Why can't I eat while under stress?

Food and stress

Everyone knows stress in everyday life and at work. For many people, stress affects the diet. While one is constantly reaching for food, the other loses his appetite when stressed. Neither is healthy. Daniela Heß, a nutrition expert at Siemens Company Health Insurance Fund (SBK), knows helpful tips for healthy eating behavior in stressful times.

Stress eating and loss of appetite

There are many reasons for stress: a busy schedule, anger with colleagues, time pressure. The coping strategies are as varied as the triggers. Eating behavior in particular is influenced by stress and strain. Basically, there are two types: the stress eater and the loss of appetite.

The stress eater tries to balance tension and irritation with food. Usually he eats significantly more under stress, often too sweet or too high in fat. The reason: Stress puts a strain on the body, the brain needs more energy in the form of carbohydrates. In addition, the stress eater often finds the piece of chocolate in between or the bratwurst on the way home as a consolation or balance. “The result is often overweight. This is also the case if the stress eater has forgotten how to perceive the natural signals of saturation because of the sheer tension, ”explains Daniela Hess. Especially when the stressful phase lasts longer, the body stores a lot of excess energy in fat deposits. Stress eaters often get into a stress spiral: the body lacks important minerals and vitamins due to the unbalanced diet. The result is food cravings, which again bring more stress and obesity with them.

Other people, on the other hand, do not suffer from cravings when they are stressed, but from anorexia. The hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, which the body releases under tension, are to blame. They ensure that the heart and muscles are optimally supplied with blood. The body is ready to perform at its best; all of our attention is focused on existing problems. A full stomach only bothers you. Digestion is therefore restricted and blood sugar levels rise. Many also feel nauseous from the stress. At least they think about food. Although this eating behavior does not cause obesity, it is still not healthy. With sustained stress, the appetite-less loses more and more weight. In addition, the ability to perform and concentrate decreases because the brain lacks carbohydrates.

Conscious and balanced diet

Daniela Hess from SBK gives some tips on how to eat healthily in stressful times. The nutrition expert's basic rule for those suffering from food cravings and those with an appetite is: "Eat enough, regularly and healthily."

She advises stress eaters to always have healthy snacks such as fruit or a small portion of nuts close at hand. You should also make sure that you never eat on the side or at work. Stress eaters have to learn again to listen to their bodies and to listen carefully to whether they are really hungry. A glass of water or a short walk can often help relieve tension.

Eating consciously is also important for those without an appetite. Meals should be firmly planned and adhered to, even if hunger is a long time coming. "Even small portions ensure performance if they are rich in vitamins and nutrients," explains Hess. "At the same time, regulated and healthy eating also contributes to balance and well-being."


09/09/2014 | Katrin Stegherr / SBK