stress eating

spoonfulloffaithandconfidence  asked:

Hello, I run a blog dedicated to helping anyone suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, mental disorder, eating disorder, bipolar disorder, feeling lost, empty, alone etc. It's a place of love, support and understanding. I was wondering, if it's alright with you, if you could let your followers know?

aww your blog looks so positive and supportive. I really like it.

What to do about stress-eating

Stress-eating (emotional eating when you’re not really hungry or your body doesn’t really need any more calories) is a very common issue for people coping with anxiety and/or depression.  Even in sub-clinical cases (where the difficulties with anxiety/depression is mild or transient) stress-eating can be a significant irritant and source of concern.  There’s no quick-fix for this difficulty, but there are some easy practices that quite often can act to reduce troubles with stress-eating.  

In terms of structural neurology, hunger and appetite appear to be mitigated by way of the amygdala, the hippocampus, the insula, and the orbitofrontal cortex.  Unfortunately, these same structural components are also heavily involved in experience of emotion.  And this may have much to do with how eating habits can be so often affected by feeling depressed and/or anxious.  

Put simply, feeling especially sad or worried accidentally tricks the brain into thinking that the body is hungry.  The involuntary aspects of our neurology are very susceptible to being tricked… and we can use that to our advantage.  
So, how do we trick our minds into thinking we are no longer hungry?  Of course the best (and most annoying) answer is to eat healthy and get lots of exercise.  Exercise gets the body to have a full parasympathetic reaction (an effective modulation of fight/flight stress).  But lets face it, getting lots of exercise can be pretty difficult when one is feeling depressed and/or anxious.  
Suggesting that a patient get more exercise almost always earns me the ‘Donna face’ - that look from the patient that sarcastically says, ‘oh thank you for suggesting something that is completely and entirely unhelpful.’

There are, however, easier things you can do that tricks your body into feeling its had exercise…
Here’s the easiest one: tense up the muscles in your arms and legs.  Curl your arms up into your chest constricting the muscles as hard as you can.  

Meanwhile, stretch your legs out, pointing your toes.  Hold this constricted pose for a count of ten.  

Then relax your muscles for another count of ten.  Repeat three times and then let your body fully relax, taking deep breaths in through the nose and out through your mouth.  

Doing this automatically causes a release of various hormones and neurotransmitters in the brain that are associated with an effective reaction to stress.  It sort of completes a circuit that says to the involuntary parts of your brain that a fight-or-flight stress was encountered and effectively dealt with.  In turn, a secondary wave of hormones are released that helps the body to feel relaxed.  In other words, you can receive the neurological benefits of exercising without actually exercising.  
This process basically ‘chills out’ the amygdala, hippocampus, insula, and the orbitofrontal cortex.  Which in turn, reduces appetite and switches off that insatiable hunger.  Practicing this shortly after eating breakfast, lunch or dinner will even further enhance its effectiveness in terms of curbing your appetite.  

Ok so.

I’ve read in a few fics the idea that Steve stress eats. Like, you’ll know when there’s something bugging him if all the 80% of the food in the tower disappears. And then there’s Steve huddled around an armful of snacks, glaring and guarding his hoard. He pouts with a mouthful of muffin as he argues “I don’t stress eat" despite looking like a rather protective and aggressive squirrel. The man burns through calories like a furnace on a good day, and he lived through a depression for goodness sake, so no one (not even Thor) wants to chance losing a hand by taking food from a super solider who’s eating his feelings.

But then, on the contrary, there’s Tony, who does the opposite. He loses his appetite completely when he’s stressed, doesn’t even think about eating (which is already a problem for him when he gets caught up in projects.)

Steve burns the excess calories off with extra hours in the gym (which is also a stress reliever), but Tony just keeps working through it until a bot forces a smoothie on him. It’s still not usually enough though, and the longer he’s stressed, the looser his shirts fit him. Pepper and Rhodey (and JARVIS) have been on him about it for ages, but there’s only so much they can do without living there with him (or having a corporeal body, in the AI’s case).

