By Paula Ebben, WBZ-TVBy Paula Ebben

BOSTON (CBS) – It’s a fact of modern life. We all have a lot of stress to deal with. For many of us, that means reaching for the cookies and ice cream to seek relief.

Stella Young Rowley knows what she likes when the issues of dealing with her young children and work become too much. “All those munchie foods, because I love munchie, munchie, munchie,” she said.

In Cleveland Circle in Brighton, one woman said she wants ice cream and chocolate when she feels overwhelmed. A young man cited Twizzlers, and any kind of cookie.

WBZ-TV’s Paula Ebben reports

These cravings could be linked to your body’s reaction to high levels of stress. It starts pumping out more of the hormone cortisol.

“Increasing levels of cortisol in the body could increase your appetite,” explained Boston University professor of nutrition Joan Salge Blake.

A study at the University of Michigan found when levels of cortisol were boosted even in non stressed adults, they ate more snack foods than usual.

“Cortisol is making us desire these foods which are not hunger, but cravings,” said health trainer Michael Torchia.

So that means you may empty the candy dish at work without a thought of what you’re really eating.

Potato chips can disappear like magic, before you even realize it. Salge Blake said, “What you’re going to do is grab things that are going to be low in fiber and high maybe in fat and calories, so they are going to have a lot of calories per bite.”

Those empty calories won’t satisfy hunger, and many people go on to eat another meal.

Salge Blake added, “You should eat for stress, and what I mean is pre-plan, and make sure you are eating well so you don’t get to that ravenous place.”

That means not skipping breakfast, and eating whole grains instead of simple carbs so your body has plenty of good fuel

And trick yourself, by literally hiding the junk food behind healthier options. “We are very much attuned to the visual clues, and we see it and we eat it,” said Salge Blake.

Health experts say the best practice is to use exercise to release your stress, and that even a simple walk can do the trick.


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