Mar 27, 2018

My favorite comfort food doesn’t seem so comforting now that I learned it can also cause stress.

Nancy Bryan, the author of “Thin is a State of Mind,” wrote that our eating habits—good and bad—is all in the mind. She recalled that when she first fell in love, she lost a whopping 20 pounds because she “fell so hard that she couldn’t think of anything else—even food.”

In my years of trying to get right with fitness (I’m not even that old), one thing is certain: The more I worry about what I eat, the fatter I get. One study showed that women who report preoccupation with weight and dietary restraint are more likely to gain weight than lose it. This can turn into an unhealthy obsession with healthy eating, otherwise known as orthorexia.


You should know by now that yo-yo dieting can have serious repercussions. It alters your metabolism because you’re depriving yourself of too much food, and we all know what happens next. We give in, we binge, we overeat. In the end, we become stressed. “When we are highly stressed, we have higher cortisol levels, which is the stress hormone; and when the stress hormone is so high over long periods of time, it can cause us to hold onto weight or gain it,” says Dr. Julie Pike, a psychologist in Durham, California, who specializes in anxiety.

Here are a few mental notes on how to reduce food-related anxiety:

Cut off social media

“We’ve taken on a toxic mindset that our life is somehow a performance; we believe that we have to be sure our lives appear better than they are to our herd,” tells Bryan. Take advantage of any vacation opportunities and long weekends. You’re doing it for yourself, anyway.

One thing to avoid if you don’t want food stress: deprivation.

“Rest and digest”

Whether you’re stressed about work, school, food, or money, this cortisol-spiking response can really damage your body. Allow your body to slip into a parasympathetic state (a.k.a. “rest and digest” mode) through meditation.

Sweat it out

Getting a good sweat for at least 30 minutes is enough. Exercise is the perfect substitute for stress eating because it triggers the same happy hormones, without actually gaining weight, avoiding the stress-weight gain cycle. “The busier you are, the more important it is to make exercise a part of a normal routine,” says Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne, an osteopathic physician and obesity specialist in North Carolina. “You can’t afford [to skip] it.”

Swap your usual comfort food for long-term nourishments

Before you reach for a bag of hot Cheetos, understand that your body is asking for a mood boost via carbs. Reach for whole grains, yogurt, nuts, or dried fruits instead. It’s all about making smarter and healthier food choices that will train you to be more mindful.


Header courtesy of Unsplash

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TAGS: food anxiety food stress health & wellness nolisoliph stress stress eating