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Food and Stress: Learning to Eat for Maximum Energy

Food and Stress Intuitively you know the impact of food and stress on your life, but how do you make the right choices when you are late leaving work and have 3 errands to run on the way home before picking up the kids who are already cranky because their dinner is late?

It seems way less stressful to stop at the local fast food joint on the way home, grab a pizza or some burgers and give everyone their quick fix and a full belly, rather than to come home, peel carrots and wash lettuce for a nutritious and whole food dinner.

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Do you know what I'm talking about?

Of course you do, that is why you are reading this page in the first place. So congratulate yourself for seeking solutions. You know that you need a food and stress make-over, you just need a few simple tips.

You keep telling yourself "Tomorrow..."; "Tomorrow I'll get organized and eat better"; "Tomorrow I'll make that home cooked meal for my family".

But tomorrow never comes, because you are stuck in a cycle of chemical stress dependency - that means you are addicted. Just as much as a heroine addict is addicted, you too are seeking a brain chemical 'fix' through the foods you choose.

Well, guess what? Today is your tomorrow. I want you to hold up your right hand and speak aloud the following affirmation: "Today is the day that I choose to change my food and stress habits - today is the day I choose a healthy diet for stress relief".

Food and Stress in the Brain:

We should all acknowledge by now the importance of healthy nutrition, but simply knowing that something is true, does not necessarily make you change a habit. If merely knowing that poor food choices are harmful we reduce the number stress related illnesses like adrenal exhaustion and immune system disorders. And I would be out of a job as a weight loss coach!

Food is our fuel for the day, and a diet devoid of proper nutrients, vitamins and minerals will not allow your body to heal and repair itself as it was born to do.

In addition, poor food choices serve to addict us...this is how fast food places stay open...they know that sugar, caffeine, fats and salt keep us coming back.

Take a look at what happens physiologically when we have a food and stress imbalance:

  • When you are under emotional stress (like in the first scenario of having to stay overtime at work, not having enough time to run your errands and kids that are hungry and therefore cranky), your body spits out a stress hormone called cortisol.

  • Cortisol then triggers two brain chemicals called neuropeptide Y and galanin, which make you hungry for sugar and fat respectively.

  • Cortisol also suppresses another brain chemical serotonin, which is a natural calming hormone. So without serotonin, we find that we become more anxious and this again perpetuates a cycle of increases stress and cortisol in your body.

  • When you eat too much sugar and refined carbohydrates (white pasta, bread, rice and processed foods), you increase your serotonin levels briefly giving us a mood boost, but then quickly we crash. As we crash repeatedly, we become more susceptible to depression. This is because in order to process all the sugar, your body will use up its B vitamins, which are your your bodies natural stress relief vitamins.

As all of this is happening in your body, each time your reach for a candy bar, a serving of French fries or a cheese burger, you reinforce the food and stress cycle of chemical addictions in your brain and your start to crave sugar and fat to the point that you become highly depressed without a constant reinforced 'fix' or 'high'.

If you haven't seen the movie documentary "Super Size Me", I'd highly recommend it and witness the food and stress cycle in action.

Positive and Easy Food and Stress Tips

If you are already addicted, although you will have to go through the initial and not so fun detox phase of feeling lethargic and maybe even mildly depressed, making healthy food choices is definitely a no brainer to feeling younger, healthier and having way more energy all day.

Here are some tips on what to look for:

  1. Skip the fast food, or at least keep it to a minimum for all the reasons above.

  2. Get rid of the sugary drinks and balance your insulin and serotonin levels. And avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague...that is a whole other ball of wax.

  3. Reduce your alcohol intake as it upsets the blood sugar and creates sleep disruption.

  4. Increase your water intake to assist in the natural body detox process and learn just how much water you should drink.

  5. Reduce the caffeine, especially in the form of coffee. If you still feel the need to keep caffeine in your diet, switch to green tea, which contains powerful antioxidants as well as an amino acid L-theanine that is helpful in reducing tension.

  6. Avoid Trans Fats because they reduce circulation, increase blood pressure and stress your body, meaning more cortisol, which we do not want.

  7. Increase high-fiber fruits and veggies...I won't go into too much detail here, but try power packed green smoothies for breakfast and see what this one simple addition can do to maximize your energy levels.

  8. Increase the following nutrients: B-vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin C and include a good multi-vitamin in your diet.

  9. Pre-plan your meals and snacks so that you are not caught in a bind of being over the top hungry without anything healthy to reach favourite solution to this is to make left-overs that you can have on a night that you are busy driving the kids to soccer practice. And always travel in the car with some trail mix or fresh fruit to munch on if you find yourself behind schedule. No more stops for a bag of chips or chocolate bar.

The food and stress trap is one that we all succumb to every now and again. It is ok...enjoy that ice cream Sunday or burger from time to time, but "BE MINDFUL".

Choose nutritious foods and stay out of the stress and food cycle. I guarantee that you will find that you are happier, healthier and full of energy.

Best of luck, and contact me if you need any further assistance.

Yours in Wellness,

Dr. Lisa

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