Common Signs of Stress Eating and What to Do About It
If you are stuck in a cycle of stress eating, what can you do to stop it? In this article, we’ll cover the roots and common signs of stress eating and what to do about it, including meeting with a Christian counselor to help you overcome it.
Roots of stress eating.We need comfort, safety, and peace with our decisions and circumstances. There are numerous ways for us to find the peace we need to live a fulfilled life. A life of which we can be proud. A life we can enjoy even when it challenges us.
Some seek comfort in work opportunities, relationships, increasing knowledge, traveling, health, and diet. For many generations, food has been something that draws families and cultures together. Many exchanges, marriages, and investments have been made over a hearty meal as a way to show trust, security, and comfort. Today, food still plays a role to provide comfort.
Many people indulge in the comfort of food as part of their traditions. Whenever a celebration takes place, food is the focus. The more the better. The greater the experience with food, the more enjoyable the celebration.
Perhaps this is why many of us still seek comfort in food when we are faced with stressful situations. However, food has brought us so much comfort over the years that it can become a dangerous downfall to our health.
How stress impacts our eating habits.
We are faced with many factors daily that contribute to the stress and anxiety in our lives. Some of these factors include work conflict; relational conflict; burnout; lack of physical, mental, and emotional health; lack of job security; and maintaining societal expectations throughout your life.
Unfortunately, when stress and anxiety become consistent in our lives, the cortisol levels in our bodies also rise. Cortisol is better known as the stress hormone. This hormone assists the body with fighting or fleeing from danger. Some studies find that when there is a constant rise of cortisol in our bodies, uncontrollable weight gain is often seen. This is where stress eating can play a role.
It is important to note that we can either have emotional hunger or physical hunger. Physical hunger is when the body informs us gradually of a need to refuel by means of food by telling our brain that we are hungry. This type of hunger is natural and there is no rush signal for us to consume food.
Common signs of stress-eating.
Stress eating is when our brain tells our body that to survive, we need to eat. Stress hunger seems to feel sudden, urgent, and life-threatening. It suggests that if we do not eat right now, our bodies will shut down completely. We feel overwhelmed and find that we now only focus on what we want to eat to cope. Our body doesn’t need fuel, but we are persuaded that we need it to survive. The following responses could be a sign of stress eating.
Craving specific comfort foods.
Physical hunger is easy to please with healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables. Stress eating causes you to crave unhealthy choices like sugary treats and junk foods. It will feel as if nothing else will cut it.
You crave the sudden increase in energy to feel fulfilled. Unfortunately, this only increases your energy for an hour or so. Then it is followed by a sudden drop in energy, tiredness, irritability, and possible headaches.
Stress eating happens fast. Often a whole bag of chips or a whole tub of ice cream can be gulped down within a few minutes. Not only do you finish it fast, but it’s as if you didn’t have a chance to enjoy the treats you just had.
Before you know it, the empty bag is right in front of you, and you feel like you missed the whole experience. Perhaps you can call it a food blackout. Blackout or not, it tends to be short-lived, but your stress and emotions remain.
Not satisfied when full.As stress eating is caused by emotions, you try to seek comfort in food. But eating food and snacks will not make you feel any better. You will often continue eating until you are overly full and very uncomfortable.
Sometimes this feeling of hunger may persist even after you feel full as the cause isn’t the physical hunger of your body, but for the body to cope with the stress and danger. Physical hunger doesn’t require you to eat until you feel stuffed. You are quite often satisfied with healthy size portions.
Not hunger from your stomach.
Physical hunger quite often presents itself as a stomach growl or an empty or hollow stomach. Emotional or stress hunger presents itself as being notified by the mind first. Suddenly, nothing else matters. You can only focus on the next snack or meal. You focus on smells, tastes, and how they made you feel in the past.
Often leads to regret, guilt, or shame.
Since physical hunger is easily satisfied by smaller portions and healthier foods, the consumption of these meals does not make you feel guilty. As you have seen above, stress eating causes you to crave unhealthy foods and snacks and you tend to overeat.
This tends to make you feel even worse than you did before. You feel guilty for eating so much and for eating junk. You think of how unhealthy foods will impact your weight and you are filled with shame. You regret what you ate and how much you ate.
Leads to more physical symptoms.
Many people struggle with stress eating. The dangerous part is that most people do not even know that they are in this cycle where they stress, overeat, feel guilty, and then continue to overeat due to the emotions caused by guilt and shame. Like any other cycle, it needs to be broken to stop.
To break the cycle, one must be able to identify this cycle. The devastating outcome of stress eating can often lead to nausea. With this constant cycle, the body struggles to cope with the number of unhealthy foods and snacks entering the body.
Sugary drinks, sugary snacks, processed foods, and fast foods affect the hormones in our bodies negatively. These foods are difficult for our bodies to cleanse out of the system. The body fights to detoxify itself of these substances which leads to nausea, headaches, tiredness, irritability, and an upset stomach.
Weight-related health problems.
There is little to no way that these eating habits will not affect weight-related problems in the body. Our bodies produce hormones called ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin, also known as the hunger hormone, causes us to feel hungry and crave food. Leptin does the opposite. Leptin tells us that we have had enough food or do not need food. Leptin stops the feeling of hunger and cravings.
A constant increase in cortisol causes an increase in ghrelin and reduces leptin When we are stressed, cortisol increases. The increase in cortisol causes ghrelin to increase. The increase in ghrelin means that we find a constant need to eat and especially eat foods we crave, often the unhealthy type. If we don’t break the cycle, leptin is reduced daily, leading to an uncontrollable surge of ghrelin to rule over our cravings and eating habits every few hours.
Christian counseling for stress eating.
We know that the mind is a powerful tool. But do we understand how powerful it is if we do not take our thoughts captive? If we do not question why we do what we do and how often our minds have control over us, we will never be able to identify the root of the problem.
While reading this article, you might have noticed some signs that you are faced with daily or weekly. Perhaps one or two of the above-mentioned signs is a part of your life. Do you want to take your thoughts captive and fight against stress eating? It is never too late to improve your lifestyle. Feel free to contact me or another Christian counselor in our online directory to help you overcome stress eating.
“Breakfast Spread”, Courtesy of Jimmy Dean, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Stressed”, Courtesy of Elisa Ventur, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Vending Machine”, Courtesy of Denny Muller, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Eating a Burger”, courtesy of Florencia Viadana, Unsplash.com, CC0 License