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Stop Emotionally Eating

Do You Crave Protein when You Emotionally Eat? To stop emotionally eating, we need to recondition the mind.

Think about the last time you had an emotional eating session. Do you have bouts of emotional eating? If not, you are one of the few who has learned the skills necessary to walk away from an emotional eating episode. Congratulations, and please share how you overcame the urge to emotionally eat. Retraining the brain is the best way to stop emotional eating.

Please take a moment to reflect on the last time you had an eating episode and write down everything you ate. This is not an exercise in shaming. It’s an exercise in awareness. When you know better, you do better.

Stop Emotionally Eating
Processed Foods and Cell Death

How stress promotes belly fat

Stop Emotionally Eating
Visceral Fat

Our bodies evolved to secrete the stress hormone cortisol when our brain senses danger. Cortisol elevates your heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. Cortisol protects you from immediate threats in the short term by sending your body into fight-or-flight mode. But when your job, finances, and other circumstances ratchet up your stress levels regularly, it can lead to chronic cortisol elevation. Stress causes damage to your body and your brain. This is where emotional eating sounds terrific!

One side effect of cortisol is that it promotes body fat, especially belly and visceral fat, which is a particularly toxic kind of fat that surrounds internal organs. Studies show that people with higher cortisol levels tend to have a higher body mass index. Estrogen is held in fat cells.

“Even if you don’t change a single thing that you eat, the fact that you are stressed is going to promote fat deposition,” said Tomiyama, who has studied the mechanisms behind stress and obesity.

Foods Eaten for Emotional Reasons

Stop Emotionally Eating
Dopamine Structure

Chocolate, candy, ice cream, and other comfort foods partially alleviate stress through their effects on the brain. They activate reward regions such as the nucleus accumbens, flooding them with dopamine, the hormone that promotes pleasure, and other neurotransmitters. Protein and vegetables, unfortunately, are not the foods craved in stressful situations.

Some people find that in stressful situations, their appetites plummet. Scientists are not quite sure why stress leads some people to the cookie jar and not others, but weight appears to play a role. Some studies suggest that insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes, which is more common in people with obesity, may spur changes in brain activity that intensify food cravings in response to stress.

How processed foods damage cells.

Processed foods lead to inflammation on a cellular level. Which causes your cells to fill up with blood and impedes their function. Chronic inflammation changes the DNA of the cell, which will cause further degradation of the cell function.

Highly processed foods are also typically chemically treated with additives or preservatives to improve their taste and texture or to extend shelf-life. An easy way to identify processed food is to look at the label; if there is a laundry list of ingredients with unrecognizable, complicated names, it is safe to say it’s processed food.

How to retrain your brain to stop emotionally eating

Stop Emotionally Eating
Retrain the Brain

In a study published last year, Tomiyama and her colleagues recruited 100 adults with elevated stress levels and split them into two groups. Everyone was trained to do a daily, six-minute stress reduction exercise called progressive muscle relaxation, which involves tensing and relaxing your muscles from toe to head. You can find an example here. This deep relaxation technique has been shown in studies to reduce stress and anxiety.

But members of one group were assigned to eat a serving of fresh fruit, such as sliced pineapple, honeydew, and pears, about five minutes into each of their daily progressive muscle relaxation sessions. After one week, the researchers found that eating just the fruit alone made the participants feel less stressed and put them in a better mood. By pairing the fruit with a relaxation exercise, their brains began to view the fruit as something that reduced their stress levels — essentially turning the fruit into comfort food.

“Anytime two things happen simultaneously, your mind creates a connection between them,” Tomiyama said. “By pairing relaxation and fruit together, your mind starts to see them as the same thing. After a while, you won’t even need to do the six minutes of relaxation: All you’ll need to do is eat the fruit and get that same relaxation benefit.” This is one of the best techniques to help stop the run for emotional eating.

Habits are built over time, and when you begin to train your brain for healthy, nutritious food, cravings for comfort food will diminish and leave you alone.

What have you got to lose? Give it a shot, and retrain your brain for health.

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