Have you ever reached for a chocolate bar, a pint of ice cream or eaten an entire bag of chips after a stressful day at work or after an argument?
I know you've heard of the phrase, "stressed is desserts spelled backward." We associate the two because nutrition and stress have always been connected, as we tend to want to bring relief to an uncomfortable situation by stimulating pleasure sensors in the brain.
According to a new study, women may want to hold off on eating desserts or any other junk food when they're most stressed. The combination of stress and an unhealthy diet slows the body's metabolism, said researchers at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in a recent study.
They said that women who ate high-fat comfort food following stressful situations burned 104 fewer calories.
You may think 104 calories is no big deal, but over a year's time, that could add up to an 11-pound weight gain, the study said.
The women researchers studied — average age 53 —also had higher levels of insulin, which promotes the storage of fat and less fat oxidation. Less fat oxidation means there is less fat burning, and more is being stored.
So how do you avoid junk food when you're having a bad day? In other words, how do you break the cycle of emotional eating? It's not easy and maybe you won't get it right overnight, but the less you eat junk food the less you'll crave it.
If you don't buy it or have it hidden in your house, you can't use junk food to comfort you.
Certain foods actually trigger or aggravate stress, such as coffee, simple sugar, and alcohol. Nutrition experts said eating fresh, real food and choosing from a variety of foods also helps to reduce cravings. Finding other ways to deal — such as exercise, meditation or deep breathing — can be just as alleviating as eating junk food. At the very least, you won't feel bad afterward.
No one said you shouldn't ever indulge in your favorite treat from time to time, but beware of creating a habit of indulgence while you're not thinking — or don't want to think — clearly. You're more likely to binge or make other poor eating choices. Instead of running to desserts to calm your nerves, save your cheesecake for happier occasions.