Do You Eat When You’re Anxious? Try This…

Do you often turn to food when you’re feeling anxious?

There are many reasons why you might do so, such as:

  • Dopamine: Food can be soothing due to the chemical changes it produces in your body.

    The act of eating—especially highly pleasurable foods like chocolate, cheese, cupcakes and chips—releases the feel-good chemical dopamine into your bloodstream.
  • Distraction: Eating can distract you from whatever is troubling you. 

    I have a friend who bakes cookies when she’s anxious. The time it takes to go grocery shopping then make, bake and eat the cookies easily provides two to three hours of distraction.

    Plus, she gets a dopamine hit from not only accomplishing something, but also from the pleasure provided by the cookies’ sight, smell and taste.
  • Conditioning: Perhaps you were taught from a young age to turn to food for comfort.

    You may have been conditioned by a well-meaning parent who gave you cookies and milk to soothe your worries, or by media messages that promised relief in a bowl of ice cream, basket of fries or bottle of wine.

Even though it may not seem like it, turning to food to alleviate your anxiety is actually a form of self-care. You’re simply trying to make yourself feel better—and your strategy often works, albeit temporarily.

Don't Fret, Try This Instead
When you feel anxious, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode.

Your rational brain shuts down and your primitive brain takes over. Your ability to think, reason and consider the long-term consequences of your actions is diminished. You basically go offline.

The fastest, simplest way to come back online is by pausing and taking a few deep breaths.

This will shift your body from the stress response to the relaxation response, the state you need to be in to reactivate your rational brain and make more thoughtful, intentional decisions.

You can take three to four long, slow breaths, or practice a more formal breathing exercise.

I’m a big fan of Dr. Weil’s 4-7-8 Breathing Technique. I teach it to all of my clients, who find it extremely helpful with reducing their anxiety and emotional eating.

Why You Crave Ice Cream, Chips, Steak or Mom's Mac 'n' Cheese

What foods do you crave the most?

There are many reasons why you crave a particular food ranging from nutritional imbalances to emotional hungers. Here are some common food cravings and why you might have them:

  • Crunchy foods like chips and crackers: needing to express frustration or anger

  • Warm, soothing dishes like soup, stew and oatmeal: seeking emotional warmth

  • Spicy fare like Mexican and Thai: hankering intellectual or emotional stimulation; something to spice up your life

  • Protein-dense foods like meat, eggs, nuts or nut butter: yearning to feel more grounded, strong or focused

  • Nostalgic foods like cookies and milk, grandma's pie, dad's pancakes or mom's mac 'n' cheese: desiring the ease, security and comfort of childhood

  • Smooth, creamy foods like ice cream, pudding, peanut butter, mashed potatoes and avocado: longing to soothe and relax an anxious mind

  • Sugary treats: craving a mood lift, energy boost, expansion or more life sweetness

  • Chocolate: lacking magnesium or desiring love or intimacy

Look Upstream
Of course, all cravings aren't so black and white. Often, they are driven by numerous factors. I love helping my clients deconstruct their cravings. Sugar is one of my specialties; I'm a pro at uncovering the true source of a wicked sweet tooth.

When it comes to cravings, I look upstream. Meaning, I search for the root cause. You might know you reach for cookies or candy when you're feeling blue or low energy. The next step is to determine what's causing your funk or fatigue and keep working backwards until you land on the true trigger (hint: it's often a deeply ingrained core belief).

There are always exquisitely good reasons why you crave what you crave and eat what you eat. Peeling away the layers until you find the ultimate source of your cravings will empower you to finally release them.

Do You Have this Disorder?

Sometimes I have to tell clients to take a hike. 

And, I literally mean, take a hike.

It's often one of the best remedies for whatever's ailing them.

Nature-Deficit Disorder
For many of us, our modern lifestyle has removed us from nature disconnecting us from her rhythms and cycles and leading to what's been coined "nature-deficit disorder." As a result, we experience higher levels of stress, low energy, weaker immunity, mood swings, brain fog, behavioral problems, and more adverse health conditions.

Can you relate?

My Outdoor Habit
From my coastal hikes to sunrise runs in Golden Gate Park, spending time outdoors both grounds and uplifts me. It calms my mind, energizes my body, gets my creative juices flowing, miraculously diminishes my problems, and fills my heart with gratitude for all the gifts Mother Nature grants us each day.

Quite frankly, I can be pretty cranky without my daily dose of M.N.

Mother Nature's Healing Touch
Numerous studies have found that communing with Mother Nature can elevate overall health and well-being, including:

  • decreasing blood pressure and heart rate

  • boosting immunity

  • alleviating depression 

  • lowering stress, tension and anxiety 

  • improving self-esteem, focus and attention (including ADD)

  • enhancing cognition and creativity 

  • bestowing a sense of connectedness, meaning and purpose 

More than anything, Mother Nature nourishes our soul. She wisely reminds us that we are never truly alone. She rejuvenates by attuning us to the earth's natural rhythms.

The Best Remedy
We instinctively know that Mother Nature is good for us on so many levels. Yet, our fast-paced, indoor, screen-addicted culture makes it so easy to forget how essential she is to our vitality. 

Let me be a little birdie on your shoulder gently reminding you that sometimes the very best remedy for an unwanted condition or state is not in your medicine cabinet, refrigerator, wine rack, or some diet book. It's literally just outside your door.

What small step can you take this week to reconnect with Mother Nature?