Stress Eating During the Recession

Clinical Herbalist Reviewed on June 18, 2009 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Blog

Everyone in America today feels the stress of the current economic downturn. News about the recession is all over the television, newspapers and even amongst the office workers standing around the water cooler at work. Everyone is talking about it!

There is no doubt about it; these are very stressful times for everyone. However, each person responds differently to stress. Most people, women especially, turn to their favorite food to comfort them.

Most of these foods are associated with a happy time in a person’s life, such as their childhood, like Grandmother’s apple pie that they would eat whenever they visited their Grandmother.

Most comfort foods are high caloric and high carbohydrate items. Research conducted at California State University at San Francisco, shows that there when a person’s stress levels are increased, so does their craving for carbohydrate rich food.

The research indicated that stress actually causes a person’s body to produce more adrenaline and cortisol. Most people understand that adrenaline is the rush of energy that they get when something exhilarating happens to them. Adrenaline causes the heart to race, in turn burning up energy quicker. Cortisol, on the other hand, sends energy to the body’s muscles. Under normal circumstances, once the cortisol has reached a person’s brain, the body stops producing cortisol. In a stressful situation, the body does not stop producing cortisol and that is when a person starts to crave carbohydrate dense food in order to replenish their energy.

However, a recession is a long term event and people are under stress for days, weeks and even months at a time. People are constantly concerned about losing their money, losing their jobs and homes. When money is tight, people turn to comfort food to help them feel better.

In fact, in a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association in Washington, D.C., it was found that more than half of America’s population actually eats a lot more whenever they are feeling stressed.

Fast food restaurants have seen an increase in their profit margin since the recession began, whilst fine dining restaurants have had a decline. This is simply due to the fact that during these tough times, fast food is cheap food! Eating cheaply, helps a person to subconsciously feel better about their eating decisions.

Sadly, eating more will ultimately result in more weight gain which will actually increase a person’s individual stress levels.

“You don’t have power over the financial markets, but you have complete autonomy when it comes to your eating,” says Heather Bauer, R.D., of New York City.

Even though the high calorie foods will increase your mood for a little while, the excess weight gain and potential health risks will only lead to greater stress down the road.

Most dieticians and nutritionists suggest that people, who are stress eaters, first acknowledge the true cause of their stress. By doing this most people will come a to realization that their stress is not warranted.

Secondly, stress eaters should try to substitute their stress eating habits for healthy ones. Devising a do-able strategy is the best bet to eliminate stress eating.

Excising is a great habit to get into! It does not have to be strenuous, if you do not want it to be. Taking a walk outdoors is a very natural stress buster. Plus, walking is free and does not require any special equipment or clothing so it will not add to your money woes.

Make sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Whenever a candy is craved, grab a piece of juicy fruit instead. The sweetness of the fruit will satisfy your sweet tooth without adding any unwanted calories.

Get in at least 8 hours of sleep per night. Studies have shown that a good eight hours of sleep a night can contribute to being more alert and happy during the day. Just what you need to keep your head out of the fridge!

Make time for yourself. Even though these are stressful times when everyone is pinching their pennies, it is even more important to take time out for yourself. Read a good book or take a soak in the tub. Whatever you do, make sure the end result is a refreshed and relaxed you.

If you find yourself out of work or with too much time on your hands, volunteer. By helping out the less fortunate in your community, you will not only feel better about your own circumstances, but it will also look good on your resume.

Photo Credit: net_efekt

Read also: 6 Super Herbs To Help You Feel Sexier As You Age

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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