Stress and Eating Habits

Stress and Eating Habits

When you’re stressed, just about every other component of your life can be impacted in one way or another. Many things that are healthy for you tend to fall to the wayside, with one of the first things being your eating habits.

There are many other aspects of life that are also influenced including:

  • the amount of alcohol you drink;
  • how you approach your relationship with food;
  • how you interact with others, and
  • how much enjoyment you get from the world.

Research has found that the type of stress and your personality will determine the negative impact on your eating habits. At times, you may lose your appetite or you may consciously restrict and control your food intake. Other times, it could mean overeating, impulsive binge eating or comfort eating, in an attempt to make yourself feel better. While your brain may be telling you one thing when you’re stressed, your body is telling you something different.

So, how exactly are food and stress linked, and how does one thing impact the other? Read on to find out more about how a healthier, happier, and less-stressed brain can have a positive knock-on effect on how healthy your food habits are too:

Why Does Stress Affect How You Eat?

To understand how to resolve stress and prevent it from worsening your overeating or restrictive eating patterns, the first thing you need to know is what is causing the stress. Whether it’s stress at home, in the workplace, or due to finances, stress isn’t just in your head. As part of your fight or flight response, stress triggers a range of different biological functions in your body, which impacts how you eat.

Just some of the physical side effects of stress include:

  • Changes in hormones within the body;
  • Increased blood sugar;
  • Increased blood pressure, and
  • A higher heart rate.

Thousands of years ago, the way our bodies handled stress would be incredibly effective. But these days, constant stress can easily lead to changes in how our body works, which in turn changes how we behave.

There are many studies on the biological influences on our behaviours. A recent study showed that people with chronic, high levels of stress are far more prone to crave comfort foods and that this can easily turn into an addiction. While cigarettes, alcohol and drugs are all addiction types that can arise from stress, high-sugar and high-fat foods can also become addictive over time. The longer that stress goes on and the longer your eating habits are unhealthy and imbalanced, it can result in significant disordered eating behaviours or even eating disorders.

Learn more about Work Stress and how it affects males and females differently

Poor Eating Habits Can Make Stress Worse

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The food choices you make when you’re stressed can easily chip away at all areas of your health. By choosing to eat the comfort foods which trigger binge eating or buying unhealthy takeaway that results in overeating, it has a short-term gain with a poor long-term outcome.

While turning to food as a comfort or reward to make yourself feel better after a stressful day, week or month, beyond that immediate rush, you’ll likely find yourself feeling worse. As with any episode of emotional eating or binge eating, you gain immediate satisfaction, but you aren’t learning how to better manage the stressful events that keep triggering you to turn to food to ‘solve your problems’. Unfortunately, turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms will lead to poorer health, reduced stress tolerance, depression and weight gain.

It’s been proven that an improved diet which is healthy and balanced, can increase positive moods, provide you with more energy, and help you think more clearly. But when you’re in the depths of stress, it can be hard to see beyond what’s right in front of you. That’s why you can make the best possible impact on your eating habits by tackling stressors up-front and providing yourself with a good foundation for success and health.

Why Does Less Stress Equal Better Eating Habits?

If your mind is crowded with racing thoughts and constant worry, it will make the most important and simplest things in life more difficult. As such, choosing to eat regularly, and making healthy food choices, a priority becomes hard. It doesn’t help that easy convenience foods are far more accessible than healthier options.

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By tackling your stress, you can give yourself room to breathe and have the mental capacity to make healthier choices. The better you get at managing your stress, the more resilient you become. What once seemed difficult will be easy. This includes being able to choose to eat a healthy and balanced diet which in turn, will help to reduce the cravings for comfort foods and episodes of emotional and binge eating.

It’s impossible to remove all stressors from your life. However, you can learn to manage stress better which will enable you to handle stressful situations more effectively, with the aid of healthy strategies and coping mechanisms. Over time, you will begin to notice your change in perspective, behaviours and ability to cope with stress.

Working with a qualified psychologist, counsellor or therapist may be a great way to access those tools. Which will then give you a dedicated pace to tackle any of your eating issues and unhealthy habits once the immediate ‘threat’ your brain is reacting to, is under control.

With the proper tools and the support of a qualified professional you will begin to set yourself up for long-term success by better understanding both stress and disordered eating behaviours.

A healthier mind leads to healthier eating habits.

Here are some simple tips to help you to create a healthier more positive mindset.

