Stress eating and eating out of pure boredom have been the dominating topic of recent phone calls and emails I have received from clients. With the stress of the effects of the virus, uncertainty and being trapped in the house with nothing but Netflix and food, it’s not hard to see why this problem is being brought to my attention more and more as these days roll by.
Let’s start with what stress does to your body. Stress lowers your dopamine and serotonin levels. However, food increases these neurotransmitters, specifically carbs and protein. Proteins like meats, dairy, fish, eggs and beans help increase your dopamine levels. Meanwhile, carbohydrates increase calmness and relaxation. Therefore, your brain “craves” carbs. Eating nutritious carbs like fruits and whole grains during this time can be helpful at calming this craving and preventing overeating more so than refined and carbs full of added sugar.
Not only does it alter your dopamine and serotonin levels, but stress is poisonous to your body. It can increase visceral fat around your waistline, change your mood, and your hunger, which in turn can alter eating habits.
Below are my recommendations to avoid stress eating:
- Take 10 deep breaths a few times a day during these stressful times. These breaths should definitely be taken if you have the desire to eat, but know you aren’t really hungry because you just ate a meal. After these breaths, ask yourself again if you really want that cookie or to grab for that bag of chips.
- Make sure to follow the principles of eating to avoid overeating and to control your hunger hormone, ghrelin. If your ghrelin is not in control, it can increase your physiological hunger which may result in a binge.
- Eat breakfast
- Do not skip meals
- Combine all of your macronutrients in meals
- Stay hydrated
- Sleep more. For those who usually say you don’t have time to get in the recommended 6-7 hours of sleep, many of you don’t have that justification anymore! Studies have shown that those who get less sleep tend to overeat during the day more than those who get at least 6 hours of sleep. 4. Move more. This is a tricky one considering most, if not all, gyms are closed for the time being. During this time, even people who are active may find themselves sitting much more than usual. The first remedy to this is scouring YouTube which has a large selection of yoga, cardio and even dance videos you can follow to get you sweating. Even without conscious exercise, you can also engage in physical activity in the form of cleaning closets, garages, your storage, reorganizing the kitchen cabinets the way you’ve been meaning to do for months. Now is the time! If it gets you moving, every bit helps.
- If you find yourself still excessively snacking, here are 5 snacks that can help curb your hunger and increase your dopamine and serotonin levels:
- 3-6 cups of popcorn and string cheese (or slice of cheese, or your protein of choice)
- 12 to 18 almonds and a fruit of choice (apple, banana, oranges, ¾ cup fresh of frozen berries)
- 1 Hard boiled egg and a fruit of choice (apple, banana, oranges, ¾ cup fresh of frozen berries)
- 3oz to 6oz can of tuna or salmon and slice of bread
- 1/2 cup of yogurt + Dried fruit (5 apricots, 3 figs or 5 prunes)