Nutritionist: Preventing stress eating: "Chewing gum can be a good mnemonic"

Some people lose their appetite when they are stressed, while others can hardly stop eating.

Nutritionist: Preventing stress eating: "Chewing gum can be a good mnemonic"

Some people lose their appetite when they are stressed, while others can hardly stop eating. Why do people react so differently, Frau von Cramm?

Everyone knows people who are stressed and still thin. There are always exceptions. It is believed that not eating is the original response to stress. With a full stomach it is difficult to fight the famous saber-toothed tiger. But the rule is that people gain weight when they are stressed. Today, stress is mostly not associated with physical activity, food is always available. In addition, the body has learned that food has a calming effect. And the hormones also get involved.

The hormones are going crazy?

In the case of chronic stress, cortisol in particular is increased, which causes the blood sugar level to rise and leads to insulin release. This in turn ensures that the energy you consume goes directly into the short-term fat deposits - the belly fat grows. Cortisol also affects self-perception, we lose the sense of whether we are full or not. This thwarted self-perception is a big issue when it comes to excess kilos in stress.

So it's not real hunger that makes us eat the pots empty when we're chronically stressed?

No. The hormones fool us into thinking that we urgently need to replenish our energy stores because bad times are ahead. That is why it is important to train self-awareness. Yoga can help. The rule is: appetite comes suddenly. Everyone knows it, you walk past a bakery, it smells and your mouth waters. Hunger, on the other hand, builds up slowly and is sustainable.

Her new book says, "Stress is like a C celebrity: if it doesn't get noticed, it retreats into a corner and sulks." It sounds like you just have to ignore stress and the pounds will tumble. Is it that simple?

It is not that easy. Diet alone does not solve the problem. Behavior prevention is also important. That means changing your eating habits. However, one should not impose too many rules on oneself. Otherwise, this can lead to additional stress and excessive demands.

So how do you go about it?

It would be good to make a plan. This includes, for example, taking conscious breaks from eating. I think three meals a day makes sense. These should not be lean meals, but serve to eat when you are full. Between meals, however, the motto is: be rigorous, don't snack. And if you still really want to chew something, you can always reach for chewing gum.

chewing gum?

Chewing gum can be a good mnemonic. Studies have found that chewing has a calming effect and reduces stress. But that doesn't mean that you always have to eat. Chewing gum can have the same effect. But it should be low in calories. Raw food is also good, for example a supply of carrots. Everyone has to find out for themselves what tastes good and helps them. It's also important to create a good eating environment that doesn't lead to temptation.

What does that mean?

It helps to make a meal plan for the week, to write a shopping list and to stick to it. Structures are not to be underestimated, even if they are old-fashioned. Also, I can only encourage you not to stash candy. Studies have found that you eat twice as many chocolates when they are open and in sight. The temptation to grab already decreases when the box is closed and further when it is in the closed cupboard.

After a demanding day, a piece of comforting chocolate can be a blessing. Do you really have to ban it?

No. But it doesn't always have to be the chocolate when you get cravings for sweets. Instead, you can make a berry quiche, for example, which is full of fiber and vitamins and fills you up. You still get that cozy feeling from them. By the way: If you still don't want to do without chocolate, you should rather reach for milk chocolate in the evening. There are active ingredients in dark chocolate that act a little like caffeine. If you want to wind down before bed, I recommend the good old honey milk.

Mnemonic, dining environment, shopping lists - all of this sounds like tricking your body...

Changing eating habits is not something that happens overnight. This takes a while. For some it is quicker, for others it takes a year. It's a process. In the beginning it can help not to buy certain things or to choose the small instead of the XXL pack.

Is a change in diet the right decision in times when you don't know where your head is anyway?

It is important not to overdo it. If you don't have time, you can just eat a banana. And you don't necessarily have to make a chocolate and date cream for breakfast bread yourself, you can also find it in the supermarket. Another option is to pre-cook for several days, for example a large pot of soup, which then lasts for lunch breaks. Not everything needs to be changed at once. However, you also have to be clear: if I don't change anything, nothing will change.

And when do you see the first effects?

What immediately looks different is the blood count. This is a good way to see the successes. Blood lipid levels will improve, and blood pressure will probably improve as well. You will probably also lose a kilo or two in the first month – but not ten. But that wouldn't make sense either, because it would mean losing muscle mass.

Can you really eat away the stress with the right diet?

yes you can But you will only be able to keep up if you look at your own behavior and change something. Eating and behavior are closely related. If I'm not feeling well and I also eat junk, it makes everything worse. When I'm feeling bad, if I eat particularly good things that, for example, help to boost my immune system or get my sleeping rhythm back on track, then I'll feel better and my stress will be reduced. Lack of sleep is a side effect of stress, which can also lead to obesity.

Who sleeps little starts?

Cortisol levels are disturbed in stressed people. It should drop in the evening, but it doesn't. The result: melatonin, which causes tiredness, is not used. The lack of a good night's sleep, in turn, has an impact on other hormones. According to studies, those who sleep little have high ghrelin and low leptin levels. This means that the appetite is always there, and there is no feeling of satiety. A scientific hypothesis is therefore that this disorder can lead to overeating.

More kilos, hormones out of control and little sleep - is stress really all bad?

No. There is positive and negative stress. Stress is actually a life-saving action of the body. If we are running late and the tram threatens to pull away in front of us, the increased stress level ensures that we are particularly efficient in the short term, that we can run at turbo speed so that we can still catch the train. First of all, that's great. However, if stress is a permanent condition and the body cannot break it down through activity, then this has negative consequences - and can make you ill.

The book by Dagmar von Cramm and Jacob Drachenberg "Relax makes you slim: The best anti-stress recipes for mind and body" has been published by Gräfe und Unzer Verlag, 224 pages, 22 euros.

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