Stress can be the enemy of a decent diet – “stress eating” is totally a thing – and we all fall victim to its gluttonous tendencies at some point. Short-term stress can actually inhibit appetite; adrenaline coursing through your system activates the “fight-or-flight” response, wherein your body’s like, “Oh hell no, digestive system. You’re not using any of our resources until we’re out of this mess. TAKE A SEAT.”
But when your body perceives longer-term stress, levels of cortisol – a hormone produced by the adrenal glands – stay elevated. And cortisol is like, “Hey! I see we’re in a stressful situation here. You’re going to need some energy. EAT ALL THE THINGS.”
That’s great, but much like your grandma who still uses a rotary phone, this response is a little behind the times. Though it gets the job done, it’s a mechanism that began when our ancestors were literally fighting during animal hunts and stuff (I mean, spearing woolly mammoths probably burned tons of calories) – not sitting on the couch angrily scrolling through Facebook.
To make matters worse, when we get those biological signals that we’re stressed and need energy, what do our bodies crave most? Something to give us the quickest boost possible: sugar. Bonus points if it’s combined with fat to keep us satiated long enough to battle those mammoths. This is why it’s so tempting to turn to a threesome with Ben & Jerry when we’re feeling edgy. We’re not exactly running to grab a lettuce leaf every time stress strikes, are we?
Of course, scarfing down a pint of ice cream or some greasy fries makes us feel better in the moment, but it does nothing positive for our bodies. So not fair. All the junk circulating around in our systems can cause sluggishness, erratic spikes in blood sugar, irritability, and more — on top of the stress we’re trying to combat in the first place. And I don’t know about you, but I get pretty pissed off when my pants stop fitting.
The good news is, there are alternate ways to fight stress with a diet that will actually benefit your bod. The bad news is, they’re nowhere near as fun to eat, but hey – we can still meet up with Ben & Jerry once in a while on the sly.