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The Science Behind: Stress Eating

COVER PAGE - Ishita Aggarwal

When I'm stressed, why do I desire junk food? Is stressful eating harmful? How can I control my stress eating? How can I tell if I'm physically hungry or just craving food because I'm stressed? Today, I'm here to answer all the questions that you might have about stress eating.

So what is stress? After you sense any kind of threat or danger, your body's defenses kick into an automatic process known as the 'fight-or-flight' reaction or the 'stress response.' The tiny glands on the top of each kidney are known as Adrenal glands. These glands unleash a hormone called Cortisol. When you are stressed, this hormone increases appetite, and therefore the motivation to eat. According to Harvard medical school, "other research suggests that ghrelin; a hunger hormone may have a role." Once the stressful event is over, the cortisol levels should drop. Once fat food is taken, it has an outcome that decreases the stress response and emotions. Fat foods when consumed through stress are known as comfort foods because they counteract with stress, which contributes to people's stress-induced craving for those types of food.

Many things can help you distinguish between natural and emotional hunger:

1) Emotional hunger feels overwhelming, and urgent while physical hunger comes on slowly.

2) Emotional hunger desires junk or sugary-food, but when you're hungry, almost anything sounds good.

3) When you're stressed, you keep eating until you're stuffed but, when you're physically hungry, you feel satisfied when you're full.

According to Harvard medical school, "stressed people also lose sleep, exercise less, and drink more alcohol, all of which can contribute to excess weight." Some ways you can control your stress without overeating:

1) Meditation - It affects the body by triggering its relaxation response and restoring it to the calm state, which reduces stress.

2) Exercising - Working out daily can reduce stress.

3) Social support - Communicating with your loved ones about your problems can also reduce stress.

If you have any questions or feedback, please let me know in the comments below.




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