Although there is a big emphasis placed on the idea of stress eating, overindulging in ‘comfort foods’ when a person is going through a stressful period, stress starving is almost as common of a problem. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, apa.org, ” Twenty-seven percent of adults say they eat to manage stress and 34 percent of those who report overeating or eating unhealthy foods because of stress say this behavior is a habit. In the past month, 30 percent of adults report skipping a meal due to stress. Forty-one percent of adults who report skipping a meal due to stress report doing it weekly or more.”
For some people, when they are stressed, they are too distracted to listen to the clues their body gives them to tell them it’s time to eat. Some others, they may feel sick to their stomach and loose their appetite. And yet others response to stress is to remain “too busy” to eat.
Regardless of the reason for stress starving, it is unhealthy for a person wo especially needs nutrients during times of trouble. Stress wears on our bodies and when we don’t fuel ourselves with food food, we are much more susceptible to getting sick which only adds to our problems. So if you tend to loose your appetite or forget to eat when you are feeling stress, here are some ways you can try to keep your body healthy and get good nutrients in your system.
How to Stop Stress Starving
- Identify the Cause of Your Stress: If you can understand what you are stressed about, you may be able to take some pro-active steps to help the situation. Finding someone else to talk to about what you are going through often helps you feel more settled and not alone.
- Make a Meal Time Schedule: Just as sleeping at regular times can help you better cope with stress, so can having regular meal times each day. Get your body into a routine that it comes to depend on. Get consistent and stay consistent.
- Cook Aromatically Pleasing Meals: Even if you are just making food for the family with no intensions of eating anything yourself, oftentimes when you start to smell the delicious food cooking, you decide to just eat a little, and maybe a little more!
- Plan Ahead: Sometimes when we are stressed and know we need to force ourselves to eat something, we pick the most convenient foods in the pantry. With little energy to cook, we resort to cookies or chips. With a little planning, we can have healthy snacks nearby for when we decide to eat a little something. If we don’t have anything readily available, we will get to the point of being so hungry and frustrated that we dive for the junk food.
- Avoid Sugar: Chocolate and ice cream sound like wonderful comfort foods that maybe we can force ourselves to eat a bit of, but don’t! Unless you are picking out a stevia sweetened, high cocoa content chocolate bar, you are going to be getting in too much sugar. Add sugar to your stressful situation and your immune system is easily weakened which can lead to sickness, compounding your stress and anxiety.
- Keep Hydrated: Drink liquids to stay hydrated. We know that dehydration is not something any of us wants to mess with, especially in an already stressful environment. Drink water most of all. Carry a water bottle with you and sip out of it frequently. Protein drinks and smoothies are great options to get in some nutrients too, just look out for the sugar content. Also, remember that alcohol and coffee can add to your worry or agitation, so avoid or minimize if possible.
- Eat & Drink Protein: Making yourself eat some protein rich foods or even drinking a protein shake is very important. Protein gives you the energy you need, especially to keep moving forward while you are experiencing stress or anxiety.
- Healthy Snacks: Eating small snacks very frequently may work better for you than a full meal at a regular time. Choose something that is eat to prepare but healthy – fruits, berries, fresh raw vegetables with dip. Munching throughout the day on fresh fruits, berries, and veggies may be just what your body needs to get through the day. Add a protein drink on top of it and it may not be a lot. But it just may be enough to carry you until your appetite returns to normal.
Lastly, make sure you don’t end up stressing out about what you are or aren’t eating. Make your food consumption a priority but not a stress factor. Remember that anything you can eat no matter how little will benefit you. If you or someone you care about struggles with stress eating, check out our steps to help stop stress eating here.