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healthy diet and stress

How Stress Sabotages A Healthy Diet

Scientific studies have shown that stress exerts many negative effects on the body. Ruining an otherwise healthy diet is just one of the main consequences of being too stressed. To boot, embarking on a new diet, or simply improving an existing one can be challenging and stressful for anyone at the best of times.

When we are stressed, our diet is one of the first aspects to be affected. Some people hardly eat at all, others eat an increased amount of food. This extra food is more likely to be comfort food because it makes us feel good, even if only for a short while. Therefore, stress can be a huge barrier to eating healthily, and can actually sabotage a healthy diet completely in several different ways.

Comfort Food

Various studies have shown that stress affects the brain and our neural pathways in particular. When we are stressed, we want to feel better quickly, and eating comfort food provides that instant hit of feel-good. Even when stressed, we may realize that eating a pack of doughnuts is not a sensible idea and we should go for a piece of fruit instead.

However, the brain is receiving signals that say “if you eat the doughnuts you will feel much better instantly”. It is easy to see how the doughnuts usually end up winning. Obviously this does not lead to a healthy diet, especially if we have a lot of stress and regularly find ourselves reaching for the sugary, unhealthy options.

When we are experiencing stressful situations, whether at home and/or work, our “logical and sensible” brain capacity falls by the wayside.

Unless you have been following a healthy diet for a substantial period of time, it requires effort and motivation to maintain a sensible diet. This can be incredibly difficult to maintain when stressed, for many reasons. It may be that after a long day and working late, a takeaway seems far more appealing than cooking a healthy meal for dinner.

Lack Of Sleep

Another way that stress can disrupt a healthy diet is by affecting sleep. When we are stressed and distracted, we frequently may find it hard to fall asleep or we sleep restlessly. A lack of sleep inevitably has many side effects that can ruin the next day, make us much less productive than we would normally be and disrupt our eating patterns.

These effects can include relying on caffeine to stay awake during the day; several coffees, especially lattes or similar indulgences can easily disrupt any progress we made previously. As well, you are likely aware of the pick-me-up commercials that suggest a chocolate bar to “get back to your normal self”…

Similarly, if we are sleep deprived, we are pretty unlikely to go to the gym after a day at work. This lack of exercise, combined with less healthy eating, can all cause the pounds to increase rather quickly.

Hormonal Changes As A Result Of Stress

There are many hormones that affect our eating patterns when we are under stress. I’ll just mention 2 of the culprits: ghrelin and leptin. These hormones that tell us (our brain) when we are hungry, when it is time to eat and when we are full.

The hormone ghrelin tells us when we are hungry and when we should eat. If we are sleep deprived, we produce more ghrelin. In other words we have more of the hormone that prompts us to eat.

Leptin tells us when we have had enough to eat and should stop. It tells the brain that we are are full. A lack of sleep often results in lesser production of this hormone. So, lack of sleep means we think it is time to eat more often, and think we need to eat more than we do.

Even the most motivated of dieters and healthy eaters will struggle to fight against these hormonal changes.

In summary, when we are stressed we turn to comfort food for comfort, we are sleep deprived and our hormones go out of whack. As a result we overeat, particularly foods that are high in empty calories. When we are stressed it is often very difficult to follow a healthy diet and maintain a healthy lifestyle. If you want to learn how to reduce stress read the article here…

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