July 23, 2009

Eating patterns that worsen stress

The economy is stressing many, but some eating patterns people develop to cope with the mental strain only worsen it, a U.S. eating expert says.

Dr. Carolyn Coker Ross, author of The Binge Eating & Compulsive Overeating Workbook: An Integrated Approach to Overcoming Disordered Eating, says it's a mistake to start a new diet when going through a stressful time -- because any diet is stressful in itself.

Eating patterns people develop to cope that worsen stress include:

-- Eating more junk food than usual. Many feel hungrier under stress and the extra cortisol in your bloodstream from the stress reaction can increase food cravings, especially cravings for sweets and high-fat foods. Eating sweets can increase serotonin in our brains, which makes us feel good -- but so can taking a walk.

-- Losing an appetite, only to have it come back later. Although you may not feel hungry don't stop eating, as this can increase binging later. Eat small meals or snacks throughout the day to avoid rebound hunger.

-- Eating because of emotions, not hunger. Try to relieve the emotional need in another way, a drink of water, calling a friend, or taking a walk

-- Some eat because they feel tired, but eating won't raise energy in this instance.