Stress can either cause a person to overeat or shut down their appetite. About one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as eight or more on a 10-point scale, according to an American Psychological Association survey.
“Overeating and undereating are both reactions to stress, anxiety and pressure,” Director of the Student Health and Counseling Center, Kathleen Camelo said.
Overeating is one of the stress-related behaviors. People may find themselves eating more because it makes them feel better, and they turn to food for comfort and stress relief, according to Camelo. On the other hand, she said some people are too anxious that they start to lose their appetite and starve themselves.
Both overeating or undereating can have a negative effect on a person’s body, according to Camelo. Research shows that people often seek high-calorie, high-fat foods during periods of stress, and when people are stressed, their bodies store more fat than when they are relaxed. As a result, their blood pressure and sugar level might be affected Camelo said.
“It can cause diabetes as well,” Camelo said. “You gain weight quickly, especially if you are on the verge of being overweight.”
Undereating works the same way, according to her. People can lose weight quickly, and their metabolism can decrease. She said people can feel even more tired and feeble because of this.
“I am definitely the ‘self-soothe-with-more-food-than-normal’ type when it comes to stress,” senior public relation major KahMun Lee said. “Eating distracts me from the stress, and sugary treats cheers me up.”
She revealed that she always feels hungry whenever she is stressed out.
“I tend to snack a lot on junk food,” Lee said. “Sometimes, I either watch a very sad movie or a comedic movie.”
When the urge to eat hits, it is all she can think about.
“But you also feel guilty for overeating afterwards,” Lee said. “Those emotional habits can sabotage your diet.”
She believes people should practice mindful eating in order to regain control over themselves.
“I think overeating and undereating are not only bad for your health but they are also bad for your anxiety,” Lee said. “You become overweight if you eat too much, and you may not be giving your body enough nutrients if you stop eating.”
Beside eating, she finds listening to music an effective way to release her stress.
“Music can help me elevate the stress and negative emotions, preferably upbeat pop songs,” Lee said.
She also recommended exercising would be a good way for everybody to deal with stress. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins in your brain, which act as natural painkillers.
Researchers at Stanford University show that music is an easy stress reduction tool. They also noted that “listening to music seems to be able to change brain functioning to the same extent as medication.”
“Other than that, you should avoid caffeine, alcohol and nicotine,” Lee said. “Get more sleep, talk to someone, keep a stress diary and do things you love.”
In contrast, freshman journalism major Jacob Elsbree often loses his appetite when it comes to stress.
“It’s not like self-harming,” he said. “Normally, I am stressed because I have too much work to do, and I feel like I should have my work done first.”
However, not eating or eating too much can sometimes cause more problems, according to Elsbree. He believes the best way to deal with stress is by taking yourself out of the situation of being overwhelmed or taking a break before getting back to work.
There are many options for students to seek help on campus when it comes to stress.
“You can either make an appointment with a counselor, or seek help from a nutritionist,” Camelo said. “Professional help is available on campus, and you don’t need to go anywhere.”
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