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Stress Eating: The Understanding & Knowledge You Need to Make It Through

by Chrystal Borg 

 

Recently, after the occurrence of several threatening hurricanes, I have participated in several coaching calls related to stress eating and how to deal with falling off a committed healthy lifestyle routine. Although many people berate themselves, it’s important not to allow self-doubt to inhibit you from getting back on-track toward your fullest potential.  

It’s also important to understand how the brain and body collaborate in an attempt to deal with stress. When we experience stress, our brains tell our bodies to release more stress hormones such as cortisol. Cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands (small endocrine glands above the kidneys) in higher levels during the body’s response to stress.  

Cortisol has many important roles in the body to help manage stress. However, when we are under prolonged periods of stress, our cortisol levels do not return to normal, and can result in increased visceral fat, high blood sugar and high blood pressure. On a daily basis, we can be stressed by jobs, relationships, raising children, finances and even weather. 

Preparation is key to being successful. Hurricane Irma, which just recently passed over many islands and the state of Florida continuing up the East Coast of the United States, caused serious destruction in its path and raised high levels of stress for countless people. I witnessed grocery stores wiped out of certain foods, but when I walked down the healthier aisles, I noticed there were still many options.  

It’s important to avoid sweets, fatty temptations and pre-packaged foods. We help our bodies feel their best by fueling them with whole foods that provide energy. We are more likely to turn off the stress response quicker and feel better about ourselves when we make the right selections. There are several nutritious snacks that will keep you feeling full and satisfy your cravings. I have included my top 10 below: 

 

  • Celery with almond butter (dry roasted almonds as the only ingredient) 

  • Unsalted nuts 

  • Peppers and cucumbers with hummus 

  • Veggie omelets 

  • Homemade baked sweet potato fries with coconut oil and nutmeg 

  • Roasted chickpeas 

  • Granny Smith apples 

  • Beanitos chips (gluten- and corn-free bean chips) with guacamole or salsa 

  • Mixed berries 

  • Protein balls (I use my own recipe packed with healthy seeds like chai, hemp and flax) 

 

Our daily nutritional intake plays a major role in how we feel throughout the day. Serotonin, a key mood neurotransmitter in the brain, also has a role in determining our mood states. If you’re stress eating in an attempt to regulate your emotions, shut the refrigerator door and utilize my top 10 methods for coping with stress and raising your serotonin levels: 

 

  • Exercise 

  • Sunlight 

  • Yoga 

  • Massage 

  • Reading 

  • Sleep 

  • Reduced caffeine intake  

  • Meditation 

  • Coloring or painting 

  • Sex 

 

The fact is that stress causes damage to our bodies. Chronic stress can alter blood sugar levels, worsen irritable bowel syndrome, decrease the body’s immune system response to infection, causes abdominal fat to accumulate, raise our blood pressure and more. We should be kind to ourselves and make time to take for self-care. Choose your food wisely. It’s only human to have a “treat day” once in a while, but remember why nutrition matters, then get back on-track/ Most importantly, find time to live, laugh and love every single day.  

 

Christal Borg is a Health Coach, NASM Sports Nutrition Specialist and NASM Certified Personal Trainer. She is available for private consultations at Four Pillars, located at 8209 Natures Way, Suite 221, Lakewood Ranch. For more information, call 941-373-3955, email Info@FourPillasFlorida.com or visit FourPillarsFlorida.com. 

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