10 tips to improve the afternoon slump

10 tips to improve the afternoon slump

Do your eyes get sleepy around 2-3pm?

Yawning at your desk around this time?

Your body has a natural circadian rhythm that kicks in around mid-afternoon and this has been the reason many countries still have a formal siesta.

Unfortunately, Western society has forgotten about the natural body rhythm and we are forced to work through it!

Most people feel that afternoon slump after lunch feeling so fatigued that they could have a nap.

When the 3’oclockitis hits you may also experience:

  • Frequent yawning;
  • Slight changes in vision;
  • Moodiness;
  • Craving Carbs or sugar, or
  • Headaches.

If you have thought that there is something wrong with you then….RELAX!

It is natural and after a break and with the right nourishment, most people will feel more productive and ready to work.

Part of the answer lies in your eating habits.

What you eat for breakfast and lunch can have a bearing on this.

Another important factor is the amount of calories consumed during these meals as well as your stress levels and hydration.

10 tips to Improve your afternoon slump

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Here are a ten (10) tips to help improve your energy in the afternoon:

Tip #1 – Get a good night sleep

By getting a good night’s sleep every night your body will recharge and be more awake during the day.

By allowing our body a decent 8 hours of sleep you will wake up more rested and more alert during the day.

Tip #2 – Eat Breakfast

Skipping the most important meal of the day may lead to the crash in the afternoon.

Eating a healthy breakfast will ensure you have energy throughout the day.

Tip #3 – Eat a Light Lunch

Heavy meals and particularly those high in fat and majority carbohydrates e.g. a burger will make you sluggish in the afternoon.

People skip the carbs at lunch going for a salad and protein but this will also cause a slump, so ensure you have a little, easy to digest carb and you will feel more energised.

Try to have your lunch consist of vegetables, protein and light carbs such as sweet potato, quinoa, beans, lentils, and fruit.

Tip #4 – Drink Water

Dehydration leads to fatigue and sleepiness.

Hydrate with water consistently throughout the day to keep your energy levels boosted.

Have a Green tea with peppermint or citrus for extra alertness in the afternoon.

Tip #5 – Go for a Walk

To help your system to have a recharge, go for a walk just prior to when you know when your slump is.

Exercise is a highly effective way to boost your serotonin production, therefore lifting your fatigue and mood!

Tip #6 – Head Outside

Getting out in the sunshine for 10 minutes will also help boost your serotonin production, reduce melatonin and boost your vitamin D.

Tip #7 – Snacks

Your body may crave carbs or sugary snacks in the afternoon to help lift you up.

Plan ahead and have something healthy such as:

  • 1 serve of fruit (apple, orange, bananas, grapes) with small serve nuts like almonds.
  • Small wedge of reduced fat cheese with ½ an apple
  • Apple or pear slices with almond/peanut butter
  • ½ cup of mixed dried cranberries and goji berries with pepitas and sunflower seeds
  • Sweet ricotta whip with strawberries
  • Hummus with veggie crudités and wholemeal pita chips.

Tip #8 – Stretch Your Body

Sitting still for hours on end is not good for your body.

If you work at a desk, or in a job where you are in the same position for hours, it is important to take stretch breaks.

Standing straight quickly and stretching your body will not only help you stay alert, it will also help your posture.

Tip #9 – Switch Tasks

If you’ve been working on the same task for a long time, you may be on auto-pilot.

Switch up your tasks to get your brain active and in tune with what you are doing.

Tip #10 – Music

If you’re allowed a radio at work, turn the radio up in the afternoon, or create an upbeat playlist for that hour when everyone’s eyes start to drop and fatigue plagues the office.

If you don’t have a radio, take some headphones and your IPod, MP3 player or your smart phone.

By working with your internal clock and not skimping on sleep, exercise, and balanced nutrition, you can beat the afternoon slump.

If you are struggling with sleep issues, poor eating habits or disordered eating, get in touch with Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic.

We help you understand the patterns and complex issues that maintain unhealthy behaviours, and provide you with practical strategies to empower yourself to change negative cycles for long-term success.

Diet Food – Not So Healthy Food

Diet Food – Not So Healthy Food

Australia’s leading nutritionists and diet experts tested the nutritional value of diet foods produced by weight loss companies.

The findings were surprising!

It was found that pre-packaged weight loss foods have poor nutritional quality!

This finding comes soon after another study that was released that found that, some Weight Watchers packaged products actually contained more kilojoules, when compared with other brands.

