Stress can often feel very similar to hunger.
Think of a time when you were acutely hungry, and the last time you were highly stressed or anxious.
Like most people, you may feel a physical sensation and discomfort in your stomach region. You may feel irritable, lightheaded, and a bit jittery. Your heart rate can fluctuate up or down, or you even get mild headaches.
Not only can these two sensations feel the same, the cortisol (stress hormone) reaction, when triggered on a lesser level, will often be interpreted as hunger and can drive people to eat.
You can calm these hunger/stress sensations and symptoms by eating. Just know handling things this way has a very high price.
When people start to feel the effects of stress, many people look for food. They mistakenly feed their false hunger and stress reaction to feel better and create a self-medication cycle with food.
Our stress hormone, cortisol, has a very tight relationship with insulin, or the hormone that controls how we make energy in the cells of our body and gain body fat. When these two powerful hormones team up, it can be tough to tell them apart, and they can compound your urge to eat to silence them.
Stress creates a cortisol reaction. You think it is hunger. You eat, and you feel better. When you eat, you raise insulin, insulin, and cortisol gang up, and you get both stress response and drive insulin resistance, making you hungry again. One can force the other, pushing you to not only eat but crave the lowest quality, easiest “hit” you can get in the form of sugar, grains, and processed carbs. This triggers cortisol, raises insulin, and promotes insulin resistance and weight gain.
Whenever you feel junk food cravings or believe you are hungry at a time that doesn’t seem to fit your eating patterns, the first thing you can do is take a 5-8 minute leisurely walk.
Historically, when we triggered our stress hormone cortisol, it was followed by physical action to fight or flee. In today’s world, we trigger our stress reaction all day long and don’t move our body to dissipate those hormones, and they can build up and run havoc on our health, energy levels, weight, and mood.
Studies show that taking a slow walk for around 5-8 minutes can effectively help burn those stress hormones out of our system, reduce insulin resistance, satisfy our false hunger and cravings without food, and keep our minds sharp and anxious low. I think you should plan and do it 5-8 times a day….outside, no sunglasses, no earphones, and no hands in pockets.
Walking and breathing are about as fundamental to our life experience as anything. Don’t let these seemingly, “too easy” stress and hunger-crushing mechanisms go to waste.
Your mood, tension levels, and belt line will thank you for it!
We can do better!