the stress, not to mention the calories you will be taking on that could further reduce your mood.
  • Alcohol – this is probably obvious but alcohol is a depressant and on top of that can cause spikes in blood sugar that you suffer from on the way down. If you are feeling stressed then avoid alcohol as you will find it only making the situation worse.
So if you are suffering from stress and tend to be an over eater like me then go for the right kinds of things and you might find it helps with the problem, not to mention the fact it could help you maintain your current weight. If you have any questions or tips on stress and food then please add your comments here I would love to hear from you.
About the author

Mercedes Aspland

Mercedes is a Yoga Sports Coach with experiences working with athletes from many disciplines and experience levels. She is keen to spread the word of how valuable yoga is to sport. With additional qualifications in nutrition she also shares a number of recipes and nutritional advice to keep you fuelled while training.

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