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.

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.


fats and sugars

Sugar and insulin

Sugar affects the amount of insulin you release into your blood stream. Your body needs to control the amount of sugar you have in your blood.

People with type 2 diabetes (a high blood sugar disease) don’t die from diabetes itself, they often die because their blood sugar levels get so high that the sugar in their blood coats their organs, causing the organs to almost suffocate and lose function.

It’s when a particular organ is damaged and fails that their health will deteriorate.
is sugar worse than fat

The affect of insulin on your body

When you eat foods that are high in simple sugars (doughnuts, fizzy drinks, chocolates), your blood sugar is raised extremely high and your body feels compelled to lower your blood sugar levels as quickly as it can.

Your body panics and releases  as much insulin (reduces blood sugar levels)  as it can, which causes the blood sugar to go from very high, back down to normal levels.

However, it keeps falling till it causes the blood sugar levels to fall to an undesirably low level.
Once it falls to this low level the body feels compelled to raise your blood sugar levels up as fast as it can, and your body craves something sweet.

Once you eat something sweet you will start the cycle again and are likely to keep repeating this cycle of eating sweet foods to raise your blood sugar levels only for it to fall causing you to eat something sweet again.

Controlling your blood sugar levels

This is something that you may experience on a daily basis, and you may feel that your energy levels throughout the day are affected.

There are major health related issues associated with this yo-yo affect on your blood sugar levels, and craving sweet foods could be a sign that you need to have better control of your blood sugar.

However, it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily unhealthy because you need a number of other factors for it to be a concern, but breaking this cycle can help you lose weight.
why are fats and sugars bad for you

The effect of free radicals on your health

Other issues that affect your health are not eating enough fruit and vegetables, as these contain anti-oxidants which combat free radicals.

Your cells are attacked and destabilized by free radicals which roam round your body.

Anti oxidants help to neutralize free radicals and in the process they help to fight against the ageing process, help reduce the fat in your arteries, and helps reduce your blood pressure.

You must eat fats to avoid weight gain and maintain health!

You must also make sure you eat polyunsaturated fat, which can be found in fish oils, vegetable oils to name a few.

It’s important to eat good fats in your diet, as some key vitamins are stored in your fat cells, and all the cells in your body are made of fats, not to mention that we are made of millions of cells.

Having your cells lined with quality fat like polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat is the equivalent of having a table built with oak wood.

That’s not to say that your body doesn’t need saturated fats though, but everything must be in moderation. The old saying of “you are what you eat” is very true.

What’s your diet like? Do you feel that throughout the day you need something sweet to pick you up and keep you going? Please leave a comment below.

Topic: Fats and sugars


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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Gerald has a bachelor’s degree in Exercise, Nutrition & Health. He is an ASA qualified swimming teacher, and a qualified personal trainer. Gerald has developed his own exclusion diet, which he uses to help his clients lose weight.

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