If I am stressed do not give me a kale smoothie.
Why is it that in times of stress or emotional turmoil we crave the food that is worst for us? There’s actually a scientific explanation! Think back to caveman times…
The reasons a caveman felt stress typically revolved around finding food or trying not to become something else’s food. For that reason, when we feel stress our bodies are designed to seek out the most calories possible to stock up on energy incase we cannot find food again.
This works against us in the modern world because we have easy access almost anywhere to high-fat, high-sugar, and calorie dense foods. Our stress response kicks in over non-life threatening situations like an irritating cubicle neighbor at work (yes, I promise that’s not life threatening) which does not require increased calorie intake. Yet, the caveman response still activates in our body. The result- junk food cravings that are crazy hard to deny. Worse yet, some studies show that our bodies actually hold on to more fat from foods we eat when we are in this stress response.
The solution? Well we probably can’t redesign our bodies’ response to stress. We can, however, change our ways of handling it. For starters, try using healthy stress management techniques like going for a walk or deep breathing to prevent stress eating. If the stressor is unavoidable, try to recognize when you are actually hungry vs when you have an appetite due to emotions. Rather than throwing out all of your efforts to lead a healthful lifestyle, try to grab a healthy snack paired with a small indulgence. For example, rather than downing a bag of cheese puffs- try apple slices with peanut butter for dipping. The peanut butter makes the healthy snack feel more decadent, without creating more stress in the long run from junk food guilt.
Sometimes the most important choice you can make is to balance your wants and your needs. For more on finding that balance, check out this post.