Why You’re Stress Eating
“Stress eating,” or “emotional eating” is a platform used to help people of all ages cope with stress. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed there is a very fine line to be drawn between emotional hunger and physical hunger when us chaps hit middle age. In fact, up to 40% of men over the age of thirty are, whether they realise it or not, very stressed! So, if you’ve been finding yourself reaching for the pastries because the kids still aren’t listening to you or tucking into the chocolate when you get home from a busy day at work then this article is for you! We’re taking a look at how stress eating comes about, common stress eating triggers and how you can start to take back control.
HOW STRESS IMPACTS YOUR EATING HABITS
Initially, and for a short period of time when you’re stressed your body actually suppresses your appetite; the Sympathetic Nervous System (responsible for the “fight or flight response”) is firing on all cylinders and letting your body know that you haven’t got time to eat. But this doesn’t last very long. Soon enough the body begins to secrete cortisol which causes you to crave sugary and fatty foods. This your body telling your brain you need to refuel and prepare yourself for the next fight!
KNOW YOUR STRESS EATING TRIGGERS
Stress eating doesn’t just come about as a direct result of one incident though. An unhealthy, high-stress lifestyle is the main culprit in producing an underlying excess of cortisol that makes you prone to stress eating at any time, not just on hard days at work. So, keep an eye out for common stress eating triggers like boredom, fatigue or even something unsuspecting like social influence or, simply, habit. If you’re not sure, try keeping a food diary and note down what you eat, when you eat and how you’re feeling at the time to try to understand your triggers.
3 WAYS TO COMBAT STRESS EATING
Seek support – no man is an island! Surrounding yourself with friends and family who have a more positive relationship with stress and food has been proven to help reduce cortisol levels. There are even support groups that you can join full of people who are also struggling. One of the main ethos’ of Middle Aged Mens Health and Fitness is to offer and find support for each other. Don’t be too proud to get support!
Exercise – high energy exercise will actually increase cortisol levels, so if you’re very stressed choose something that compliments your workout and lifestyle which is more soothing, like tai chi or yoga. Both have been proven to help lower cortisol levels. Check out this article on Yoga for Middle Aged Men
Meditation – a seemingly infinite number of studies have shown the positive effects of meditation including combatting stress eating. In this instance, people who meditate have been shown to be more mindful about the food that they eat and are less likely to give in to their triggers.
As a final round up, stress (emotional) eating is pretty common and isn’t usually associated with physical hunger. There are those who succumb to it and just accept it as ‘their thing’ but, sometimes it can lead on to issues with their health and mental wellbeing.
As middle aged men many of us will at one time or another have been guilty of stress eating. If we are training hard we should be watching what we eat. Keeping a food journal is a good way of looking back and reminding yourself of when, what and how you’ve been eating. However there are ways to combat stress eating with support and encouragement from friends or medical professionals it cab be controlled and even conquered.
Having just mentioned medical professionals it’s important that anyone who experiences negative emotions around their eating habits should see their doctor to discuss ways to find solutions or build coping mechanisms.
As always your health and mental wellbeing are important and if in doubt talk to your doctor, nutritionist or therapist.