Relationship setbacks, looming deadlines, financial pressures – they all have one thing In common: they cause us stress (among many other emotions)…and how do we deal with it? We immediately seek comfort: anything to give us a way to ‘escape’. For many of us, we find that comfort in food. But is the short-term relief worth it? Or does it create another problem?
If this sounds familiar, don’t worry – you’re not alone! Everyone experiences stress and other emotional issues, but it’s how we deal with it that makes the difference.
Emotional stress and comfort food
When stress hits, your brain releases a hormone called cortisol (the stress hormone) – this is the beginning of the cycle of your craving for unhealthy food.
High calorie foods such as sugary treats and fast foods release dopamine (the feel-good hormone), but this feeling doesn’t last for long and so we keep on eating to get that feeling back again.
At this point, we’re not worried about anything else, but with every bite, our body is suffering: your weight (through the increase in body fat) is continuously rising, putting you at risk for physical and even more emotional instability.
So, in short, the cycle works as follows:
- You’re stressed (your brain releases cortisol)
- You crave unhealthy food that causes your brain to release dopamine
- Dopamine makes you feel good
- You want to keep this feeling and carry on eating
- You gain weight (body fat)
- You become emotional about your body image
- To feel better about your body, you crave food, and the cycle restarts.
Solutions to stabilise your emotions
It’s important to understand that food is not the only thing that can make you feel good: exercise and other activities that you enjoy, do the exact same thing without putting your health at risk.
Exercise: This is the ultimate stress reliever! It releases the same ‘feel good’ hormone that you feel when you eat unhealthy food. So, it’s time to put down that large serving of cheese-covered, oily fries and get moving!
A fantastic way to beat stress is to get to the gym and hit it (literally!) Go to the punching bag and visualise the problem you’re facing…and unleash your fury – jab, jab, right hook – feels great, doesn’t it?
Not a gym fan? No worries! Here are some workouts you can do while you enjoy the wonderful summer sun that will calm you down and feel amazing.
As great as exercise is, to help bring you back to a stable emotional state, spending time with family and friends is even stronger. You’re probably wondering, “How would that help me lose weight?”
Emotional support: Your friends are there to help you through tough times and you call them your friends because you trust them.
So, when you’re feeling down and that junk food craving kicks in, give them a call and talk through your problems – you’ll feel much better and the craving will go away.
Motivation: Ask one of your friends to exercise with you! Many people find it difficult to stay motivated if they are exercising by themselves.
The great benefit of training with a friend is that it becomes a social activity, which makes it a lot more fun. You are there for each other! You will feel great and this may also make your friendship stronger!
So, whenever you feel that craving creeping up, call up one of your friends or family members and binge on the emotional support they give you and kick the craving!