4

votes

Stress: Feed it or Starve it?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 22, 2012 at 7:20 PM

There is said to be two types of people- those who "starve" their stress and those who "feed" it. I'm sure we all know someone who seems to slim out or fill out during stressful periods- is there a benefit one way or the other? It seems to be dependent on the "kind" of person, but I'm not sure if that's just a generalization handed to us from the media/society.

Seeing as it is exam season, I've just been noticing people around me either eating all the time (people who I've never even seen bother with lunch having a snack every 20 mn) or people who don't seem to eat at all (feel sick if they eat and forget about meals). In the context of paleo, is there a benefit of providing yourself with extra nutrients to get through a stressful period of time? Or, is it better to fast and use the reserves you already have to deal with stress? Is there a difference between physical stress (ex. training, sickness) and emotional stress (ex. life business, change in the family) and how they should be treated in terms of eating?

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 23, 2012
at 05:45 PM

Yeah, just walked out of an exam! Decided to swig some kefir throughout and ate a big breakfast, seemed pretty good. Last semester I "fasted" more, but I'm not sure it was particularly helpful. I figure I burn enough calories getting angry at questions to merit a couple extra through snacking!

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 23, 2012
at 05:44 PM

Yeah, this sounds like a pretty good strategy- just follow your gut (literally)

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 23, 2012
at 10:21 AM

Yes, but I would say that every life has a healthy level of stress that is associated with change and chance, that will be present regardless of your preparation. Treatment, through taking care of yourself and eating adequately, can be part of the reduction.

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on April 22, 2012
at 10:30 PM

I like this but I'd add eat them strategically.

80890193d74240cab6dda920665bfb6c

(1528)

on April 22, 2012
at 07:37 PM

May I suggest this is perhaps a strawman question? Don't feed it or starve it - reduce it with stress management techniques like whole body progressive relaxation.

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4 Answers

6
78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

on April 22, 2012
at 07:52 PM

Feed it...with relaxation, walks, social support, petting your cat, reading a book in the sun, even a funny TV show, or anything else that reduces tension.

During stressful times, I think it's harder to decipher your body's needs. People who are extremely stressed may skip meals, but that's not always a "healthy" sign since the body may be overwhelmed with dealing with the stressor. That's why some people under stressful times lose weight. It's not a way to reduce stress, rather it's a physical consequence of the body having a hard time handling too much at once. I'd eat normally if you can. I don't think stress eating or under-eating helps you with retaining any information or affects your exam performance positively.

4
96bf58d8c6bd492dc5b8ae46203fe247

(37227)

on April 22, 2012
at 07:49 PM

I agree somewhat with Wowza that, to the extent possible, identifying ways to keep day-to-day stress to a minimum are important. However, 65 years of life have taught me you will have periods of stress no matter what you do.

Sometimes I feed it and sometimes I starve it. My only "rule to self" is I no longer feed it with junk food. Basically, I fast until I feel powerful gut hunger and then I eat fatty meat. Based on how I react to the meat I may or may not add raw vegetables and fruits. Nothing processed at all other than my usual morning coffee with cream and honey.

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 23, 2012
at 05:44 PM

Yeah, this sounds like a pretty good strategy- just follow your gut (literally)

2
01adafcb4dd4147c6af543f61eee60a8

on April 22, 2012
at 08:31 PM

Eat carbs to curb cortisol

1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

(14952)

on April 22, 2012
at 10:30 PM

I like this but I'd add eat them strategically.

1
Medium avatar

(10663)

on April 22, 2012
at 07:34 PM

Interesting, I never heard of starve-it or feed-it responses to stress. I have a bunch of essays due and finals coming up (and graduation!!) so my stress levels are about to go through the roof! Now that I think about it, when I'm doing some intense studying for long periods of time, I tend to get hungry much more quickly (well, my brain IS using all that glucose to fuel itself I guess haha). So in my experience, I think it's better to "feed" your stress because maybe fasting/"starving it" would just exacerbate cortisol levels. But then again, there are some people who go way overboard on eating when they're stressed out. Like everything else in life, it's all about balance.

As far as a difference in emotional/mental/physical stress, I would say they probably illicit the same bodily responses (i.e. fight-or-flight).

518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 23, 2012
at 05:45 PM

Yeah, just walked out of an exam! Decided to swig some kefir throughout and ate a big breakfast, seemed pretty good. Last semester I "fasted" more, but I'm not sure it was particularly helpful. I figure I burn enough calories getting angry at questions to merit a couple extra through snacking!

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