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Dealing With Stress-Eating

The silver lining in this cloudy situation is the fact that you recognize you are stress-eating. This gives you more power over your behaviour than you might think.

While your question targets eating as the source of your concern, the underlying problem is stress. If you deal with the stress, the binge eating will become easier to resolve and may subside on its own.

The adrenal glands are significantly involved in the physiological experience of stress which is mediated by hormones, adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and cortisol in particular.

Adrenal hormones:

  • help regulate your Healthy Body’s stores of salt and water,
  • influence the physiology of stress, metabolism and inflammation, and
  • contribute to sex hormone levels for androgens such as DHEA and testosterone.

Chronic and/or recurrent levels of high stress cause your adrenals to work hard and they can eventually begin to underperform. Naturopaths call this “adrenal fatigue”.

Adrenal fatigue can be characterized by abnormal patterns of cortisol secretion that contribute to cravings for sugar, salt and comfort foods. The alteration in the pattern of cortisol secretion can result in chronic low energy or low energy in the morning and a high energy “wired” state at night.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a fantastic tool for managing perceptions that promote stress. Support from a therapist or counsellor can be very helpful too.

There are, however, two very simple things you could begin to do RIGHT NOW that would make an immediate difference:

1. Substitute water for soda – even diet soda. Cortisol can distort your blood sugar level, as can the caffeine and aspartame in diet soft drinks – you need to stabilize your blood sugar. Moreover, there are several studies that show aspartame can affect cognitive function and mood.

2. Until you feel ready to get regular exercise, do deep breathing exercises. Your Healthy Body’s response to stress is largely controlled by the part of your nervous system called the Sympathetic Nervous System. It’s partner, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, is the main controller of the relaxation response. Deep (diaphragmatic) breathing triggers parasympathetic activity.