What’s stressing you out? Is it your job? Family relationships? Finances? How about the weather? Whatever’s eating away at you, chances are pretty good it’s also affecting the way you eat and your weight. And that in turn affects your health.
Ongoing stress results in hormonal changes in the body, which can cause the heart to race, blood pressure to increase and fat and sugar to be released into your system. Eventually, the excess fat and sugar get stored in your liver and deep inside your abdomen, and some of those stress hormones make it harder to lose the weight. That abdominal weight gain can lead to insulin resistance, high blood pressure and inflammation, which in turn may lead to diabetes and heart disease.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any single food you can eat to combat stress, but some advanced planning and an overall healthier eating pattern can make you feel better so you can deal with the stress and stay healthy. Chances are, when you’re under lots of stress, there are a few areas in your diet that suffer. Here are the most common things nutritionists hear about stress and diet:
“I have no time to cook.” Stress is exhausting, and no one wants to get home late and start dinner. Unfortunately, picking up take-out makes matters worse, because most of it is too high in calories, fat and salt and too low in nutrients. When your diet is unhealthy, you feel even more tired and less able to deal with the stress.
The best way to deal with the no-time-to-cook problem is to plan ahead:
“I’m starving by lunchtime and then I get a headache.” Hmmm. Did you eat a balanced breakfast? Or was it coffee and a muffin? Here’s another place where planning and cooking also comes in handy. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day, because it’s gives you the nutrients and fuel you’ll need to tackle the day.
Plan ahead and prepare one or two recipes that will last all week:
“I’m good until 3:00 and then it’s all downhill.” Step away from the vending machine (and the break room)! It’s hard to make good decisions when you’re tired and hungry.
Plan five healthy meals and snacks, make a grocery list, and pack your food for each day. Not only will you save lots of money (which can help alleviate some of that financial stress) but you’ll also have healthy foods ready when you need them so you’ll be able to avoid whatever treats are lurking in the break room. Make sure both lunch and snack meals include at least 3 food groups, one of which is protein. Good snack choices include:
“I have no time to exercise.” I get it. You get up early, get home late, and when you’re not working, there’s laundry to do, kids to pick up, or groceries to buy. Exercise is probably the best thing you can do for stress, though, so if you can’t fit it in before or after work, try to fit it in during work hours.
Aim for 150 minutes of exercise each week, and break that up in any way that works for you:
All of these solutions require a bit of advanced planning, but if you get in the habit of planning what to eat and when to exercise, you’ll be able to stay a step ahead, and you’ll have one less thing to stress about!
For additional resources on healthy recipe ideas and easy work-out guidance, check out these websites: