Stressed to the max, skipping meals and fuelling yourself on chocolate, lollies or chips? Alarmingly, your immediate environment could be influencing your food choices, getting you to “live for today” without any thought to your long-term health.
Tough times call for desperate measures – a slice of cheesecake, a bar of chocolate, or a packet of potato chips to help us get by. In fact, research shows that harsh environments such as bad news about the economy or the sight of people facing adversity, cause weight gain. In a series of studies, US researchers found that when there is a perception of tough times, people tend to seek higher-kilojoule foods that keep them feeling fuller for longer. They found that when participants were presented with negative messages depicting struggle and adversity, a survival impulse was triggered causing participants to consume nearly 40 per cent more food than participants that were primed with neutral messages. The researchers concluded that a negative environment increases our willingness to indulge in kilojoule-rich food and that when we’re trying to improve our health we should switch off the news.
How do you react?
In tough times, how do you react? Do you reach for comfort food of chocolate, cakes and lollies to help you through your work deadlines? Do you dive into a tub of ice cream after a fight with your partner? Perhaps you calm the nerves with a few glasses of vino after a confronting chat with a friend? Or maybe you turn off food altogether when you’re anxious? How we react to certain situations can have an enormous impact on our health, but often we don’t reflect on our coping strategies. Research shows that people with an ability to plan and problem solve are better able to handle stressful situations and have better health outcomes than those of us who avoid the situation. Developing coping skills is a great way to help us maintain healthy behaviours in stressful situations.
How can you change the way you cope in tough times?