If your job is stressing you out, it’s more likely that you will overeat at dinnertime, new research has found. But a good night’s sleep can counter the effect of work stress and help reduce the chances that you’ll comfort eat in the evening.
The study in the Journal of Applied Psychology is one of the first to investigate how psychological experiences at work shape our eating patterns. “Employees who have a stressful workday tend to bring their negative feelings from the workplace to the dinner table, as manifested in eating more than usual and choosing junk food instead of healthy food,” said study co-author Chu-Hsiang Chang, a psychology professor at Michigan State University.
But she added: “Sleep helped people deal with their stressful eating after work. When workers slept better the night before, they tended to eat better when they experienced stress the next day.”
So why does stress make us want to stuff our faces? Professor Chang said people often used food to relieve and regulate a bad mood, because it’s in our nature to instinctively avoid negative feelings in favour of good ones. To add insult to injury, when you experience stress, your body reacts by storing fat around the middle. It does this because we haven’t evolved much since caveman times, when stress meant having to escape from a sabre tooth tiger. Your body would need to store the extra energy somewhere it is easy to access – your tummy.
In clinic, I see many clients who are dealing with the unwelcome side effects of leading a modern-day stressful life. Aside from working on creating meal plans that help your body deal more effectively with stress, I also work with clients to create healthy lifestyle habits, so they’re less likely to reach for the biscuits when the going gets tough.
Here’s a little exercise you might try for yourself at home.
A good nutrition and lifestyle plan can make an enormous difference when it comes to helping you deal with stress and its negative effects on your health and your waistline. We need to learn to give ourselves permission to relax, it’s an essential part of our wellbeing. If we don’t give ourselves the gift of time, we may end up with adrenal fatigue, constant bouts of illness or burnout. Remember to be a Human Being and not a Human Doing.
Yours in Health