Wellness: Here’s why stress while eating can create hormonal imbalances and weight gain
Hope all of you are staying home and safe, but staying indoors has also affected our activity levels. We can’t really move out for any activity, workout, jog or take a brisk walk. With a lack of movement, many people are getting stressed with respect to food. There are lots of queries regarding food quantity, avoiding meals, skipping meals, eating under stress and how all these things affect the body. Fear of food is real but how does it affect your weight and health? Off late, the frequently asked questions are: a mango, a cup of tea, a cup of rice will it affect my weight? I’m staying indoors and all these foods can affect my sugar levels as well as weight? There is too much stress around and people then start their meals with guilt and fear which transforms into anxiety. When we have stress in the body, it means there are elevated cortisol levels, your digestive system doesn’t work anymore. All other body functions like detoxification and hormonal balance go for a toss.
If one eats under stress, it means you are in the sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight mode and not in the parasympathetic nervous system or rest and digest mode. In fight or flight, you’re not digesting anything that you’re eating but storing it as fat. In fact, you’re creating more acidity and issues in the human body which can also affect digestion in long run. When one has chronic anxiety and chronic emotional stress, then the body is not producing enough enzymes to digest the food, the food that you’ve eaten then gets stored as fat to fight the inflammation. This in turn impacts your weight, creates indigestion and affects immunity. When you’re calm and you sit down to enjoy your meal and eat it with positive thoughts, then you truly enjoy each and every bite, you’re in the rest and digest mode which is the parasympathetic nervous system. This means your body is going to produce the right enzymes to digest and your fats are going to be broken down and absorbed well.
Stress also impacts various hormones in our bodies that also regulate food intake. Hormones like ghrelin increase hunger and on the other hand there’s leptin which decreases hunger. Leptin is important as it gives us a feeling of satiety and it is made from our adipose tissues itself, this means that the more adipose tissue or fat cells we have, the more amount of leptins will be available. More leptins decrease hunger, keeping us full, but it’s not always true because due to stress, fat accumulation increases and this is when your body produces too much leptin. Due to stress, excessive fat cells and confusion, our body becomes leptin-resistant. And because of this condition, one doesn’t understand when one’s full or when one is to stop eating as the nerve transmission isn’t working well. Ghrelin too, stays high in the blood increasing hunger, in turn affecting digestion and weight. Therefore it becomes really important to focus on deep breathing, meditation and eating a meal without any diversion to control stress and to keep oneself healthy without any hormonal imbalance.
The writer is the Chief Nutrition Officer, Luke Coutinho Holistic Healing Systems. She is a clinical nutritionist with a focus on healthy lifestyle choices.
Photo courtesy: Brooke Lark on Unsplash