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Stress-Induced Eating: How to avoid the exam binge

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Exams can be quite difficult to deal with. As studying takes over, we tend to neglect other important aspects of our lives. The importance of maintaining healthy habits such as getting proper sleep, exercising on a regular basis, and having a healthy diet are temporality concealed by the overpowering and tedious task of stuffing our brains with a ridiculous amount of material. This state of extreme effort and imbalance causes a great deal of stress, which is proven to be very harmful to our overall health.

One of the most obtrusive ways stress affects us is by tampering with our eating habits. When you are experiencing high levels of stress, controlling what you eat, how much you eat and how frequently you eat is not easy. People often find themselves adopting very bad eating habits, which over the period of a few weeks, can considerably affect your overall health.

The relationship between Stress and Eating

During the exam period, people often catch themselves snacking, over eating and even binge eating junk food. These bad eating habits can be really frustrating for someone who watches what they eat. Plus, this habit of eating while studying seems to be quite uncontrollable. Even if it is not intentional, it seems like there is not much one can do about it. However, it isn’t necessarily attributable to a lack of self-control. In fact, it is scientifically proven that the drive to eat is related to perceived stress.

Even if your daily caloric needs have already been met, you are compelled to keep eating. More specifically, increased stressed is associated not just with a higher drive to eat, but with a higher drive to eat bad foods. Why? Because the consumption of calorie dense foods high in sugar and fat is a way for the body to deal with stress. Junk food triggers the same physiological reaction than do drugs; it gives the brain a sense of temporary relief and ease. Thus, when a person is experiencing high levels of stress, the body tends to turn to the consumption of palatable comforting foods to deal with the stressor overload.

This phenomenon explains why most of us experience uncontrollable overeating during exams. Even though a few bad weeks may not seem so bad at first sight, it does have a noticeable impact. A bad diet not only harms the good functioning of your body, but it affects your state of mind. Bad dieting is often related to low energy and lethargy, which is not preferable when studying. Moreover, they say a habit takes about 21 days to really implement itself. Thus, when exams are over, you might find yourself stuck in this bad habit, and getting rid of it may be a difficult process. This is why it’s important to try to avoid all together an unhealthy diet during exams.


Tips and tricks on avoiding unhealthy eating habits

The two main components that come into play when trying to work towards a healthy diet are stress management and self discipline. In order to control your levels of stress, you must have a certain self-imposed discipline. You must actively work towards lowering your levels of stress, to then be able to have a clearer mind and make sounder choices. Here are some tips and tricks on how to achieve this state:

Find a mind-calming practice. The best way to reduce stress is by regularly emptying your head of all negative and unnecessary thoughts that cause stress levels to rise. This can be achieved through practices such as meditation, yoga and reciting mantras. If you discipline yourself into practicing a form of mind-calming activity at least once a day, it will be a tremendous aid to lower your levels of stress. Make it your mission to schedule some “me time” once a day, and it’ll work wonders.

Exercise. Finding the time and motivation to exercise during exams is never easy. However, exercise will do you so much good. Not only does it give you a natural energy boost, it releases feel good hormones that work against stress. Exercising at least a few days a week, even if only for a short period of time, will improve stress management. Moreover, exercising makes you want to eat well! People reportedly admit craving healthy foods after a workout. This way, you don’t have to discipline yourself into eating well, you will want to eat well! All in all, you will benefit from exercise in so many ways that it should definitely be a priority during exams.

Snack smart. Snacking is almost inevitable when studying, but if you have control over your intake, it’s really not that bad. It’s when you don’t that it can be harmful. However, if you can considerably lower your stress levels, making good choices will not be difficult. When packing snacks, you want to pack light and/or nutritious foods. Good snack ideas include fruit you can “snack on” (blueberries, grapes, cantaloupe, pineapple), raw veggies with hummus, natural popcorn, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, frozen yogurt drops, roasted chickpeas, and the list goes on. Basically, you are looking at low calorie highly nutritious foods. Try to avoid all crackers, chips, cereal, granola bars, candy and any other calorie dense foods high in sugar and fats. When studying, it is well too easy to empty a bag of chips, and that is the last thing you should want for your body, mind and energy.

Essentially, what you want to do is avoid getting stress levels so high that it’ll physiologically want to turn to junk food for relief. Once you have control over stress, you want to make sound nutritious choices that’ll boost your energy levels and overall functioning to help you have a sharper mind. Making the time and effort for that type of discipline is a well worth investment. It’ll leave you feeling good, fresh and ready to take on anything.






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