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stress on healthy eating

Go Zen: The Negative Effects of Stress on Healthy Eating

stress on healthy eating

Zen, Stress and Meals: Deep Breaths Before Eating

I like the word zen.

Zen is a Buddhist word that originated in China and has evolved in modern times as a word that means stay calm. To quote from the Urban Dictionary,

One way to think of zen is this: a total state of focus that incorporates a total togetherness of body and mind. Zen is a way of being. It also is a state of mind. Zen involves dropping illusion and seeing things without distortion created by your own thoughts.
“Sun is warm, grass is green.”
I often tell my friends who are feeling stressed or overwhelmed, “stay zen” or just ZEN.
Stress is a hidden killer, long periods of stress can havoc ill effects on our health such as adding to our risk of heart disease, some cancers, adult onset diabetes, high blood pressure and arthritis. And now studies have pointed to the negative effects of stress on healthy eating.
It was with great interest on my ‘zen, stress-reducing’ power walk last week that I listened to NPR’s Alison Aubrey’s podcast Chill Out: Stress Can Override Benefits of Healthy Eating.
The main point of the article, based on a study in Molecular Psychiatry, is that the positive effects of eating a healthy diets is negated by stress which causes an increase in our inflammatory response in our body. And this is normal i am having a bump in the day stressors: things like last minute child care issues, a flat tire on the way to work, studying for final exams.
And the bad news is: the researchers showed that these negative effects on our inflammatory response are from stress the day before meals!

Inflammatory Responses to High Saturated Fat Meals Under Stress

Researchers in this double-blind crossover study had 58 healthy women eat either a high-saturated fat meal or a plant oil fat meal. They measured inflammatory response in their blood levels with and without stress. Their stress was calculated by the “Daily Inventory of Stressful Events.” The women without stress had less inflammatory response (which is good) to the healthier plant oil meal. As expected, they also had higher inflammation to the less healthy saturated fat meal.

However, when a woman had prior-day stress, the study concluded that even after eating the healthier meal, she had an inflammatory response that was the same for when she ate the saturated fat diet without stress. This showed that stress negated the benefits of eating a healthy meal.

Stress on Healthy Eating Call to Action: Find ways to decrease and handle stress

Should we just give up a healthy diet and eat the donuts and croissants for breakfast?

The lasting message in studies like this is that stress has immediate, and long-lasting effects on our health. A small bit of stress is good for the body, we need response to our environment to react quickly or handle what is coming at us. But when we aren’t zen for a few days, when our ‘go zen’ is out to breakfast, lunch and dinner, this is when it is time to evacuate the build-up of daily stress. And my recommendation is to practice some daily ways to decrease and handle stress so that when you are having a really bad day you won’t lose it. What do you do to keep your stress level at a normal balance? I like to do power-walks while listening to NPR radio in my earphones. I also go to the gym several hours a week, as a priority. And I eat croissants on the weekends because life is too short not to imbibe sometimes.

stress on healthy eating

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2 Responses to Go Zen: The Negative Effects of Stress on Healthy Eating

  1. Maria October 6, 2016 at 22:04 #

    Great topic! I love all the stress reduction techniques I have learned over the years. Techniques such as yoga, deep breathing, nature walks, savoring my food, cooking, and relaxing with my family have brought calm and balance to my life. (There was a time when I believed that being stressed all the time was normal and something to be proud of because it meant I was so busy giving it my all!) Stay zen!

  2. Hannah @CleanEatingVeggieGirl October 6, 2016 at 16:25 #

    I definitely need to start incorporating deep breathing into my meal routine. It can be so hard to remember to do sometimes though! 🙁

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