Anxiety is Really Strange

“Anxiety is really strange” according to author and bodyworker Steve Heines1. Indeed, anxiety is a really uncomfortable state of being and many people are experiencing high levels of it right now. Anxiety about getting back to work, how will things be, how close is too close, etc.

The thing that intrigues me about anxiety is that it is a normal response in our body. It originally served to protect us. According Steve Heines says, our brain wakes up everyday looking for energy and safety1. Stress hormones, (you know cortisol, adrenaline, and norepinephrine) protected us in the past. The impending doom of the bear going to eat us created enough of a hormonal response for us to decide to fight that bear or run as fast as we could to safety. In that story, whether we rose to victory in the battle or found a safe haven, your old nervous system caught its breath and found a way to calm down.

Why am I so intrigued by anxiety?

Well, if stress is a normal response, what has happened that we are experiencing many health impacts from stress? Stress is linked in scientific literature to pretty much every chronic condition and in the world of Eating Disorders; particularly Binge and Emotional Eating2, 3. Covid-19, our generations global pandemic, has reminded me that during times of stress another normal body reaction occurs in the form of weight gain. When we are stressed not only do we store fat for protection, but we also tend to resort to higher fat foods for comfort. This creates even more stress because, let’s face it, no one wants to gain weight. So, we enter a loop of self-perpetuating behaviour of stress…eat…stress…restrict…stress…binge…eat and so on.

This persistent looping of weight cycling is hugely impacting our gut, the microbiome, if you are familiar with the terminology. Scientists now refer to the gut as the second brain4. This second brain is host to 90% of our happy hormones, dopamine, serotonin and GABA, which is a reminder of how closely linked our mood and food are5. Whether you binge or have anxiety first is very much unknown, but for sure the answer is not in calorie restricting, weight stigma or indeed even weight loss. In order to manage anxiety and address your emotional eating habits, you will need to look at both physical and emotional triggers in your life.

There is so much we can do to support the efficient functioning of your gut. There are so many who have experienced this clarity and moved forward without stress, anxiety and emotional eating. They were willing to change, using a different lens. They decided to manage anxiety and emotional eating by looking at WHAT they were FEELING along with what they were EATING.

Three basic measures we can take to reduce our anxiety levels and our bing eating episodes are:

  1. .Give ourselves the gift of our routine, feed yourself at regular times and intervals. And don’t forget to make sleep a feature in that routine, take naps if a regular 8 hours is not achievable for you.
  2. Contrary to how you are thinking, exercise will fight that fatigue and positively alter the gut bacteria. Many of the greatest minds in history took their problems for a walk, and the good thing is today we have the evidence to show that movement is good for not only your creative problem solving mind but also your gut bugs.
  3. We can’t eat serotonin unfortunately but we can foods that a high in tryptophan, the amino acid that we use to make serotonin. Good sources include turkey, tune, natural yoghurt, potatoes and seeds.

References:

  1. Haines, S. and Standing, S., n.d. Anxiety Is Really Strange. 1st ed. London: Singing Dragon.
  2. Mariotti, A., 2015. The effects of chronic stress on health: new insights into the molecular mechanisms of brain–body communication. Future Science OA, [online] 1(3). Available at [Accessed 3 July 2020].
  3. How Does Stress Affect Binge Eating?. [online] WebMD. Available at [Accessed 5 July 2020].
  4. Ochoa-Repáraz, J. and Kasper, L., 2016. The Second Brain: Is the Gut Microbiota a Link Between Obesity and Central Nervous System Disorders?. Current Obesity Reports, 5(1), pp.51-64.
  5. Anderson, S., Cryan, J. and Dinan, T., n.d. The Psychobiotic Revolution. National Geographic Partners, p.120.

Choose healthy habits over restriction everyday

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