More than we realize, stress and symptoms of depression can have an impact on our dietary lifestyle, weight or the way we choose to see food. Learning how to understand where your stress comes from and how to cope with it can be a big step in the right direction when it comes to maintaining your health as well as managing your waistline.
It is likely that when we start to experience depression or stress, whether it is work-related, to do with personal relationships or finances, it will start to affect our dietary habits. Some people can lose their appetite completely and there are others that eat junk food or overeat when they are experiencing stress or trying to figure out how to deal with depression.
I see this in the divorce counselling and couple counselling Dubai work I do all the time, at the beginning many people lose their appetite with the stress and then they turn to comfort eating and junk food as a pick me up. This can then lead to more health problems as sadly stress is often linked to burn out, low mood, anxiety and can onset depression.
Stress can be the reason why people develop chronic diseases like obesity, mental health disorders, cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
So it is important to understand the effect stress can have in our life and to consider stress management counseling or stress management course like mindfulness, yoga meditations and other forms of stress and depression treatment.
Our bodies tend to respond to stressful situations and this results in the release of hormones like adrenaline. This can result in increased blood pressure and not only makes us feel less than great but also leaves us at risk for future cardiovascular diseases.
Stress plays a large role in influencing what we consume and then in turn what we eat can affect our mental health and our ability to handle stress. This is where a poor diet can contribute to more stress and in many cases anxiety or depression.
The question is why do we choose the foods we choose (which are bad) when we feel stressed?
You know the situation…
You are feeling stressed out at work or in your relationship and instead of taking time out and going outside, getting some fresh air and eating something like an apple, you head to the corner shop or cupboard and pick up chocolate, biscuits, a bag of chips (or something along those lines).
The food provides a temporary relief.
If you are wondering how to overcome depression, considering getting treatment for anxiety and depression or considering stress management and want to find out about Nicola’s approach to stress management Dubai / Online or treatment for anxiety and depression, do reach out to her and book your free call with her to find out more.
A lot of the reason behind we tend to make poor food choices when feeling stressed also has to do with how we manage our time. Often we are not great at making the time for the things that will help us live our life to the max. We have busy lives, live on the go and don’t make a bit of extra effort to prepare or shop for good, healthy food or snacks.
Because of this perceived time deficit, we tend to go for the quick and easy options when it comes to eating and this almost all of the time is the unhealthy choice. Things like fast food, or things that you pop in the microwave, toaster or oven to cook take preference over fresh fruit and vegetables.
Add to that when we come home stressed out and needing to do chores, look after the kids and deal with all the family or relationship matters, we go for the easiest fastest option as we either are too hungry to wait for something healthy or too tired to prepare something healthier.
This convenience often isn’t healthy.
When we seek out the less healthy, quicker options, these are the ones that generally have more calories and fewer vitamins and minerals – the things our bodies actually need more of when were tired and stressed.
It is important though to keep in mind that not all our stress can be the same nor is the way our bodies react the same. While some people’s first response when feeling stress is to eat a piece of cake, others may avoid food altogether which is just as unhealthy because our bodies need quality nutrients to function. For example, maybe when you are experiencing a lot of financial or work stress, your reaction is to look for something sweet to eat but people who have just experienced a death in the family may tend to notice their appetite is suppressed.
I often get asked how to overcome emotional eating or binge eating, it’s something you cannot get over by only focus on the eating. Dealing with the underlying cause is essential and more often than not it’s stress, depression and anxiety.
A lot of research has also been carried that that shows that when we experience stress on a daily basis, it increases the amount of cortisol the body releases. This higher release is often linked to the increase in our appetite for sweet and high fat foods.
So, I guess the point I am making is to look at how stress impacts your personal eating habits and then through this awareness take action.
Answer these questions with me:
Right now are you eating for nourishment or for stress?
When you feel stressed do you stop eating, over eat or eat high sugar or high fat foods?
Knowing your pattern and addressing it will help you not increase the stress your body and mind is already going through and it may help you even reduce it.
