Why Stress Can Lead to Overeating

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Stress can lead to overeating due to the powerful soothing effect that some foods have. Stress releases hormones and chemicals in your body that practically beg you to eat high-fat and sugar-filled comfort foods. Sure your brain finds comfort but the rest of your body doesn’t get the nutrition that it needs. So you keeping eating to because you body tells your brain it still needs nutrients.

Your brain likes to release “feel good” hormones when fat, sugary and salt filled foods are eaten. So even though you are not getting all of the nutritional goodness you need, you eat more and more of these foods rich in carbohydrates and calories, because they make you feel good. An overeating cycle begins, which can quickly lead to overweight and the health problems if you don’t start to monitor it.

Stress Eating – What It Is, And How You Can Avoid It

In February of 2012 the Harvard Mental Health Letter explained just how their research uncovered the link behind stress and overeating. “Stress eating” is a term used to define how stress increases appetite. And the data shows that short term stress actually suppresses appetite.

Your brain immediately begins producing a corticotropin-releasing hormone that quickly works to make you feel full and satisfied. Continued stress actually aggravates your adrenal glands causes the release of cortisol.

Cortisol naturally increases your appetite. And once you successfully get over a particularly stressful episode, cortisol production drops and your hunger levels return to normal.

For some people, your stress response can be left in the “on” position. Your cortisol levels stay elevated and you continue to eat to satisfy artificial hunger.

So… how can you relieve the stress

  • Practice meditation – helps to reduce stress levels
  • Exercise consistently – moderate, low intensity exercise for just 20 minutes has been proven to reduce levels of cortisol, and thereby your stress. But be warned, highly intense exercises increase cortisol levels temporarily.
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