Published: 08/05/2009 - Updated: 08/14/2019
Author: Dra. Loredana Lunadei
Imagine you are preparing for a major speech in public. Do you take a box of cookies or hunger is removed completely in you? Stress affects the behavior of people in different ways. Read on to find out why.
We experience stress when something happens within us or around us that affect our balance. Then we use tactics to combat the stressful agent and return to our normal state. The stress can be internal as being worried or upset about something, or external, such as caused by a test or some social situations. Since stress is part of our daily lives, the way stress impacting eating can affect our diets and overall health.
Fight or flight
Faced with a threat, body automatically triggers a response in the form of "fight or flight." The discharge of adrenaline carries blood to the brain, heart and muscles, away from the digestive system to prepare our body to escape or fight. It is believed that experiencing this kind of reaction even if the threat agent or stressor is psychological or emotional rather than physical. This state should make us alert and unable to eat even provoke nausea. However, it was discovered that some people with stress eat even more. What explains this phenomenon?
People who are on a diet generally eat more in stressful situations
Today many people are dieting to lose weight or watch their weight. Usually this means controlling the type and quantity of food consumed. These people also ignore the signals that tell them when they are hungry to eat less of what they'd like. In other words, restrict their diet. People who do not eat according to the appetite, there are no limits. Research has repeatedly shown that those who restrict their diet tend to eat more in response to stress.
Stress can lead to those who restrict their food eaten in excess
Dr Paul Lattimore, an expert on eating at the University of Liverpool John Moores, explains why people who are on a diet eat more in stressful situations. "These people spend so much energy to control their biological signals that they are few resources to cope with everyday problems. Thus, when stressed, they lose control and if they have food on hand, they consume it. Moreover, they are so used to ignoring their bodies misinterpreting the signals related to the fight or flight. "
Strategies for coping with stress
In a large study recently conducted in Finland, it was found that body mass index (ratio between weight and height of individuals) is higher in those who eat in stressful situations and that these people tend to eat more food as sausages, hamburgers, pizza and chocolate, in comparison with others. Eating in response to stress, attempts to control the weight of these people are doomed to failure, then what solution can be offered? Dr. Lattimore, based on his experience in the prevention of obesity, offers some tips. "First, the person must know what kind of situations make the incentive to eat too much and then to devise alternative ways of coping with stress. An ideal solution would be to go for a walk, to change ideas and also burn calories."
People eat when hungry and stop eating when they are filled in line with the biological signals of their body. In stressful situations, these people do not feel hungry. Those who ignore their biological signals should be aware of the emotional and psychological factors that lead them to visit the refrigerator and must implement tactics to avoid it. The stress response shows the importance of using approaches to weight control to reduce the restriction of food preference and consumption of fruit and vegetables (low in calories and very nutritious), besides these foods dilute ingested caloric load during the binge.
1. Greeno CG &Wing RR (1994) Stress-induced eating. Psychological Bulletin 115: 444-464.
2. Lattimore P & Caswell N (2004) Differential effects of active and passive stress on food intake in restrained and unrestrained eaters. Appetite 42: 167-173.
3. Polivy J and Herman CP (1999) Distress and dieting: why do dieters overeat? International Journal of Eating Disorder 25: 153-164.
4. Laitinen J & Sovio U (2002) Stress-related eating and drinking behaviour and body mass index and predictors of this behaviour. Preventive Medicine 34: 29-39.
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