Stress is like Junk Food

At this time of year I usually post about New Year’s Resolutions. The following post has some relevance to a new beginning. It’s about a bad habit many of us try to do better at when the calendar turns to a new year.

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL. May you go through 2020 with less stress and less junk food.

You and I both know that a junk food diet is not healthy.

You and I also know that too much stress is not good for our bodies, mind and spirit.

Did you know studies are now showing that living stressed is as bad for us as living on a junk food diet.  Makes sense.

Brigham Young University researchers conducted a study where they put mice under high stress and it changed their gut microbiota, making their digestion and metabolic health appear as if they were living on a very high fat diet.

Bottom line here is that the study suggests society and it’s stressful lifestyle could be contributing to the obesity epidemic.

An article in Natural News from October 2017 shared results from a study following 3,413 women and 6,895 men for 19 years, questioning them frequently about their stress levels at work.  These people ranged in age between 35 and 55 at the beginning of the study.

The 2015 results showed that stress levels were related to weight gain and obesity.  It’s all biochemical.  High stress makes weight loss harder because of the wave of hormonal changes that come from stress.  High stress makes it almost impossible for your body to metabolize fat causing your body to store it.  Being under stress also makes you constantly hungry .  Stress makes you unhappy and we all like to eat to feel better.  It’s called “comfort” eating.

High stress also leads to insomnia which has been proven to affect metabolism in a negative way.

Overeating is a common coping mechanism to stress.

Why?

Stress is a regular part of the human condition.  Sometimes stress is a result of a busy schedule, not getting good sleep, dealing with illness of yourself or someone close to you, or even just from getting stuck in traffic.  It could be from financial worry, job concerns, relationships and more.

When your body is stressed you may get increased blood pressure, heart rate, respiration etc.  This is the “fight or flight” response meant to help you cope quickly.

A little bit of stress can be a good motivator to help you be productive but if you are constantly under stress with no adjustments to counter the stress then it becomes chronic stress.  Chronic stress affects your physical, emotional and social well being.

Many people’s response to this chronic stress is to medicate with a so-called comforting habit, such as smoking, drinking alcohol, and/or overeating the wrong foods.  This further heightens your stress as it leads to more stress and unhappiness, not a good solution.

When we are stressed our adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol into the bloodstream.  Cortisol increases appetite.  Stress causes lack of sleep which boosts the appetite even further.

We reach for foods high in calories, sugar and bad fats which pushes us further into stress and leads to weight gain.

It’s a vicious cycle.

We need energy to deal with the “fight or flight” so we crave for instant gratification rather than choosing what’s best in the long run.  It’s what you want right there and then…junk food full of rich, fatty or sugary, taste good junk with no nutritional value to speak of.  

This behaviour, we think, helps us suppress pain….but only for the moment.  We disconnect from what’s right and wrong and invariably pick the wrong course to numb us for the immediate moment.  It gives us a flash of comfort, short lived, and detrimental to us in the big picture.

There are many examples of this in our day to day world.  Some people go shopping when stressed, others drink too much alcohol trying to drown out the stress with a good booze buzz. Others eat mounds of bon-bons, burgers, cakes and cookies.  When the shopping is over or the hangover has set in, or you step on the scales after that junk food binge, the stress is still there and probably is a bit more intense now that you are angry with your choice of numbing.  These numbing distractions don’t solve the underlying cause of the stress.  Even worse is some people make these poor choices ingrained habits.  

Regarding the junk food route….the occasional indulgence in a guilty pleasure is okay, but to make it a constant is detrimental to your long term health.  Next time you reach for junk as a solution to a situation you are uncomfortable in, step back, take a few deep breaths, and think first about why and what you are doing.  Have a glass of water.  These easy coping strategies could make a big difference in how you choose to handle stress in the long run.

Mind over matter!!!

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