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Health Information Stress and Eating

The stress connection

How you feel can affect how you eat

The problem: Stress.

The solution: Eating.

Seeing it in writing shows the absurdity of this reasoning. But we aren’t using reason when we respond to stress. Instead, we go into survival mode, says Marco De La Cruz, MD, a family physician at Rush University Medical Center.

Stressed out

“Stress is similar to an alarm state,” De La Cruz says. “In today’s world that alarm state, which helps us respond to danger, is more likely to result from overloaded schedules than an actual physical threat. Since we don’t release this tension by fleeing or fighting a threat, it builds up.”

That’s how problems with nutrition can begin. Some people respond to stress by avoiding food. More often, though, it’s the opposite. For some, between-meal snacks offer a distraction from stressful situations. For others, busy schedules leave little time or energy to plan healthy meals.

“It can be hard to make good food choices when you’re under stress,” De La Cruz says. “It’s easier to just grab a burger and fries.” All this may lead to weight gain, which can be a recipe for even more stress.

Get a grip

Stress and unhealthy eating can be-come a cycle that’s difficult to change. But there are ways to control both.

Talking to your primary care physician is a good start. He or she can help you establish exercise habits that work for you. Regular exercise helps control your weight, and according to De La Cruz, it can even make you more resistant to stress.

You can also learn skills to help you cope with stress at “Paths to Wellness: Stress Management Review,” a free program at Rush led by De La Cruz.

Nutrition experts at Rush are also available to help.

They can:

  • Analyze your diet and measure your body fat.
  • Use state-of-the-art methods to determine your best approach to lose, gain or maintain your weight, such as the MedGem, which analyzes your breath to measure baseline caloric needs.

Start forming healthy habits today to relieve stress and live well. To make an appointment for nutritional counseling at Rush, call (312) 942-3438. To register for “Paths to Wellness: Stress Management Review,” call (888) 352-RUSH (7874).

 

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