Then late late one night, Tony stumbles into the kitchen in search of more coffee and finds Steve there with his high carb hoard. Immediately, he blushes and glares, saying “I’m not stress eating” and Tony raises his hands defensively with “I didn’t say anything”.

Steve’s glare doesn’t let up, but he nods, and then notices that Tony is only bumming around the kitchen for coffee, not actual food, even though the man looks like he could stand an extra meal or three. “Aren’t you going to eat anything?” he asks, and Tony sits with his mug and shakes his head. He eyes Steve’s pile before half-smirking.

“Would there be anything left even if I was?”

The blush and glare grow deeper on Steve’s face, but there’s also a flare of shame and concern. He reaches into his pile and takes out a raspberry scone, then holds it out for Tony. The brunet just stares at it, blankly, and Steve just holds it closer.

“You need to eat, Tony.”
“I’m really not hungry.”
“I can hear your stomach from here.”
“It is a liar and a traitor.”

Steve’s right back to pouting again, “Look, come on, just, please?” He looks from the scone to the scientist mournfully. “I even picked the best one…”

Tony tries to keep down the chuckle that’s going to escape him at Cap’s whine and pitiful pout. "Are you sure you can give it up?” The pout increases but Steve stubbornly pushes the scone forward. Tony laughs lightly, “Alright, alright,” and takes it easily from the blond’s grip.

He thinks that Steve is going to take it back by how intently he’s staring at it, but Cap just frowns and says “Go on, eat it already.”

Tony slowly takes a nibble, and then a proper bite, and hot damn, Steve has good taste in snacks. His appetite finally starts creeping back as he swallows, and he holds onto the scone protectively, not wanting Steve to snatch back his prize.

But Tony’s surprised to see the pleased expression on his captain’s face, as is Steve himself. He looks a little mystified and is still blushing, before he digs into his pile again with enthusiasm and pushes a portion over. “Here, take these too.”

Tony wants to argue, really he does, but Steve just looks so damn pleased. He acquiesces and the two end up snacking together (with Steve’s pile still being quite considerably bigger than Tony’s), then actually talking about what’s been stressing them out.

The other Avengers start seeing Steve head down to Tony’s workshop with an armful of snacks and a determined look on his face. He then sits at a work table and pouts with his best puppy dog eyes until Tony gives in and sits with him to eat something. Chatting just comes naturally with that.

This, of course, leads to Steve making real meals, with proper vitamins and protein and everything, and taking them down to Tony (though he leaves plenty of leftovers in the fridge for the others) saying that “Thor looked like he was going to cry if I kept stealing all the pop tarts.”

And then Tony starts buying enough pizza for everyone once a week (and at least three boxes of Steve’s favourite) because “I’ll allow the introduction of vegetables into my life, Rogers, but I need some grease in my system.”

And they all begin eating together as a team and a family, though Steve always hunts Tony down with bags of chips in tow when he’s upset and JARVIS announces to Steve that there just so happens to be a fresh raspberry pie just delivered to the workshop for ‘no reason at all’ when Tony’s not at his best. The food always gets eaten (though still and unsurprisingly disproportionately), but they begin to realize that it’s not the food they’re seeking out when they’re stressed, but each other, and it’s been the best stress reliever yet.

(Well, until one time when Steve reaches over to wipe away a smear of raspberry jam at the corner of Tony’s mouth, and then follows it up with his own mouth. They then discover that stress relief can also be found on the workshop couch, or Steve’s bedroom wall, or the padded floor of the gym that one time when Clint interrupted by yelling "Oh god, now I’m deaf and blind!”)

So Steve stops hoarding and Tony’s shirts fit him right again, though if he ever shows up in the kitchen wearing one of Steve’s instead, big on him in a way that makes Steve preen and Tony grin, no one says anything.