I was driving today and thinking about the link between anxiety and cravings and wondered, what comes first: the craving or the anxiety? Does the anxiety trigger the cravings or do the cravings trigger the anxiety?
I was thinking this out loud and my 16 year old son said “Obviously the anxiety comes first or otherwise why would people stress eat?”, he’s so smart 🙂
I used to get a LOT of anxiety, I still do, I’m not gonna lie. And I used to deal with my anxiety by eating. Usually it would be sweets, or a drive thru Starbucks for a frappacino and some marble cake. It was never carrots and hummus.
So why does anxiety cause craving sugar, sweets, chocolate, and high carb foods?
Stress makes us feel tired and taps the body’s energy resources much harder than normal. When your body feels low energy, it wants quick fuel and the quickest are high energy foods…you got it, sugar. Sugar raises your blood sugar which gives you a temporary surge of energy which makes you feel happy. This is why when you feel super stressed out or anxiety, you crave sweets. It’s your body trying to refuel. And sometimes the quickest way to get some sugar in your body is through junk food – cookies, marble cake and frappacinos.
Next time you’re having a mad sweet or junk craving, it’s most likely your body, and your mind, reacting to stress.
Unfortunately the relief you get from the immediate sugar is short lived. You might get a super rush and feel less anxious for a bit but then you go into sugar crash and feel even worse. Well that sucks.
How can you calm down anxiety without giving in to cravings?
- Try healthy food options to bust anxiety and reduce cravings:
- Eat some complex carbs such as an apple with nut butter and cinnamon. Cinnamon is a natural blood sugar lowering spice. And it helps stop the cravings in my opinion. Any combo of fruit/veggie and a nut butter will work. You can even sprinkle a little honey on top. How about a slice of Ezekial bread with nut butter, banana and cinnamon? yum
- Foods that calm anxiety are berries, apples, oranges, beans, avocado, fish, raw nuts and seeds. Be sure your diet includes and abundance of fresh organic fruit and veggies plus healthy fats like avocado, olives, olive oil.
- Make some homemade trail mix with raw nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. It tastes sweet and will nourish you and not cause a crash. Be sure to get dried fruit without added sugar.
- Make Fudgy Date Balls – this is my go to recipe when I’m having bad cravings
- In a blender or food processor mix together:
- 1 1/2 cups medjool dates, pits removed
- 1 tbsp plus 2 tsp cacao or cocoa powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- optional 1/2 cup raw nuts (cashews, almonds, walnuts, pecans)
- Roll into small bite sized balls. You can roll in shredded coconut, too.
- In a blender or food processor mix together:
- Try some stress busting moves:
- Stop and take a breath..literally. Sit down, close your eyes, and breath. Breath in for a count of 6, hold for a count of 3, breath out for a count of 6. Repeat until you feel calm.
- Go outside and breath some fresh air and feel the sun on your face. Hug a tree even! When you do this you are pulling fresh prana, or life force, into your energy body. The air, the sun, and the earth all send you healing prana. Try standing barefoot in the grass for extra goodness.
- Exercise does a brain and body good. Physical activity is something your body craves (even if your conscious brain hates it sometimes). To make it fun for you, your brain actually releases fun chemicals like serotonin, endorphins and yes, dopamine. The great thing is even non-strenuous exercise can help increase dopamine. Walking, yoga, hiking, biking, whatever makes you happy.
- Unplug – step away from your phone, tablet, laptop, tv. Social media and tv are super stressful and you should take a daily break from them.
- Have your own dance party. Crank you favorite song and dance away.
- Call a friend. You don’t have to talk about your stress but just get your mind off of it for a bit. Be sure to call a friend who is typically upbeat and fun.
- Meditate. This is my favorite way to unwind. You can use a guided meditation, listen to soft music with your eyes closes, lay on the grass and stare at the sky, sit quietly, draw, whatever you find calming..do that.
- Chop veggies and fruit. Seriously this is therapeutic for me. Plus as a bonus my veggies for dinner are done, and my fruit and veggies for tomorrows smoothies are done, too.
The next time you find yourself reaching for junk food when you’re anxious, also know that the sugar has a terrible boomerang effect and you’ll feel even more anxious after you come down from the sugar high. This is especially true when sugar and caffeine are combined. Just say no to that sugary frappacino!
I would love to hear your tips and thoughts below.