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Are Food Cravings & Emotional Eating Sabotaging Your Weight?

Understand the Role of Stress and Eliminate it...

Stress is a biological response experienced on encountering a perceived threat. The body releases hormones, predominantly cortisol and adrenaline, which help prepare it to take action, for example by increasing the heart and speeding up breathing. Many factors can trigger this Fight-or-Flight response, including dangerous situations and psychological pressures, such as work deadlines, exams, and sporting events.

This readiness to expend extra energy ideally passes quickly; however, some people find themselves in a nearly constant state of heightened alertness. This is chronic stress, which can be caused by high-pressure jobs, financial difficulties, challenging relationships — or by your thoughts and feelings, like consistently living in fear, anxiety and worry. A long list of symptoms has been associated with chronic stress: among them, but certainly not all, are extreme fatigue, headaches, and difficulty sleeping, digestive problems, changes in appetite and frequent infections. Chronic stress will also negatively affect how you feel about yourself, other people and your life in general.

Another, less talked about scenario is the Freeze response. In some situations the brain determines that there is no way to fight or flee from the situation: a wild animal has its teeth around your neck or in a car accident or when in the clutches of an abuser. Especially children perceive their powerlessness more easily. Under traumatic circumstances, “freezing up” or “numbing out” — dissociating from the here and now — is about the only and best thing you can do. In such instances your body secretes endorphins which function as an analgesic, so the pain of any injury to your body or psyche is experienced with less intensity. Problems occur when the freeze response never had the chance to “let go” or “thaw out” once the original experience was over. This is one explanation for the cause of many features of post-traumatic stress disorder, such psychological phenomena as phobias, panic attacks, obsessive-compulsive behaviors, or various anxiety states.

This is a very simple outline of various aspects of the stress response, by no means conclusive. In order to overcome food cravings and emotional eating you want to become aware of stress in your life, how it impacts you and how it relates to your eating behavior. You need to know that frequent or chronic or frozen stress makes it difficult to achieve and maintain long term weight loss. Obesity is recognized as one of the problems associated with chronic stress.

  • As mentioned, there are two main stress hormones, adrenaline and cortisol. When stress is chronic, the body circulates high levels of cortisol which triggers cravings for sweet and fatty foods. The more uncontrolled stress, the more likely, especially women, turn to food for emotional relief. Also, with increased levels of cortisol, our body does not respond as well to leptin, the hormone that makes us feel full, so we eat more.

  • Adrenalin slows down digestion. When your digestion slows it’s harder to lose weight.

  • Stress reduces blood supply to the frontal cortex (the creative problem-solving part of the brain) and thus makes you more prone to poor decisions about what to eat, or even breaking your good eating and exercise habits.

  • Following a strict diet, trying to force weight loss while eliminating comfort food, likely increases stress and thereby can contribute to weight gain or at least making it much harder to actually lose weight, and especially to maintain that.

  • We are overeating and undernourished. Stress makes it harder for our bodies to absorb nutrients, even while we are eating well. Stress also increases salt retention which can result in high blood pressure, causes bloating, affects cholesterol levels, and weakens the immune, endocrine and nervous systems.

So where is the strategy in this, you may wonder? Stress is described as an autonomous response of the body and we seem to be victims to its workings. While we are not often attacked by ferocious animals here, there are many other stress triggers in our lives: rushing all the time, demanding jobs, traffic, noise, economic pressures… you name yours. In addition, your feelings and thoughts are powerful causes of stress. For example, if you are consistently living in fear of gaining weight, you will produce elevated levels of the stress hormones. Your fears will stress you out and contribute to the weight problem, as described above.

The strategy lies in realizing that you do have a choice. Not every person reacts to a computer malfunction by eating a bag of potato chips. The stress response is triggered when the brain decides, in a split-second assessment, that the situation is dangerous and warrants the extra resources in the body. The brain does not really make a significant distinction whether it is dealing with a situation in the outside world, or whether it is struggling with overwhelming worries or feelings or memories from the inside. Mindfulness is the skill needed to understand what is going on and realize that you have a choice; that you can engage in the decision-making process more consciously. You can learn to perceive situations differently and respond differently, with less stress.

When stress has become chronic, it is a habit — a physiological habit and also one of thinking and acting. You can find many good suggestions to relieve stress, like working out or walking in nature, singing and dancing, taking time away from the TV and internet, especially from the news and pundits, or doing something you love.

Yet, it is difficult to change a habit. First you need to recognize that there is stress and how it feels in your body. I am not talking about feeling the hormones circulating, but becoming aware of your energetic body; where and how do you feel the stress? And then find a good method or tool to reduce or dissipate it.

In many published studies and in my experience, Tapping has proven to be one of the most effective tools to eliminate stress from the body. It is simple and easy to apply and will supplement any other approach to stress relief you may choose. Tapping helps you reduce stress in your body, and thereby will support you to overcome food cravings and emotional eating. Tapping helps you to develop more mindfulness, which will further lower your tendency to fall victim to stress reactions. Once the stress releases, it will become easier to change habits — in your body, in your thinking, in your motivation and your behavior.

View my video: Learn How to Apply Tapping for Stress Relief

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