For all three of these situations, having healthy snacks prepared and ready to eat is key. The preparation can also itself be a wonderful meditation. A man I supported a few months back, got up 15 minutes earlier and while he drank his morning coffee, he played his favourite music and started chopping sometimes singing along. He chopped carrot sticks and cucumber to dip in hummus, a range of fruit that was in season to make a fruit salad, chopped up the chicken breast, onions and vegetables ready for the evening dinner, so all he had to do when he got home from work was to throw everything into the pan.
Whether chopping meditations and having healthy snacks with you could support your stress levels or not is individual. If this won’t work for you, what other food prep or eating rituals can you adopt so that your eating habits don’t add to your stress.
Another thing that can work when you crave junk food is to walk to get it rather than order in or drive to get it. When I walked I found by the time I got to the shop the walking made me feel so good and gave me a much needed screen break that I often didn’t want the junk food anymore, so if I did get a sugary fix I’d opt for a small portion relaxed and enjoyed it. This didn’t happen when I ordered food in.
A lady I worked with was stressed with work and her marriage. Her husband had cheated a few years ago and she still felt low and insecure at times. When she found out about the affair she starved herself but after the months passed she found companionship and comfort in food.
Night after night after her evening meal in front of her laptop or the TV she kept eating snacks one after the other until she went to bed. She would eat a large balanced dinner, then go get a yoghurt and fruit not because she was physically hungry but because she wanted to feel something. After this her mind would say:
“what else can I eat” so she would then go for nuts, then biscuits, and then chocolate or whatever else was left in the kitchen until it was time to sleep.
She kept on snacking every hour or more.
Her craving to eat and eat and eat was so strong we needed to break it in several ways. I recommended a few things that really helped her break the pattern quickly. Firstly; I suggested for her to take a shower and nice bath to break the pattern of eating after dinner. This made her feel also better about herself and more attractive which as an extra bonus ended up helping their sex life also.
Secondly; We looked at her shopping habits and made some changes there too. You see she liked to do the food shop after work or on a Sunday afternoon, often when she felt the most stressed. She also used to do the food shop in a hurry. So she wouldn’t think is this perhaps too much for the week, instead she just grabbed things and chucked them in the trolley. Her supermarket shop was packed full of so much food both healthy and unhealthy, there was just way more than what was needed for a week.
As she couldn’t stand waste sometimes she would eat just for the sake of saving it from being wasted. So instead of just shopping aimlessly or giving into the alluring offers of buy 2 get 1 free, she either wrote a list and meal plan that she stuck to. If she couldn’t go shopping without being stressed or in a hurry, then she ordered everything online and had it delivered.
I get we don’t always want fruit and vegetables as snacks, we might want something warm or with a different texture. So why not write a list of your comfort foods and find the healthiest versions you can find. For example she choose instead of biscuits, cereal and nut bars, instead of ice cream, she made a vegan chocolate desert with almond milk and coco powder. The key is finding and stocking up on healthier options so that you are less tempted to fall back on the unhealthy ones.
Thirdly we did hypnotherapy for her to stop picking up food and instead let the negative thoughts disappear and feel secure, safe and happy instead. As she also over ate and felt anxious every time her husband went out and because of his emotional affair a few years before. The relationship stress was coming from her feeling ignored, unattractive and unappreciated in the marriage. Shifting her mood and negativity not only changed the eating patterns it also changed her eating habits.
The most popular online hypnotherapy sessions I do are healthy eating, calming anxiety and insecurities, stress reduction and releasing anger; stopping angry outbursts. For her I combined them so we addressed the stress, marriage and eating all in one hypnotherapy session online.
The online hypnotherapy or in Dubai can be done in just 2-3 sessions, if you have any questions about this do not hesitate to reach out to me to discuss further.
Lastly and powerfully we addressed the root of the stress, the insecurities she had, the low self-esteem, the fears and resentment. How we handle stress and what we think causes our stress to escalate or simply pass by. By tackling the causes of stress, identifying the triggers and addressing them, we can change the feelings, thoughts and food behaviour. Helping her with the relationship with herself and husband transformed her eating habits and also boosted her confidence and clarity of thinking.
I hope there is something useful in this for you, in the next blog article I will be sharing more about ways to reduce stress.
If you are wondering how to overcome depression, considering getting treatment for anxiety and depression or considering stress management and want to find out about Nicola’s approach to stress management Dubai / Online or treatment for anxiety and depression, do reach out to her and book your free call.