Anxious Eating and Bariatric Surgery
Why do we eat when we are anxious or worried?
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Anxious, worried, overwhelmed
We all know what it feels like to be anxious and worried. If we didn’t know before 2020, we certainly do now!
One description about anxiety that I found online (source: Mental Health First Aid) described it in a way I could understand. Stress comes from an external cause. Let’s use a deadline at work as an example.
Anxiety takes that stressor and adds fear to it. Now the stress from the deadline has turned into not reaching the deadline and losing your job.
Fear is often at the root of anxiety and anxiety disorders are some of the most prevalent psychological conditions in our world. The good news is they are also very treatable.
Anxiety, Worry and Eating
What is the science behind why we eat when we are anxious?
For one, we can look back to cortisol. The same hormone that dumps out into our blood when we are stressed and drives us to eat high sugar and fat to fuel up because we are now in fight or flight mode.
Because at the root of it, is stress. Then we add fear.
This can also cause a lot mindless eating. When our minds are running, we may be flying through a pile of snacks and hardly notice!
Much like all the emotions, the key is to get to the root cause.
In order to get to the root cause, we need to get a place of calm so we can think more clearly. You might remember in the stress eating blog I touched on the Parasympathetic Nervous System.
This is the system in the body that tells your brain you are not in danger and moves you from fight or flight to “rest and digest.” It is a more restful state for your body and your heart rate, blood pressure and respiration rate return to baseline.
This also allows cortisol levels to come down. You can think more clearly about the stress trigger, what you can do to manage it and if the things you are worrying about are really going to happen.
Sometimes the things we are stressing, never come to pass and we spent so much time worrying about it! Other times, it does come to pass but worrying about it didn’t help us to be more prepared. (I say all things things knowing full well I have room to grow too!)
Tips for returning to a restful state
If you feel your anxiety and anxious eating is more than you can manage, reach out to professional mental health support. It is SO worth it and there is a good chance you will wish you had done it sooner!
You can try calling the number on the back of your insurance card and ask about your mental health benefits and how to find a provider. You can also ask around to friends, family or your church for a recommendations. Another great resource is Betterhelp.com.
If you are fretting, take simple steps to engage your Parasympathetic Nervous System to get back to calm. Deep breathing, nature, sunshine, music slower than 60 beats per minute (think yoga music) will all help in a moment of anxiety.
On the broader scale, look at your sleep habits, your hydration and your overall food intake. When your body is well cared for, you are more set up to handle stress. When anything is missing your basic care, you aren’t as stress resilient.
Stay tuned, next up anger and eating
We have several more emotions to cover! This emotional eating blog series is a tidbit of the information I’ve covered for members during our Winter Get Focused Challenge.
This information will be released in a video course format and made available to members.
Stress vs. Anxiety – Knowing the Difference Is Critical to Your Health
2 thoughts on “Anxious Eating”
I am very anxious mainly at night I can’t sleep I tend to sleep for one hour then wake up very hungry and can’t go back to sleep without a eat I need help
@Sharna Moulton I would encourage you to reach out to a professional! When anxiety is at the root of it, a mental health professional is the person to help you navigate through that. I know I mentioned this above but my advice is to try calling the number on the back of your insurance card and ask about your mental health benefits and how to find a provider. You can also ask around to friends, family or your church for a recommendations. Another great resource is Betterhelp.com.