Emotional Eating and What Can Be Done

My Bariatric Life Health Guide

    Ernest Hemingway coined the term "grace under pressure" long ago when he offered it up as an explanation for what courage is. Grace under pressure does not neccessarily mean free of stress so much as it means the ability to successfully deal with stress. Few people have Hemingway's backbone to begin with, and his capacity for drink may have washed a stressor or two away, as well. The point here is that stress is inevitable, and if a person can deal with it functionally then they are one step ahead.

    Unfortunately, many struggle. There are few feelings as uncomfortable as anxiety, and more than a few of us will do anything to relieve it. Sex, drugs, and alcohol are among the less appropriate attempts at remedy, and let's not forget eating. When we are stressed, we eat... and eat.

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    Emotional Eating and the Causes

    Knowing what we need to do quickly can be overruled by doing what we want to do -- especially when what we want is to stop feeling like we are about to split down the middle from stress. Healthy habits and discipline are simultaneuosly tossed to the curb and bring on those short-term band aids that will soon enough morph into guilt. 


    Stress can be caused by an increase of the stress hormone, cortisol, which triggers cravings for salty and sweet foods. Stress also can create the need for social support. A popular social activity is going out for a meal with a friend to a less formal environment where the fried appetizers seem to have no bottom.


    Other contributors to eating as a stress reliever are nervous energy, comfort foods as a solution, and the inability to deal with difficult emotions. 


    Emotional Eating and Weight Gain 

    Researchers have discovered that females who experience one or more stressors 24-hours before eating a single high-fat meal can slow the metabolism so much that 11 pounds can be gained over the course of a year.


    Arguments with spouses and co-workers or trouble with the kids were shown to cause stressed women to burn 104 less calories than non-stressed women seven hours after eating a high-fat meal. The subjects also experienced less fat oxidation in which large fat molecules are converted into smaller molecules and used as fuel. 

    The study group was made up of fity-eight women, thirty-eight of whom were breast cancer survivors. 


    Some Suggestions to Help Avoid Emotional Eating

    If you are feeling pressure and craving sugar to relieve it, a mandarin orange might be just the thing you need. It will satisfy that sugar urge and is also rich in the vitamin C that strengthens the immune system during times of stress.


    Pistachio nuts are good substitutes for chip. They are among the lowest calorie nuts and contain healthy fats and fibers that help to regulate blood sugar.


    Try using your non-dominant hand when eating. It will slow the pace and allow will a more mindful approach.           


    As mentioned prior, cortisol is the stress hormone. Black tea has been shown to reduce cortisol, and a nice cup could make a difference. 


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Published On: August 01, 2014