I am a stress eater, I admit it, I have known that since I was a teenager and now at age 27 I am ready to admit it. It started when I was in school, prior to exams I would try to calm my nervous with snacking. Most of the time my snack ended up being a Snickers or Twix. Apples and Oranges just didn’t seem to calm my nervous the same way, nor could I find them in the vending machine.
Now instead of snacking prior to exams it’s prior to important meetings or after I receive an annoying mail from a supplier. Snacking and indulging in a sweet treat still seems to calm my nerves. Or in other cases it just gets my mind off of a topic.
Remarkable, how the sweet flavor of chocolate can distract us so easily.
Eating not only made me feel more motivated, but also served as a distraction. There is scientific reason for this. Stress releases several hormones in your body, one being cortisol. Cortisol puts our body in a fight-or-flight mode, flooding our blood stream with glucose (supplying energy and motivation). This energy is intended to help us fight or run, not as in my case help us sit at a desk and write a paper. Cortisol has “the nice” side- effect that it often increases your appetite as your body needs to replenish the glucose it just released.
Over the years it became a habit of mine to calm my nerves via a sweet treat, let it be an ice cream cone in the summer or slice of pie in the winter. I got addicted to the sweet high I got from a tasty gummibear – or 2-. It seemed as my body started to need this sweet flavor in order to calm down. Besides it kept my hands busy and distracted me for example from studying for the next exam.
But I had to realize that this sweet high never lasted long. Shortly after giving in to a craving I felt like being hit with a hangover. I felt more tired and even worse, I was even hungrier shortly afterwards. Also for this there is a scientific reason behind it. When eating a chocolate bar the glucose is rapidly released and used in your body, compared to when eating a less processed food which contains a polysaccharide.
This spring I felt stressed almost 24/7. I had just relocated across continents, started a new job and was planning my wedding. I felt as I needed to break the habit of stress eating. I needed to get out of this vicious circle, especially as my dress was already bought and I was not planning on getting it refitted due to gaining weight.
I started to change some habits, and found some simple ways to cope with my stress eating addiction. I started handling stress with healthier methods than binging on the chocolate bar.
1) When my stress level rises I now ask myself what the real problem is; is it that I am not well prepared, should I ask for support on a task, should I review it once more. I give myself time to think about the root cause and what could be a solution for it.
2) I don’t give in the impulse of the craving for chocolate. Instead I will eat a healthy snack let it be an apple or some yoghurt. I have some healthy snack options readily available not only at home but also at my office. That way I am also not as tempted to stop at the vending machine.
3) Exercise! – No matter if it’s getting on my running shoes and just running for an hour to clear my head or taking a yoga class. Exercise has several advantages, from releasing endorphins (Yes that happy hormone) as well as giving you time to organize your thoughts and process the situation.
What are your suggestions to handle stress?
Which Snack Food do you recommend ?