Doing Life Together

woman eatingYou want to lose weight and know what you need to eat. But does stress make it harder to actually make healthy food choices?

Let’s say you are under stress at work. You have to pass a series of exams to get that needed promotion. So much rides on you making the grade. During your study time,  you reach for a snack. You can choose a big red apple or a thick fudge brownie. Did I mention you want to lose weight?

You go for the brownie! Self-control seems to vanish!

Brain scans now give us a clue why this is. According to a study in Neuron, stress impacts the brain’s decisions.

Think of the brain like a neural network composed of  many connections. All those connections are communicate with one another. When you experience stress, the communication in the brain changes. The signal to eat the brownie gets louder.

Cortisol, a stress hormone, activates taste; the immediate reward of that tasty brownie demands your attention; the parts of the brain responsible for decision-making and judgment are weakened.

What happens then is that your desire to lose the pounds goes out the window because your brain is shouting go for the tasty brownie. The more stress, the weaker the brain connections in the long term planning areas. The quick brownie fix wins!

Stress sets the stage for eating those high calorie foods. So all the good intentions in the world may not be enough to overcome stress eating if you are not aware that your self-control is decreasing. Of course, you always have a choice, but understanding how the brain is geared to pull you to the unhealthy snacks helps explain why we eat those foods under stress.

Important then, if you want to lose weight, deal with stress! Lowering your stress allows those brain connections to communicate better and process tastiness, value judgments and long-term planning so you can go for the apple instead of the brownie. Less stress, better self-control.

If you want to lose weight, manage your stress! It appears that stress influences taste and self-control.


For more, Press Pause Before You Eat by Dr. Linda Mintle


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