Have you ever noticed how your food intake pattern has changed during times of stress and anxiety? In any of these times have you had the urge to eat compulsively, or on the contrary, to eat less or even nothing?
You have probably noticed these changes based on your inner state. And it is more normal than it seems; the urge to eat is closely related to certain internal states, although not in all people it occurs in the same way.
In times of pressure and nervousness, we feel genuinely upset. This agitation translates into symptoms that allow us to see, from the outside, that there is a certain level of non-adaptive stress and anxiety.
The symptoms can be many and of many types; but without a doubt, one of them is our relationship with food. Generally, it tends to change, which in turn can bring changes, also, in our physical health and our figure.
We observe that stress produces changes in our eating patterns because, in the moments in which we are suffering it, we vary our way of eating. Generally, stress can produce two responses related to food:
You can increase your food intake:
Not only can it make us eat more, but also do it compulsively, often without feeling hungry. Stress can ignore the feeling of fullness, so we eat much more than our bodies need. In addition, the foods eaten in times of stress are usually hypercaloric.
You can decrease your food intake:
It seems that stress is capable of “closing the stomach” and, although we may feel hungry, thinking about eating any food can create such a feeling of nausea that it can take away, even more, the desire to eat.
Each person often experiences one of these two responses to a greater extent, although there is the possibility of experiencing both at different times of stress.
These two responses are especially negative in people who are dieting to control their weight. This may be the reason why there are people who are not able to carry out a diet to improve their health.
In this sense, psychology also acts in the field of nutrition, with increasing force, to deal with those aspects that have to do with our internal state and that can have a direct impact on our intake pattern.
What to do to ensure that stress does not affect our eating patterns?
1- Be aware of the situations that drive us to eat compulsively, or, on the contrary, not to eat. It will be useful to fill in a record sheet in which we can write down the reason for the impulse (previous thoughts), the time at which it was given, how many pieces of food we have consumed, and what was the chosen food.
In this way we can have a complete record that allows us to draw a series of conclusions: do the impulses usually occur in the morning, in the afternoon, or at night? What kinds of thoughts do they usually lead to?
What kinds of foods do I usually eat?
2- Once we have located the reasons (or thoughts) that lead us to the intake impulse, we must work to change the response to these thoughts. To do this, we will divert impulsivity towards other activities with less negative repercussions. We can, for example, go for a walk, go out to play sports, call a friend …
3- Taking advantage of the record that we have made previously, and that has allowed us to know what kind of foods we usually consume at this time, we should avoid having them available (especially if they are hypercaloric). In this way, we will calm the urge to eat and divert it to other less harmful activities.
We can also choose to have healthy foods, such as fruit, to be able to use them in those difficult times.
4- If even with everything it is difficult for us to change this pattern of impulsivity, or the period of stress extends over time without remitting, the most recommended solution is to visit a psychologist to help us channel this period.
As we have seen, stress and anxiety are closely related to our eating patterns. This could explain failures when dieting and stagnation in periods of weight loss.
Our emotions can also have a presence in our health and our figure; That is why knowing how to control the responses to these emotions is essential to have a healthy body.