Harmonize Fitness
Harmonize Fitness

How stress and junk food cravings are related

07 stress and junk food

Have you ever wonder why is it harder for you to avoid sweets, junk and foods high in sugar when you are stressed out? You are not alone, this happens to almost all of us but don´t freak out there are some tools you can use to reduce this cravings.

Most of the times when you have cravings specially for sweets and highly process foods full of sugar you are stressed out and it´s hard to control them and a couple minutes later you´re done with the entire bag of cookies or chocolate that was in front of you. You feel great for a couple of hours but then before you realize it you have cravings again, this is a vicious cycle and it´s tough to stop it.

We´ve seen in posts before that stress increases cortisol and reduces neurotransmitters that make you feel good like serotonin. When you eat junk and processed foods full of sugars, unhealthy fats and chemicals the contrary occurs, this foods reduces cortisol and triggers the neurotransmitters in your brain that make you feel good. This is why when you eat them and sometime after you feel good but hours later you feel down again, stressed out, anxious and you have cravings again. This is just part of the problem.

When you are under stress your body needs energy in case you need to run (the fight-or-flight response) this can increase your hunger and stress triggers a hormone called ghrelin which control your appetite so you will have cravings specially for foods high in sugar which are the best source of fast energy that your body “needs” in that moment. Finally, stress also affects sleep, a lack of good quality sleep also increase cravings and makes it almost impossible to avoid unhealthy foods.

So if you think about it what our body is doing is what it is supposed to be doing, it is reacting to stress so it needs to be ready to save you, it needs a lot more energy so you have cravings for unhealthy foods and it stops unnecessary systems in your body. The problem is that we have a constant flow of stress day in and day out.

Most of us live with chornic stress and some of the ways we use to deal with it is by smoking, drinking, comfort food and social media which causes a lot more problems. We´ve all have difficult times in life and on a daily basis we need to deal with the teacher that don´t understand us, the kids that spend most time bullying us, the boss that hate us and never likes our job, coworkers who make our job harder, all the work and projects we need to finish, the bad relation we have we family or friends and our financial situations but the way we deal with all this is what makes all the difference.

Now, there´s another problem, every time you eat highly processed foods full of sugars, fats and chemicals the reward and pleasure center of your brain is triggered so you feel great for a period of time and sometime later this same foods make you feel depressed, anxious and you may feel guilty for eating them, you may get anxious and angry for not being able to avoid them which creates more stress.

This are some tools you can use to lower stress and keep cravings in check. Exercise is my go to, it has a lot of benefits but related to lowering stress it triggers endorphins that make you feel good and improve mood, this is why you may don´t want to hit the gym but after you´re done with your workout you feel great.

Another way to stop cravings is to keep hunger in check, if you eat highly processed foods full of sugar and chemicals you tend to be hungry most of the time, having meals high in simple carbohydrates and low in fats won´t keep you full for a long period of time so what you can do is increase healthy fats in your meals, avocado is a great option and use olive oil to cook. Also add foods high in fiber, this will keep you satiated for a longer period of time and it will reduce cravings.

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