Why Stress Makes You Eat (and what to do about it)I was leading a workshop last night and got asked a powerful question. One of the women in the class wanted to know what she should do if she still feels hungry after she eats the portions that I’ve suggested for her weight loss. I thought for a minute and started into a conversation about intuitive eating when I came to realize that she didn’t actually mean that she was physically hungry. No, the hunger she was experiencing was head hunger.

Have you experienced this? You just ate, your physical body is satisfied but still just want more. What gives? Well, there are a lot of reasons that you eat that have nothing to do with the purpose of food (nutrients + energy). Identifying the underlying reason you are eating is the first step towards better and healthful eating habits. Are you eating out of boredom? Are you tired? Are you celebrating? Are you angry? Are you eating out of habit? Are you stressed? We could (and probably should) spend time talking about each of these areas, but for today, let’s focus on the stress eating.

Ever wondered why you stress eat? When you’re chronically stressed, your body secretes more cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that ramps up your appetite. Also when you’re stressed, your levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin start to tank. I call serotonin the “feel good, happy brain-chemical.” Guess what boosts serotonin? Carbohydrates. So now you feel hungrier (even though it’s just head hunger) AND are looking for a serotonin boost à la cake, cookies, and chips. It’s like the perfect storm for overeating.

So how should you handle it?
Here are 3 tips for managing your stress hormones and head hunger

Intentionally manage comparisons. A simple way to immediately decrease your stress load is to stop comparing your life to someone else’s. How do you do this? Stop checking facebook, instagram, pinterest and snapchat. Don’t want to take it that far? Set time limits for yourself on how much time you’ll spend on social media. Stop comparing yourself to others. Start feeling instantly more fabulous (because you are).

Go for sneakers instead of snacks. Physical activity will help to naturally lower stress hormones, boost your happy hormones + decrease your desire for junk and help you to burn calories.

Start a new ritual. If your ritual for dealing with stress is eating, you’ve got to create a new go-to habit for decompression. A cup of tea, favorite book, calming music, yoga, meditation, phone-call to a good friend are all good alternatives to food.

Keep it simple. Ask yourself this question. Am I eating because my body needs nourishment or am I eating because it’s in my head? If it’s head hunger, put the fork down and move on. You CAN do this!

Change Your Meals, Change Your Life
Dr. Kristen Bentson

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