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Stress Eating - Do You Turn To Food When You're Under Pressure?

What is stress eating, and why is it such bad news for your health, and your waistline?

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What's your first reaction when...you're stuck in traffic, the bus is late, you're hanging on the phone listening to endless recorded rubbish, you have a row with your partner or the kids?

If you turn to food to help you over life's frustrating or enraging moments, then you're into stress eating.

It's a syndrome that's all too familiar if you're a menopausal woman, whose life is spent bouncing from one demand to another, with never enough time to do anything properly - and never, ever enough time for yourself. No wonder you sometimes feel you could explode! Stress and menopause are an explosive combination.

Stress eating is a symptom of the world we live in. But it's time to slow down, for the sake of your health and your weight.

Why Is Stress Eating So Bad For You?

Stress eating is bad for your health
  • Eating against the clock Always in a rush? Grabbing meals while you multi-task? In a time-starved existence, it's easy to gulp food down and choose ready-prepared over cooked-from-scratch.
  • Ignoring your body When you're stress eating, you eat too fast to even notice your body's signals telling you that you've eaten enough to satisfy yourself. Instead, you go by the look of the portion to decide how much to consume. If the serving is over-sized, you're still likely to bolt it down. Another name for this pattern of food abuse is mindless eating.
  • The demon cortisol The hormone cortisol is released under stress. Crucially, it's one reason why weight loss in menopause is hard to achieve. Cortisol encourages your body to store fat around the middle. Quite apart from being unsightly, this typical midlife apple shape has serious health implications. Stress and belly fat are closely linked.
  • Insomnia and weight gain Stress can wreak havoc with your sleep, and many women experience menopausal insomnia. But losing sleep doesn't just make you dopey in the day, it alters your hormonal balance, upping your cortisone levels and increasing the amounts of peptides that give you the midnight munchies even when you're not really hungry.
  • Craving unhealthy foods If you've a tendency to eat because you're bored, you can't resist the sight of food, or you're feeling blue, then you're probably an emotional eater. Put an emotional eater under stress, and what does she reach for? You've got it - research shows that it's the high fat, high calorie, sweet or salty foods that bring momentary comfort.

How To Handle Stress Eating

  • Stick to healthy food serving sizes, and be aware of how much food there is on your plate.
  • Take time to eat. Sit down and spend a few minutes enjoying your snack or meal. Think about how it tastes, how it feels in your mouth and really savour the experience.
  • Start listening to your body so that you know when you've eaten enough. Learn about intuitive eating. These techniques can be very helpful in controlling stress eating as well.
  • Address the stress and find ways to relieve stress. Make real changes in your lifestyle, that free up time and space for you. A burned-out mum, wife, partner, daughter, colleague or friend who doesn't nurture herself, is in no position to give to those around her.
  • When you ease up, realign your time, find ways to delegate and take some of the pressure off for good, you'll benefit your health, both mental and physical, and you'll say goodbye to stress eating. Take this idea seriously. Your longterm wellbeing depends on it.
  • Where would you like to go next?

    Find out how to stop emotional eating.

    Learn more about how stress affects your health.

    Find out about healthier ways to relieve stress in menopause.

    Visit our home page Beat Menopause Weight Gain for an overview of the site.

    Or go back to the top of Stress Eating.

    Go from Stress Eating to How To Stop Emotional Eating.

    Go from Stress Eating to Beat Menopause Weight Gain.

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Addicted to Donuts

"Do you feel preoccupied, driven and compelled by the sight of donuts?

"That drive is the addictive pathways...highly palatable foods stimulate the reward centre in brain.

"Highly stressed women cope by eating, eat when stressed - and that's why they have more belly fat."

Dr Elissa Epel, University of California San Francisco



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