CAN STRESS BE MAKING YOU FAT?
CARBOHYDRATES: EUPHORIA FOUND IN A “SEROTONIN HIGH”
Are you stressed out? Depressed? Sad? A Chronic Worrier? Have a Low Self-Esteem?
Are you ashamed of the way you look and find yourself constantly comparing yourself to others?
Do you find comfort in food, specifically carbohydrate-rich foods?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, it’s safe for me to assume that you are either overweight or have a very difficult time in maintaining your weight.
Studies have shown that human eating behavior IS greatly influenced by the amount of psychological distress people have.
Individuals who have a low self-esteem, high anxiety (worry/stress), and who are constantly depressed
tend to be obese, and to also seek comfort in foods that are mainly carbohydrates.
What could possibly be occurring in our brain to make us feel and behave this way?
SEROTONIN – one of the primary neurotransmitters responsible for mood regulation and eating behavior.
It is important to first explain that neurotransmitters are chemical messengers in our brain and nervous system that help us to talk, move, breath, think, feel, and to exist.
When we are psychologically distressed, our body experiences internal changes in normal neurotransmitter functioning and in various hormonal and intestinal behaviors.
These changes influence our body weight because of their influential effects on our appetite, our food portions, our food preferences and finally on our body’s ability to burn the calories we consume.
Serotonin is a major neurotransmitter involved in these processes and is found in the Central Nervous System.
It is responsible for the following bodily functions: mood regulation, blood flow, pain sensitivity in our lungs, brain and our hearts.
Other factors that are regulated by serotonin include our sleeping patterns, blood pressure and as previously mentioned, our appetite, food portions and food preferences.
A lack of serotonin in the brain is associated with depression.
Thus, low levels of serotonin can cause us to feel depressed, sad, sensitive to pain, insomnia and headaches, and can decrease our ability to concentrate.
This in turn can cause an increase in the potential for a person to seek relief in addictive substances such as alcohol and drugs.
It can even make them more susceptible to impulsive behavior such as binge-eating, over-eating, and spontaneous eating, which in the end leads to fatigue and inactivity.
Many people fall prey to this vicious cycle of emotional eating and before long, they are left trying to figure out where the extra 20 pounds came from or how it is they put on weight to begin with.
BUT WHY CARBOHYDRATES? Complex carbohydrates increase our levels of serotonin, so when we eat them, we feel better.
When our serotonin levels are higher, we are happier. It’s that simple.
The unfortunate thing about it however is that most obese people tend to crave carbohydrates that are both convenient and in many instances high in fat.
These include fast food items such as French fries, milkshakes, hamburgers, cookies, candy, crackers, chips, bread, and the list goes on.
On a neurological level, ingested carbohydrates triggers the production of the hormone INSULIN, this inadvertently stimulates an INCREASE OF THE AMINO ACID, TRYPTOPHAN, in the UPTAKE PROCESS TO THE BRAIN.
This is key because tryptophan acts as a precursor to the neurotransmitter serotonin and is readily converted into serotonin once it enters the brain.
So, a high consumption of carbohydrates works to increase our serotonin levels and this in turn improves our mood, appetite and our overall eating behavior.
Hence, distressed individuals find temporary relief in the “SEROTONIN HIGH” that they get from ‘pigging out’ on carbohydrates. It makes them feel better.
This high is only temporary, so to maintain these feelings of happiness, people tend to reach for carbohydrates often and before long it become habitual.