individual holding a cheeseburger

Reasons So Many People Are Struggling With Anxiety And Food Challenges During Covid-19

We are now entering the ninth month of dealing with Covid-19. Truthfully, I can’t think of one aspect of my life that hasn’t been affected in some way. How about you? One interesting thing I discovered over these nine months was that I have something in common with many of my friends. And that is, we all have struggled with anxiety and food challenges during Covid-19.

You know, it’s one thing to be anxious about a situation when you know what you are dealing with. But, when you add in the unknowns of this virus to the changes we have had to navigate through, it’s no wonder there is an increase in anxiety. And I’m pretty sure all that flour and sugar missing from the store shelves during the lockdowns ended up on our waistlines as well. What was that all about?

Even before Covid-19 hit the scene, anxiety was on the rise, as well as unhealthy eating habits. So, I’d like to ask if you’ve noticed a change in your eating habits? Have you felt more anxious during this time? If so, keep reading below to see how your anxiety and food challenges could be related.

Anxious thoughts tend to create tentacles that grow. They snake their way through various areas of lives resulting in behaviors that hurt our wellbeing. And this is exactly one area I’ve noticed in some of my clients. Anxiety has been influencing their eating patterns.

Even being a coach for anxiety, I found myself slipping into unhealthy behaviors from time to time. I’m not proud to admit it, but in my closet right now, I have a pile of clothes I have begrudgingly named my pre-Covid-19 pile. However, I am proud to say I’ve been working on getting it back into the “general population” pile, and I’m almost there!

Anxiety can lead to using food as a coping mechanism

Undoubtedly, Covid-19 has turned our world upside down, unlike anything I’ve ever seen or been through. It seems there’s no escaping the daily reporting of statistics, warnings, recommendations, requirements, job losses, etc. I believe this has taken a heavy toll on our psyches. Unfortunately, some have turned to food as a way to calm their emotions. Or provide a distraction from their anxious thoughts. However, if this is how you handle anxiety, you are training your brain to connect the activity of eating, and the pleasure that results —much like a drug would do. You might feel better in the short term. However, it won’t last. And it also sets up an unhealthy precedent.

Anxiety is a common cause of a change in appetite.

Anxiety can cause you to eat unhealthily

We all have a hormone in our body called Cortisol–it’s often referred to as the stress hormone because of its connection to the stress response. I’ll talk a little more about that later on. But for now, I’ll just say that an increase of Cortisol causes cravings for carbohydrates and not the healthy kind either. When we crave those kinds of carbohydrates, it leads to consuming unnecessary calories.

Anxiety can cause you to lose your appetite

I can think of a couple of occasions in my life that caused me so much anxiety that I found myself unable to eat at all. So although it’s not my usual default, I get how it can happen. In fact, our bodies have a hormone called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) that, when released because of stress, it affects the digestive system and can lead to the suppression of appetite.

Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels.

To explain the role of Cortisol and not get all technical, I will explain it like this. Cortisol affects many different functions of our bodies. One part it controls is something called Homeostasis (I know, big word!). It’s an important process that maintains the stability of our body’s internal environment during changes in external conditions. For example, you are walking to your car in a dark parking lot. You hear and see someone following you, and no one else is around (external changes). Your body would naturally experience an adrenaline surge that would give you extra energy to escape from the danger you feel (internal environment). This is called the “fight or flight” response

The “fight or flight” response is your body’s automatic, inborn response that prepares your body to “fight or flee” from the perceived attack, harm, or threat to your survival. But once the threat is over, your hormone levels go back to normal, and you move on. But therein lies the problem. With Covid-19 still disrupting our lives daily, our stress response is being often activated. Which, in turn, prevents our bodies from having a chance to return to normal. This can lead to our cortisol levels remaining high.

But I do have good news for you today. You can learn to relax your body with a few stress management techniques. You can also make some lifestyle changes to keep your body from reacting to stress in the first place. That’s where I come in. As an anxiety coach, I can help you to manage your anxiety. Which in turn, can enable you to address your food challenges

Hi, I’m Kris Henderson, LPC. I want you to know that I am here to help. The easiest way to start taking control of your anxiety is to take the FREE 5-Day Anxiety Detox Challenge. If you would like more personalized support, I invite you to contact me or make an appointment online. Let’s work on changing how your body responds to stress. I’m excited for you to see what a difference it can make in breaking the connection between anxiety and food challenges for you. Not only now but also in the future.

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