The Weight Loss Industry is worth $650 billion per year with 2.3 million Australians buying into the messages and marketing hype.

Could these programs and companies really be helping you lose weight or getting you ‘hooked’ on their foods, so you come back again and again?

So What Exactly is in Those Pre-Packaged Foods?

The Australian Women’s Weekly essentially dissected frozen meals, produced by the ‘big’ weight loss companies in Australia like Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers.

The basic components were broken down, identified, weighed and then sent off for analysis.

These are promoted as diet foods to help you to lose weight and be healthy however, the results debunked the claims promoted by the packaging and marketing claims, as well as the nutritional panel.

For example, the Jenny Craig’s Crumbed Fish & Wedges meal was found to have potato wedges as the biggest component in the meal at 38%, which is not an indication of a balanced main meal.

The same meal also has beef tallow or beef fat (a source of saturated fat) as its second biggest component.

Jenny Craig Responds to Women’s Weekly

Jenny Craig responded to questions about their pre-packaged frozen diet meals. 

This is in response to a test finding that discovered that Jenny Craig’s meals, are not conducive to a well-balanced meal and contain saturated fat.

The responses by Jenny Craig tend to skirt around some of the issues.

See what you think about their responses and determine if you think that they are a positive or negative influence in the weight loss industry.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic specialises in helping people with Disordered Eating & Weight Issues including Food Addiction.

Dieting and diet foods actually makes the issue worse.

Stop the negative cycles of dieting and find out how to empower yourself to change for long-term health and happiness.

If you would really like to know what your relationship to food is and recommendations to suit your situation – take the quiz today! 

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Overcome Stress Related Weight Gain

Overcome Stress Related Weight Gain

A single woman in her mid-twenties.

She works as an accountant in a well-respected firm and puts in long hours at her job.

Between work and her previous university study, Melissa hasn’t had much time for exercise and healthy eating the last few years.

Her doctor mentioned concerns over her blood pressure and she’s been trying to lose weight as her BMI (body mass index) classes her as obese.

Despite having a diet and exercise plan, she finds it very hard to stick to and is feeling increasingly uncomfortable with her body.

The stress of her work combined with the long hours makes it hard for her to cook and exercise.

Melissa finds herself grabbing takeaway on the way home as it is quicker and easier.

She knows it is not healthy but she just can’t seem to find her way out of it.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Stress can lead to Obesity, and Obesity is caused and influenced by a number of genetic and environmental factors.

When you experience stress your body releases Cortisol which is a steroid hormone to help your body:

  • Respond to danger;
  • Increase your metabolism of glucose;
  • Control blood pressure, and
  • Reduce inflammation.

Ongoing, Chronic or long-term Stress increases the chance of having consistent elevated cortisol levels which lead to:

  • Increased appetite;
  • Fat and Sugar cravings, and
  • Stress snacking.

Chronic stress and long-term stress then lead to weight gain and Disordered Eating Behaviours such as:

  • Overeating;
  • Emotional Eating,
  • Binge Eating, and
  • Comfort Eating.

5 Tips to Finding a Better Balance

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There is no such thing as stress elimination.

However, you can put a couple of things in place that can make all the difference.

Here are five (5) simple life and stress management tips which can help you cope better and improve health, life balance and relationships.

Tip #1 – Get Moving

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It is common for exercise to be one of the first things to be dropped when life gets too busy, fatigue and lack of motivation exist.

By not exercising you are not burning calories and you are allowing the stress hormones to overtake your system and naturally your fat stores are increasing.

When you do not exercise, your muscle mass decreases and your fat increases naturally.

Moving every 20 minutes or 1 hour will help to improve your stress, concentration and health.

  • Fill up your water bottle;
  • Do some stretches, and
  • Get up and go and see a colleague rather than phoning them.

Tip #2 – Downtime

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It is important to have some downtime.

Relaxation, hobbies, having fun, socialising, etc. are really important to finding a good balance.

Some people find that to release their stress they need to journal or write; others find that meditation works, other people need to be social.

Whatever you need to find fun and release the stress busting hormones.

It is recommended that you partake in some activity at least every day or twice a week minimum.

Tip #3 – Boundaries

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Being honest with yourself, and with others can be one of the hardest things to do.

If you want to control your Stress, this is one of the biggest keys.

Know when you cannot give any more and assertively say so.

Try and think of who might be able to help, a better timeframe or deadline by which you could do the task, negotiate the issue/task, find the resources to help someone else do it.

