I’ll be the first to admit, when I feel stress I want to eat. More so, I want to eat food that is definitely not healthy. More so, we’re talking about chocolate, probably some soy ice-cream, and more than likely some kind of cupcake with icing, also, possibly, veg. pizza.
I’m guessing I’m not alone in this. I used to really get mad at myself for this reaction to stress. I would be going along just fine, then something stressful would happen, and BAM it is all I can do to not go find the nearest bar of dark chocolate and devour it, well if we’re being honest, devour a few.
It never made me feel better. It always made me feel that much worse. That and my blood sugar (as a former out of control T2 diabetic) would sky rocket, and I’d feel even worse.
It wasn’t until I figured out why we respond this way to stress that I was able to make changes. The past few days have been pretty stressful, my car broke down, I oweA LOT more than I thought I would in taxes, found out I needed a dental procedure done, and then a slew of other personal life stuff.
All I wanted was chocolate cake. I was bargaining through the whole thing. I NEVER eat cake. The store has vegan chocolate cake. It’s only one slice.
And then I started to go through the WHY. Why do I (and you) crave calorie dense foods when we are stressed?
Think to what it was like back in the day. Even as early as 100 years ago. Our ancestors used environmental clues to determine if they were going to be in trouble. If they sensed trouble (famine, war, drought) they ate more, because they knew that there was a chance they would be going without food.
Stress was a signal that something was about to go wrong in their environment and it was a very natural response to get in more calories, in case they were not going to be eating for a while.
We still think this way. Something in our brain says STRESS!!! EAT!!!! YOU MIGHT DIE!!!!
In my case: STRESS!!!! EAT CHOCOLATE CAKE!!! YOU MIGHT DIE!!!
So now I do a few things before I end up at the store in front of the cake, and chocolate, and soy ice-cream and pizza.
1. I tell myself it’s going to be ok, and I think ahead to how it’s all going to work out in the end. I mentally go through the different solutions, and I come up with workable plans.
2. I consult people who are more wise than I am. I am fortunate to have some really smart people in my life, I call them, I ask for their advice, I try to get more than one brain on an issue.
3. I workout. This is probably the best thing I’ve learned to do when I’m feeling stress. I get out a lot of that stress adrenaline , it gives me time to think a little, and it takes me out of the situation.
4. I breathe. Seems obvious, but just sitting and breathing for a few minutes has done wonders for me. It gets me to pause and to calm down before I make any decisions.
5. I press pause. I don’t tell myself “I won’t have cake” I say “I’ll have cake tomorrow”. And then I do all of the steps above. Hitting the pause button helps a lot, and it is not a final decision, it’s just a “maybe later”.
So next time you are feeling stressed and the need to eat, know that you are completely normal, because your brain is telling you it’s important to survive. Then, take a breath, and do something proactive to get you through the stress.