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.
So this is inspired by M from @poly-bus . They wrote an incredible story about being touch-starved based on their own experiences. So I was inspired to write something based on my “sickness” as I like to call it. And please, if anyone is struggling with either of these or anything else please reach out to someone. Ok, here we go…
“Oh god. Oh god.” Smii7y whispered between the heaping bites of food. His hands trembled and his vision was blurry from all the tears he held back. He could no longer taste the flavor of the food.
Dear god this was the worst episode of stress eating yet.
He shoveled the last bite of food into his mouth and forced it down his throat. He sat and stared at the wall, eyes wide and unseeing. The sound of his fork hitting the plate on the table gave him a headache. His hand lowered gently, shakily to his stomach. A lump formed in his throat as he felt his stomach bulging from all the food churning in his stomach.
He couldn’t do it.
He raced to the bathroom. Leaning over the toilet, he gripped the seat until his knuckles turned white.
“I can do it. I HAVE to do it.” he told himself. Slowly, he lifted his hand to his mouth. He inhaled. A second later he was plunging his fingers as deep into his throat as he could get. He choked multiple times, but he refused to give up.
Some of the food that he had eaten not even fifteen minutes ago came back up. He did this multiple times. Choking himself until every last bit of GUILT was gone from his system. Until he was empty.
His head softly hit the toilet seat and he allowed himself to finally breathe. His body shook and he felt cold.
“Smii7y… What…” Smii7y’s head whipped up and around. “What the FUCK?” John stood there in the bathroom doorway. The apartment fell silent as the two stared at each other with horror written on both of their faces.
Smii7y hadn’t realized he was crying until a sob ripped its way through his lips and he collapsed to the floor in a mess. John was by his side in an instant. For hours John comforted Smii7y. Once Smii7y had finally calmed down enough to stop crying, John begged him to explain what was going on.
John hoisted Smii7y into his lap.
“I-I have these… There are times when my anxiety- FUCK!” Smii7y yelled in a desperate attempt to get his words out. John rubbed soothing circles into his back and reassured him that it was ok. “Sometimes my stress and anxiety become too much to handle and I break down into these horrible episodes of “sickness”. I start e… I start stress eating and I just can’t stop. And after I’ve eaten all that I can eat, I just feel so ASHAMED. So I turned to the only way I could get rid of that shame. Throwing it all up…“ Smii7y’s voice was barely above a whisper when he finished.
"How long have these episodes been going on for?” John asked quietly. Smii7y looked up. John was staring at the floor, eyes lost in a sea of emotions.
“They started about three years ago…” Smii7y admitted, focusing his gaze on John’s hoodie. John’s arms tightened around Smii7y’s waist and all of a sudden John stood up and started carrying Smii7y.
What are you doing?“ Smii7y asked aloud. John glanced down st him and smiled softly.
"Getting you to bed. It’s late.” John chuckled. He walked down to Smii7y’s room and lightly kicked the door open. Smii7y stole a look at his clock on his dresser.
Smii7y was placed gently on his bed. Exhaustion hit him as soon as his comforter was over him. John kneeled down next to his bed.
“Hey… If you ever need anyone, you KNOW you ALWAYS have me. If you ever feel like you’re going to have another episode like that, call me immediately. I will be over here ASAP. That’s an order. Now get some sleep. I know you must be tired. I’ll be on the couch if you need.” John smiled. Smii7y returned the smile sleepily and nodded.
His eyes started to close. John reached out and gave Smii7y’s hand a squeeze.
Smii7y was lulled to sleep by the soothing voice of John telling him it would all be ok.
That he was ok.
So yea, the writing isn’t that good and it’s short, but I feel like I portrayed my experience with this “sickness” as well. And please, like I said earlier, if any of you are struggling with something like this or anything else, please reach out to someone. Your health- whether it be physical, mental, or emotional- is important. I luv all you and I would hate to hear that you’re struggling with something alone.
[[EDIT: This would have been posted so much sooner, but Tumblr decided to be a dick. And if you feel like you need an explanation as to what this "sickness” is, just go ahead and ask and I’ll make a post about it.]]
Good morning, all! I’m a little recharged. Y’know, I’m really happy I journaled last night. I feel like I averted a complete panic attack. Talked with my sister more, which always helps. We’re in this together. My fiance is working from home today. Man, as much as we really love the Subaru, stuff keeps happening to it. A pebble hit our windshield so now we’re waiting on Safelite.
