How to Manage Your Diet When You are Stressed
Did you know during times of stress, your body can make sugar because it thinks you need it? When someone runs at a constant level of high stress, the additional sugar produced may be stored as fat, which increases weight and risk for other health conditions.
Unfortunately, stressors are present in our day-to-day life: work, family, kids, money, the list goes on and on. Cortisol is a stress hormone that can suppress the immune system, constrict blood vessels and increase mindless eating.
Often times, people choose foods high in salt, fat and sugar when they are stressed. Studies have shown that comfort foods increase serotonin, the neurotransmitter that balances mood. This may explain why when you have a rough day at work, you want to come home to a bowl of ice cream or pot roast like your mom used to make. We associate those foods with happy memories, so eating them makes us happier.
You are in charge of how you respond to stress. Try these techniques to better manage your stress:
• Exercise: physically getting rid of stress while burning calories, a win-win
• Getting adequate sleep: get to bed early and let your body recover
• Meditation or prayer: use an app or schedule quiet time
• Reading: distract your mind by reading a positive story or article
• Listening to music: play music on your computer or phone when you need a break
Sure these all seem like simple things, but they actually work. Better yet, beat stress by planning ahead. Packing a healthy meal, walking over a lunch break or fitting in a morning workout can give you a head start in beating stress.
Next time you are feeling the pressure, try to relax with these tools. Your mind and waistline will thank you.
Ellen Thomsen, MS, RD, LMNT, CDE is a clinical dietitian at CHI Health, working in Oncology and Functional nutrition. Ellen helps patients improve nutrition habits during cancer treatment and beyond. She is a group fitness instructor at the CHI Health Lakeside Wellness Center and enjoys helping people of all fitness abilities be active. Ellen is passionate about helping patients improve their lives through nutrition, activity and stress management.