Friday, January 15, 2021

Stress Snacking


The world has become a very complicated place. Most adults in the world have some level of stress, and many are overweight. Unfortunately, stress alone can make it hard to lose weight, and can even cause you to gain weight – to a degree. The real problem, however, comes from stress eating and snacking when you shouldn’t.


What Is Stress Snacking?

Have you ever been in an argument with your spouse or significant other and both found that while arguing and stomping around the house that you somehow both end up with chips or snack cakes in your hand – munching away? Have you ever found yourself at your desk working towards meeting a deadline to discover that you have tons of candy wrappers and chip bags on and around your desk? These situations are stress snacking.

Often, when you stress snack, you don’t even realize you are consuming any food. Your mind isn’t on what you are eating – your mind is on the matter that is stressing you. Stress can cause you to mindlessly snack, without any regard to the calories you are consuming, or even whether or not you are really hungry. Stress snacking can occur simply because you connect comfort with food, or to give your hands something to do – or even because of chemical releases in the brain due to the stress.

How to Avoid Stress Snacking

The first step to avoid stress snacking is to become aware of it. As with any other problem, you first have to realize the problem exists, and decide that you really want to change it. The next step is to limit the availability of food. You must pay close attention to the foods that you seem to reach for when you are stressed. Some people will invariably reach for sweets, while others will always reach for something salty. Remove the food that you are likely to reach for, in such a way that you must make a conscience decision and effort to acquire the food.

Healthy Stress Snacking

Once you’ve removed those unhealthy stress snack choices, if you find that you cannot get through your stress well without snacking, replace those foods with healthy snack foods. Make sure that you consider the type of food that soothes you the best – salty, tangy, hot, sweet, etc. Shop carefully and choose foods that have those same qualities, but make sure that the new foods are healthier. This way, if you cannot completely beat your stress snacking, at least you are not sabotaging your diet or your health by grabbing those unhealthy snacks during times of stress.

Could Stress Be Stopping You From Losing Weight?

Stress can affect your ability to lose weight.  Working out daily, attempting to eat good healthy nutritious meals and live a healthier life needs to include the control of stressors to be effective for weight control.

Stress affects the body in various ways.  One of the body’s reactions to stress is that the adrenal glands begin to work harder in that fight or flight response that gives you that kick of adrenalin during stressful or fearful times.  The other effect of stimulation of the adrenal gland is that it produces excessive amounts of cortisol.  Excess cortisol can cause weight gain or belly fat because it causes muscle tissue loss, increased insulin resistance, decreased insulin sensitivity and disrupts the hormone balance of the body weakening the immune system.

Stress can also interfere with your ability to lose weight because stress often leads to overeating or comforting ourselves with comfort foods that are usually high in sugar and carbohydrates.

Is Stress Your Problem?

Stress is part of our everyday life.  There is physical, emotional and mental stress.  The cause of stress can be any number of things or a combination of many things.  Some examples of situations that may be adding to stress in your life include your job, your family, school, not eating enough or an improper diet, not getting enough sleep or unhealthy relationships.  You may not even realize that some of these things can add to the stress in your life.  Take some time and evaluate the stressors in your life.  Keep a journal if necessary to help determine when you feel stress and why you felt it.  If you are working out routinely, eating a healthy diet without cheating and still not losing weight, there is a good possibility that stress could be the problem.

How it happens

  • Make sure your get sufficient sleep, the quantity does not matter nearly as much as the quality of the sleep you get.
  • Do not attempt to starve yourself, eat an adequate amount of calories each day.  You can spread this over 6 small meals throughout the day if you prefer. This method actually keeps your metabolism working more efficiently.
  • Avoid activities that can increase stress such as smoking, drinking and the use of drugs.
  • Learn some relaxation therapies such as yoga or pilates, meditation and deep breathing or tai chi.
  • Soak in the bathtub with some relaxing aromatherapy to help relieve stress and promote relaxation.

The most important thing you can do is to try to identify the source of the stress and work towards a solution to reduce the amount of stress you experience daily.

Gloria Brown
Women's health and wellness retreat leader providing vacations and trips for women to get in shape -- and stay that way! On you can find my articles about weight loss, health and women's issues. Please feel free to contact me on

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