You just reached for a cookie. Did you know I can tell you are probably stressed right now? I know that lunch was an hour ago and you aren’t hungry, but you still reached for your sweet, salty, or fatty snack. You aren’t hungry but you are stressed!
Why do we do that? For me it is cookies, but for you it could be Doritos, cheese-its, ice cream, a snickers bar – what ever it is your snack makes you feel a little bit better. Maybe this is a nervous habit for you and you don’t even realize what you are doing. Well, good afternoon, its time to wake up my friend and do something different. Before we can change what we are doing now, lets look at why we reach for unhealthy snacks.
When you are stressed your body isn’t able to use the neurotransmitter serotonin. Serotonin is important for a lot of reasons because of the processes it helps your body perform, things like:
- Making you feel happy
- Improving your decision making skills
- Regulating your sleep cycle
- Increasing your tolerance for delayed gratification
So when you are stressed and your serotonin doesn’t work properly this is what happens:
- You feel sad
- You are a poor planner
- You have poor impulse control
Serotonin can be replaced by eating food. By eating things that are high in sugar, carbs, and fat we can spike our serotonin and you will feel better. But food doesn’t stay in the body forever, its got to come out and when it does your mood plummets to where it was before and you feel awful again.
When we eat unhealthy snacks we are actually self-medicating. We send our bodies on a roller coaster ride to make up for the low serotonin by eating bad food all because we are stressed out and can’t manage our emotions on our own. When this is your reality you are also a poor planner and you have poor impulse control – you don’t want to think about what to do to address the stressor, you just want a cookie!
There are ways we can replace those unhealthy foods so we aren’t adding pounds along with our high stress but there are also ways to address the root of the problem – your stress level! When you decrease the stress you won’t feel the need to self-medicate.
Here are three easy ways to decrease your stress:
- Make a list of what you need to accomplish, then work your way through the list. When something starts to worry you take comfort in knowing that you will get to it because you already have it on your to-do list.
- Acknowledge if something is out of your control. So often we worry about things we can’t do anything about. Figure out who can influence that worry and let them worry about it.
- Do something that relaxes you. If you are at work it may help to have an inspirational book or devotional to read when you feel overwhelmed, if you are at home maybe you need to sit in your favorite spot with a hot cup of tea. Deep breathing is always a sure-fire way to relax your mind and body.
Next time you reach for that cookie (Dorito, snickers, ice cream, etc.) catch yourself and tackle the root of the problem instead of self-medicating. When you decrease your stress you won’t need to replace your serotonin, your body will do that for you!1
- Google + Author, https://plus.google.com/u/0/102851063175689428953 ↩