EHF023 – Why work stress effects eating & makes you make bad food choices

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Stress eatingWhy You Stress Eat At Work

When your at work you may have to work long hours, you may not even use your lunch break as your constantly on the go.
It can be difficult to avoid unhealthy foods even if you’ve set goals, and told friends, or bet large amounts of money due to the fact that there may be buiscuits or other junk food in the office.
Sometimes in the heat of the moment your presented with foods that you know shouldn’t have, but find impossible to resist.
It may be due to the convenince or
In that moment are brains way up the risk, and decide that the short-term pain induced by eating the food feels less than the short-term gain in pleasure from eating that food.
After you eat this food you may feel guilty, but now it’s too late to take it back. What is even worst is that you may often find yourself in this situation and unfortunately you keep making the same food choices because right now, it makes you feel happy. Right now, you need it more than anything.
Before you know it, you’ve quit your diet, and your will power has gone and your back to your old habits, but why does this happen?


If your working long hours and working to dead lines then obviously your stress levels are going to be high. The physiological process of stress actually affects your hormones and food choices.
For example, when your stressed you release hormones called cortisol and adrenaline. Cortisol and adrenaline are hormones that we need in the body, however when we over produce these hormones it can be bad for your body.
Cortisol is a catabolic hormone causing you to break down fats, protein and sugars for immediate energy release. This is a good thing when you are in a fight or flight situation.
For example, if a Tiger escaped from the zoo and started chasing you it would be useful to have this sudden release of energy from fats, carbohydrates and protein.
However, our lives have evolved from having to hunt for food and escape dangers. The stressors we face nowadays may be financial, or in this case may be even be caused by work.
So after being stressed at work and releasing extra energy and then using it your body needs to restore its energy levels as it is now in deficit.
At this point your body tells the brain that it needs food to replace the energy lost as quickly as possible. Your body knows that the quickest way to do this is to eat something sweet as this is one of the fastest ways to replace the energy lost.
When you eat something sweet your bodies blood sugar levels go high,  and this causes your body to panic as sweet foods cause your blood sugar levels to go too high so your body releases insulin to get your blood sugar level back down.
This cycle will continue all day long. Your blood sugar levels will go up, crash down, go up and back down like a yo yo.

Stress can also make you unhappy.

Sometimes, when your stressed it affects your mood. Many people use food as a pick me up. Food should not be used to make you feel happy, it should be eaten to nourish your body. However, if stress makes you unhappy it is easier said then done.
When you eat junk foods they give you short term happiness. Although it doesn’t remove the stress it helps you forget for a while, and helps you feel happier. Of course, you know these foods are bad for you, but you’re only thinking about the here and now.

Junk foods make you happy

Many junk foods have additives in them that mimic various feel good hormones in our body, which makes them addictive in nature.
One of the key hormones is one called dopamine. Dopamine stimulates the regions of the brain that are responsible for pleasure, movement, emotion and motivation.
Some of the other neuro-transmitters or feel good hormones that are triggered by junk foods are:

  • Seratonin – It helps you feel calm, decreases depression and generally improves your mood.
  • Ghrelin – This hormone causes an increase in appetite.

When we eat these junk foods the brain is over stimulated by serotonin and dopamine, which causes you to want to repeat eating those foods.This is known as emotional eating.

How to avoid stress eating

If you want to avoid stress eating it is important to prepare your food a week in advance so that you avoid having to go to the shop and buying unhealthy food.

Topic: Stress eating

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