Steps: I’ve been keeping up with the gym for a few weeks now, but I think I need to keep my steps between 10,000-15,000. Now, I’ve been getting between 20,000-25,000 very often lately and I know you’re thinking, “Why on Earth move less?” I simply do not rest enough and I seem to eat much more appropriately for an activity level around 10,000-15,000 steps and what I do at the gym that morning.
Squats: I’ve decided since last month was all about doing push ups, I’m going to take it upon myself to do squats this month. So, 100 squats every day in April. I’ll probably still do push ups on my upper body days. They’ve sort of just fallen into that routine and that’s awesome because I actually saw results!
My Monthly Workout Challenge: I am so excited to get started with this. I don’t even know what team I’m on yet, but I’m so ready!
Bits and Bobs
Migraines: They were much better this weekend. The weather really improved, which is the bulk of it. I felt like I was coming down with one last night because I was so emotional (it’s stupid how easy it is to trigger one sometimes) but I sat in a really dark room for a while and it called down. I’m becoming better at identifying triggers and my more subtle prodrome cues. It’s easy to tell when you have an aura, y’know? It’s not so easy to connect every little dull ache, tingle, or mood swing to prodrome, though.
Results of Push Up Challenge: I didn’t take any pictures, and the results are only really palpable because of my skin, anyway. I’m actually really happy with the result after one month. It’s made more progress on my triceps than most things have all year, so I’m going to keep doing them regularly!
Things That Make Me Smile
It would have been easy to convince myself to eat a lot of stupid things yesterday, but I sat down and wrote down everything I was thinking and feeling. That’s what that post yesterday was all for and about. I really recommend that anytime you’re feeling strong emotions to write something down, even if it’s a few sentences. At the end of the day, the “streak” is just a number but I’m really proud of that ‘24′ this morning.
It was a good food and exercise day today. I did some emotional eating last night after receiving my bad phone call at work, but I didn’t go crazy and I got back on track today! The walk definitely helped burn some stress and clear my mind today.
People in tv shows be stress eating and I’m over here unable to eat when I’m chilling on a beach in the Caribbean with someone massaging my feet and kittens piled on top of my lap, let alone when I’m stressed.
So, I’ve managed to make it through my first month of nursing school. With that, has come with a lot of stress, crying, and eating. I’ve recognized my struggle with emotional eating and have had to face that problem head-on. I haven’t been posting weigh-ins these past few weeks because I haven’t lost any weight. I’ve managed to maintain my weight this month, and have just been fluctuating between 187-190 lbs. Today, I made a promise to myself to get back on track and to stop making excuses for my poor eating. Emotional eating is definitely extremely hard to control, and so far I have begun to manage my cravings and how much I am eating. I’ve barely had time to workout, and I want to get back into the gym more than anything. This week, my goals are to watch my eating and find time to get in at least a 30-minute workout. I’ve learned that it is perfectly normal to fall off the wagon, and I’m focusing on getting back on track the best I can. Wish me luck!
I don’t know
that I’ve posted about this before, but there is something I have really been
struggling with. My husband and I have
been trying to have another baby for about a year and a half, which I know some people struggle much longer than that. But, we have a 3-year old son now (turning 4 in
December), who we had no trouble conceiving. This time around, we tried for a year on our
own before going to the infertility doctors, who have basically said that we
have unexplained secondary infertility, which basically means they have no idea
why we are struggling to get pregnant now when we didn’t before. And don’t get
me wrong, I’m so grateful for my son and love him unconditionally, but it’s
that feeling of our family being incomplete and the continuous let down every
month that’s just taking its toll. Add into it that I have these $200 pregnancy
tests at the clinic and get the results in a phone call at work. Before, I could at least take a stupid cheap
test and cry in the comfort of my own home. I had a rough day today, because I had to go
into the clinic to take a pregnancy test this morning and then got the call
during work that it was negative yet again.
So, I receive this call during my workday, break down crying, go out to
my car so I can cry in privacy since there’s no privacy in my office, and now
my emotions are so all over the place that all I keep thinking about is turning
to food for comfort. I feel like this
has been a big contributor to my poor eating habits over the last year. It’s like this vicious cycle of doing okay
and then once I get the bad news every month, all I want to do is eat. Hopefully I can stay strong and not get out
of control since I have been doing really well with my eating and exercise over
the last couple weeks. Anyway, it’s nice
to vent a little bit about this. Hugs to
anyone out there that has struggled with infertility and/or losses.
This has not been the greatest food week with so much work stress (I’m starting to contemplate if all this stress is worth it), but I’m excited because I bought a new water bottle tonight just for crystal light drinks to help me cut back on my soda intake at work! Hope this helps!