If you don’t give beyond your capacity, you will reduce your Stress and you will be able to give more to the people who you really want to give to.

Tip #4 – Breathe!

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Stress causes us to shallow breath and hold our breath.

We want to deep breath to help us let go of negative stress hormones and allow our brain to replace relax hormones.

To help with relaxation and letting go of stress, take several breaths into lower lungs or belly.

After the breath has filled your lower lungs you can then fill your upper lungs and chest.

Do it slowly to the count of 5, hold for 2 seconds and then release to the count of 5.

On the out breath, tell yourself to relax.

Repeat at least 5 times.

Deep breathing can be done anywhere, anytime.

Tip #5 – Listen to Music

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Music is a powerful stimulant for mood change.

Music changes brain wave frequency and the release of hormones.

Find music that relaxes you, music that you really want to move to and something in between.

By playing music while you work, move or travelling to and from work, you can unconsciously be de-stressing.

Trying to change can be difficult, without the right information and help.

If you are struggling with Stress Management, Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic can help.

We provide support, guidance and tools to break free from negative cycles and help you build a life filled with:

  • Balance;
  • Happiness, and
  • Purpose.
Work Stress is bad for your health

Work Stress is bad for your health

Is work stressing you towards bad health?

Do you live to work, or work to live?

Either way, work stress of any kind can be detrimental to your health.

Workplace stress can decrease your productivity and also place your physical health at risk.

Research from the Australian Institute reports that 3.8 million Australians often don’t take a lunch break.

One in two people said their lack of a lunch break was due to their busy workload. Of those who usually take a lunch break, 72% eat at their desks, cut short or postpone their break until the afternoon.

  • One in four had anxiety;
  • 3.3 million suffered loss of sleep, and
  • 50% lost time with their family.

However, being out of the workforce can also be very stressful, with one in five Australians reporting anxiety because of being out of the workforce.

1.1 million Australians feeling that involuntary time out of the workforce is also demoralising.

Males and Females Stress Differently

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When Dr John Gray developed ‘Men are from Mars & Women are from Venus’ he was insightful.

He was also highly insightful the way he mapped the male and female brain and how it functions and focuses on things differently.

There is now proof through neurological imagery such as MRI and PET scans.

Let’s firstly look at stress.

The studies have found that blood flow and activation in the brain of males and females are different during acute stress.

Males – Fight/Flight Response

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The left orbitofrontal cortex a region of the prefrontal cortex is activated and blood flow increased – this area is mainly used for decision making.

Other more complex issues include determining conflict, consequences, expectation of outcome and social control.

Females – Emotional Response

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The limbic system was activated with increased blood flow – this area is the ‘heart’ of emotions in the brain.

The limbic system is a very complex part of the brain as it controls many important functions of the body.

The limbic system also controls behaviour, long-term memory, hormone production and release (that influences heart rate, blood pressure hunger, libido, sleep/wake cycles), attention/focus, reward, pleasure and addiction.

Therefore, it influences all the endocrine, autonomic and pleasure centres in the brain.

Because females’ stress is based in the emotional part of the brain, it tends to linger longer than the stress of males.

This is one of the reasons why females suffer from sudden onset heart attacks (with no warning signs or risk indicators).

It is also important to note that due to the fight/flight response in male stress, males will either:

  • Withdraw until he can fix the issue (flight)
  • Increases in conflict, frustration, aggression and anger outbursts (fight)
  • Begin with withdrawal (flight) and when he cannot flee anymore or fix becomes angry (fight).

Females can have some similar responses but it comes from an emotional base.

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The gender differences have significant implications in therapeutic practice when managing long-term issues such as:

  • Grief;
  • Pain;
  • Loss;
  • Anxiety;
  • Depression;
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder, or
  • Long-term stress issues.

This has implications in:

  • Medication or Pharmacological Therapy;
  • Psychological Therapy;
  • Physical Therapy – exercise, physiotherapy, exercise physiology;
  • General Practice – your local GP, or
  • Workplace practices and Occupational Health & Safety Responses to Stress and Critical Incident Reporting/Debriefing.

Sometimes it takes someone outside of your life to be able to provide simple yet effective solutions to things that you struggle with.

If you are struggling with managing your stress Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic can help.

Seeking professional help shows your true strength and commitment to your health and happiness.

Fit Minds & Bodies Clinic provides you with new skills and tools to empower you to create a life that you want to live – happy, purposeful, fulfilled and healthy.

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