Stress and Cravings

We’ve all faced this demon: when the stress kicks in, so do the cravings. And it’s never the types of food that are good for us. No one has ever said, “I’ve had such a terrible day. I could really go for some broccoli.” Rather, it’s things like french fries, a DQ treat or an oatmeal cream pie.

Our Body Doesn't Understand That We Can Feel

Stress & Not Fight or Run

When we feel stress, our body releases a hormone called cortisol. It allows us to fight or flee from the danger. The problem is that when we’re facing chronic stress in our life, like work, family, or chaotic schedules, we don’t actually fight or run. First, this is problematic because when we don’t use cortisol, it get stored as belly fat. To make it tougher on us, about 10-15 minutes after cortisol is released, we’ll crave foods that are the fastest energy source (junk food) because our body doesn’t understand that we could feel stress and take no action.

Do you see the compounding effect of chronic stress? Let me illustrate:

  • Rush hour takes 30 extra minutes because of bad weather. You grab a donut to cope upon arriving at the office.

  • You spend an hour dealing with an angry customer, then make a beeline for the snack shack for some candy bars and a pop to calm down.

  • Your boss is ragging on you because you forgot to put a cover sheet on the TPS report. You reach for the emergency tube of Pringles in your desk. Next thing you know, they’re all gone.

  • No workout tonight because you have to chauffeur for both basketball and hockey. While you wait in the car, you enjoy your double mocha with whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

What can I do?


In The Cravings Whisperer, Alexandra Jamieson recommends asking yourself, "What does this craving mean?" She states:

"There are four root causes to any craving — bacterial, nutritional, emotional, or physical — and a craving could have more than one cause. When you start to get curious about those and how your sugar craving may be springing up from your body, then you can start to address the true underlying imbalance, rather than trying to control your body and its desires."

Are you tired, angry, hungry or lonely? By asking ourselves what this craving is telling us, we can make a choice that best supports our body and health rather than take actions that will create inner conflict.


Breathing through your mouth is a stress response. Breathing through your nose is restorative and relaxing. Why? It brings balance to your parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems, also known as cardiac coherence.


Stress is an inevitable part of life, but we CAN take steps to handle it in healthy ways.

  1. Breathe! One of the quickest ways to calm our body's stress response is to breathe deeply through the nose, if possible. Just a few deep breaths will go a long way in calming your body and bringing clarity.

  2. Put exercise on your schedule so you’re less likely to skip it. It is our best tool to reduce stress and release the happy chemicals in our brain. Even a 20 minute walk or dance break will bring major benefits and relief.

  3. Fail-proof your environment. If you know you’ll be faced with cravings, have healthy choices around instead of junk. Raisins are a sweet treat that keep well in your desk or bag. Reach for sweet potato chips instead of potato chips – at least they have beneficial nutrients in them plus fiber.

  4. Knowledge is power. When you notice you’re feeling stressed, acknowledge it. Then decide on the best choice to quench your cravings that will also help you achieve your goals. If you can step back a moment and think, a banana is always better for our body than anything Little Debbie has to offer.

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