Are You An Emotional Eater?

No one will argue that obesity is a worldwide problem. According to statistics, 1.4 billion adults globally are overweight (BMI ≥25 kg/m2) and at least 200 million men and 300 million women are obese [1]. How come that despite a huge amount of money (the global weight management market is expected to reach USD 442.3 billion by 2025 [2]) invested in weight loss management across the world, global population is getting more overweight and sicker (overweight and obese people are more prone to chronic diseases) than ever before?

Is Stress Causing Weight Gain?

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the majority of people report extreme stress levels (8, 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale). And believe it or not, chronic stress leads to overeating. Let me give you an example:

You came home from work where your boss criticized you because you did not stick to a deadline, there was a traffic jam on your way from work, you came home where kids were yelling at each other...Do you reach for kale chips? Hell no, you turn to sugar and fat, you turn to food which we know as 'comfort food'. Here's the science: When we are under chronic stress, the adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol, and cortisol increases appetite. It may also ramp up motivation in general, including the motivation to eat. In people with high stress levels cortisol gets stuck in the "on" position. And there is also an explanation why we reach for highly palatable foods when under stress: sugar and fat target the brain similar to opiates. As food is an inexpensive resource for providing relief, these comfort foods, or low nutrient dense foods offer short term pleasure and relief from discomfort[3].

Simple Strategies to End with Emotional Eating

So, what to do before you grab for a bag of potato chips?

1. See not, want not: Even a nutritional expert would grab for a bag of chips under stress (well, a nutritional expert would probably grab for a bag of organic beetroot chips, but hey, it's still chips). So, the first rule is - do not store low nutrient dense foods in your pantry. Instead, have nuts!

2. Breathe. Alas, we've lost the ability to eat only when hungry. Do this simple exercise: Breathe in, count to 5, breathe out slowly. Are you really hungry? If yes, go to point 1 or 3.

3. Drink water: Often, when we think we are hungry, we are just dehydrated. Drink a glass of water.

4. Get out. After a day in the office, an hour or more in the car and hours that are left from the day inside the house, no wonder that we feel stressed, depressed and anxious. Remember, our species evolved outside in the wild, so with our current state of living we actually go against our true nature. Go out for a walk after dinner, practice gardening, or even go and check your mail box, take out the garbage or if you have a dog, perfect!

Did these tips help you? If yes, share the article below and help others live a healthier life!

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