Do you find yourself reaching for unhealthy foods when you’re under stress? Do you feel you are a “stress eater”? Or maybe you’ve heard this called “emotional eating”? Turning to food when your stress levels increase is common for many of us.  

The Silent Killer

Stress has been called “the silent killer” for many reasons. It’s a root cause for many men and women struggling with obesity. But left unchecked, elevated cortisol levels (known as the stress hormone) have been linked to many health conditions.

Elevated cortisol levels have been reported to

  • Increase inflammation
  • Affect blood pressure
  • Elevate bad (LDL) cholesterol
  • Increase the risk of heart disease, and
  • Negatively affect the quality of sleep.

The simple fact that our lives are full of stress. If you find yourself eating more or choosing unhealthy foods when under stress, that can increase calorie consumption which can lead to gaining weight.  

The extra calories aren’t the only issue. Researchers now say that highly stressed individuals actually have a harder time utilizing the foods they eat. There was a study conducted specifically regarding caregivers and how the stress they endure affects their bodies’ ability to process the foods they eat.

Chronic stress and unhealthy foods

The University of California’s San Francisco Department of Psychiatry wanted to find out how chronic stress and eating affect the body. They monitored women who were caregivers to a parent or partner suffering from memory loss and measured how their bodies reacted to the increase of more fat and more sugary foods.

They compared that test sampling to women who were eating the same foods, but not under the same stressful long-term conditions. They found that women under extreme continual stress did not handle unhealthy food as well and it led to larger waistlines and insulin insensitivity.

This particular study was for women over the age of 50. It revealed that the high-stress group had metabolic changes – the kind that leads to disease, while the lower stressed women did not.

First step: focus on lessening your stress

If you are a man or woman (of any age) who is experiencing chronic stress and notice that you tend to stress-eat, your first step is to get a handle on the stress levels you experience. Do not worry about any excess weight you may have put on at first, because if you cannot lessen your cortisol levels, that weight is going to feel like it’s permanently glued to you.

Focus first on dealing with the stress you are under. It’s imperative to increase your self-care. Put yourself first on your priority list.

You’re not just doing it for yourself and your own health, but for the loved one that you are caring for. Whether your chronic stress is coming from taking care of family members, work, relationship issues, or financial struggles, start by taking some time for DAILY self-care. It is not selfish. It’s a necessity for your own mental, physical, and spiritual well-being.

Check out my Facebook page for regular self-care tips. Start with something small but stay focused on taking care of YOU, so you’ll be there for those you love.  

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