Stress, Eating, and Meditation
Stress is one of the biggest health problems facing us today. Stress can increase your risk for many chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, mental illness, and much more. When we are stressed, one of the first things that is negatively impacted is our eating habits. If stress is a nagging issue in your life, here are some areas to consider to help manage your stress:
Prioritize You. Holding onto emotions can influence our interactions with others and emotionally trigger unhealthy eating habits. At least once a day, sit quietly and listen to your body. Are you feeling energetic, do you feel exhausted, worn down? Listen to what your body is telling you and address the problem.
Eat Regularly. As tempting as it can be when stress levels are running high, don’t skip your meals. When we do this, our bodies go into a state of “emergency”. Our metabolism ends up slowing down and fat storage goes up. Because of this deregulation, your body is unsure when its next meal will be, so it tries to hold onto everything it has (including its storage of fat). The best way to avoid this is to plan a predictable meal schedule and eat at scheduled times even when you are not feeling hungry .
Choose Nutrient Dense Foods. Junk foods are typically ultra-processed are lack essential vitamins and minerals needed to sustain our energy levels. They are often high in fat and sugar, causing large fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Eating well is a form of self-care and can help to improve energy and mood. Avoid foods that have a novel’s worth of ingredients, and stick to foods that are minimally processed like fruit and veggies, lean proteins, and whole grains.
Have Healthy Snacks Ready. Since we are so busy, preparing a healthy snack ahead of time is a way to guarantee that you have a health option ready for when that hunger strikes. A mixture of low glycemic carbohydrates and protein is recommended to satisfy and provide energy. It is important to distinguish if you are eating for hunger or because of stress. If something else is bothering you then you need to address that first, or else it will continue to impact your eating habits.
Meditate. Meditation is becoming very popular to reduce stress. Studies show that meditation may be able to lower cortisol levels, which are elevated during stress and are the lead cause for fat storage. Take at least 10 minutes daily and practice a form of meditation. There are many free meditation/mindfulness apps out there available to get you started.
Watch Your Caffeine. Caffeine is a stimulant, and if taken in high amounts can raise blood pressure, heart rate, and general feelings of anxiety. It is recommended to limit caffeine intake to 400mg daily, which is about 2 cups of coffee. Choose lower caffeinated beverages such as decaf tea or coffee, and avoid caffeinated beverages after lunch.