“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.
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.