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Eating in stressful situations: when the cravings for sweets torture us


With stress, the desire for sweets increases
Many people almost automatically "grab" sweets or chips in stressful situations. We often do not even notice that we are constantly reaching for the candy bag under time pressure or that the bar of chocolate has almost been eaten again. We'll show you what you can do about the food cravings and which healthy foods can satisfy your cravings for sweets.

Hormones control our appetite
Whether hectic at work, trouble with your partner or an extremely long to-do list: For many people, stress means that they use chocolate, pastries or fatty snacks more often than usual. “Around 40 percent of people eat more because of stress” said André Kleinridders from the German Institute for Nutritional Research in an interview with the news agency "dpa". But how does the sudden craving for sweets arise? Where does it come from that we suddenly seem to have an unrestrained desire for a schnitzel with french fries, although this food otherwise leaves us rather cold?

The hormones are responsible, because during stress, the hormone adrenaline is released, which puts the body on alert. This ensures that at the moment of "acute danger" we do not feel an appetite to run or fight. "A system that was useful in our days and was essential for survival," explains Kleinridders.

The body recovers the energy
When the stress is over and relaxation occurs, the body tries to retrieve the energy previously used. For this reason, many people have an appetite for particularly easily digestible carbohydrates, such as Chips, particularly large, said Lars Selig, head of the nutrition clinic at Leipzig University Hospital, to the news agency.

Even if the tension lasts longer, the release of stress hormones from the group of glucocorticoids is encouraged. This can result in us feeling appetite even though the body basically doesn't need any energy at all. The reason for this is that the cognitive stress to which we are often exposed today (e.g. when working on a PC) uses up far fewer reserves than was the case with our ancestors through flight or fighting. But not everyone uses sweets or greasy food more when stressed - around 40 percent eat less than usual, with the remaining 20 percent showing no change, Kleinridders informs.

Do not reward children with chocolate
The so-called neuronal reward system in the brain also influences our eating behavior. This plays a central role when the enjoyment of sweets is combined with a feeling of joy and well-being. "Anyone who learned as a child that sweets are used as a reward will want to reward themselves with sweets as an adult," says Selig. The expert believes that changing this is difficult - so the best way is not to start rewarding or cheering up children with chocolate.

Do not keep sweets in the drawer
But what can I do when the cravings arise? It is often helpful if you make sure that you only put a few sweets in the cart when shopping. Likewise, no “emergency ration” of chocolate or gummy bears should be stored in the desk drawer. Because "stress increases impulsiveness and reduces cognitive decision-making, so it is difficult to cope with inner desires," explains Kleinridders.

You shouldn't be overly strict with yourself, however. Because bans make sweets even more attractive, warns Prof. Christoph Klotter, nutrition psychologist at Fulda University of Applied Sciences. As the expert explains, the preference for sweets is innate. This usually provides us with calories and helps us to identify harmless foods - “Both were vital to surviving in our times,” said Klotter.

Snacking can quickly get out of control
From the nutritional psychologist's point of view, it is not dramatic if, for example, chocolate is sometimes used as a “nerve food” in stressful situations. "If, for example, students take more sweets during the exam phase, that's perfectly fine," says Klotter.

However, it can be problematic if people eat constantly to compensate for negative emotions. Then the occasional snack can quickly get out of control. "In the worst case scenario, this can lead to real eating attacks, after which you have an even worse conscience," the expert continues.

The best tips to avoid cravings

1.) If stress is the trigger for the cravings, it is important to first find out what causes it. In the next step, you should consider how you could cope with such a situation - without sweets.

2.) It often helps to pause briefly at critical moments and, for example, to do some conscious breathing exercises. Likewise, various stress relief methods can be a good way to relax and to distract attention from the craving for sweets. For example, yoga, meditation or autogenic training have proven successful.

3.) In case of permanent stress, e.g. on the job, should be actively addressed. Often it helps to have a clarifying conversation with the boss or colleagues in order to solve the conflict and to be able to work "carefree" in the true sense of the word.

4.) Drink enough! Take in at least 1.5 liters of liquid during the day, preferably water, unsweetened tea or a fruit juice spritzer. This reduces appetite and stimulates the metabolism.

5.) Make sure that you move enough every day. Because physical activity distracts and makes you feel good. Those who feel fit and healthy often automatically choose fruit rather than candy bars.

6.) Those who have so far rewarded themselves with sweets should think about what else they could enjoy. Whether a visit to the cinema, fresh flowers or a visit to the sauna: "Everyone has to think for themselves: what amuses my mood?" Says Selig.

7.) To satisfy the need for "sweets", e.g. Carrots, cucumbers and ginger tea help. Other alternatives to sweets are honey and nuts. But be careful: These should only be enjoyed in small quantities, since they contain many calories in addition to important nutrients. (No)

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