How stress affects your eating

I don't know about you but when I get stressed, I do not have an appetite. I recall one instance where I made lunch and was about to eat then received a stressful message and I literally had no appetite. Why did this happen?

When we usually get stressed our fight or flight response kicks in. At this time we either overeat or eat foods that are not healthy such as salty, sugary of fried foods because it is at this time when our cortisol levels are going haywire and this is where you crave certain foods. Your brain is sending a signal that it needs fuel to fight whatever the stress may be. Another reason why people overeat is to distract from the stress that is going on.

In my case, I have no appetite when I feel overwhelmed or high stress. Again when you are in fight or flight mode, your body is using up all the energy and the adrenaline to either fight or flee and the brain switches the cues to go into survival mode. Food is last on it's mind.

Funny how the brain and body works to keep you alive. Which is great for every once in awhile, but when not when chronic issues happen, such as obesity, heart issues, eating disorders, and other illnesses.

Root Cause

In Functional Medicine we always look to get to the root cause of illnesses and behaviors. At this point it is really looking into the stress, what is actually going on and being mindful of the triggers that come up.

Pay attention to those cues that trigger a "flare up" and send the heart racing. Stop when you realize what is happening and take 3 deep and slow belly breaths. I know this sounds weird (hopefully you are not in a meeting when this happens, but even if you are, there are subtle ways to calm down). By taking these deep, slow breaths you are slowing down your autonomic nervous system and are able to calm down which helps your digestion.

Mindful Eating

Mindful Eating is the best thing you can do for your digestion. So often we eat on the run, or we eat and are distracted - either on our phones, computer or at work.

What mindful eating does, it makes you realize what you are eating. Food is medicine, and when you put more thought into what you are putting into your body, instead of having the last minute rushed meal, you make better and healthier choices.

Mindful eating also makes you use all your 5 senses to be in the moment and enjoy the food. Look at the food - take a picture if you want, smell it, feel it in your mouth, hear the utensils hitting the dish, taste the food and enjoy every bite. Eating should take you 15-30 minutes to enjoy, not 5 minutes to inhale.

Another benefit of mindful eating is gratitude. When you put your 5 senses in your meal, you end up being grateful for a) where it came from b) how you got it c) your ability to even taste the food d) that you even have food. This is where your stress dissipates and with the chewing and the mindfulness, you will have an easier time digesting your food, getting all the needed good nutrients to sustain the energy and mental clarity you need for a productive day!

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