How to Stop Stress Eating

June 14, 2020

Eating unhealthy foods is a common reaction to times of stress and fear. However, those unhealthy foods also lead to more anxiety and then a vicious cycle continues. Two nutritionists share what happens biochemically to your brain and body during this process and how you can stop the cycle once and for all.

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CASSIE: Welcome to Dishing Up Nutrition. This show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. I'm Cassie Weness. I'm a registered and licensed dietician. And joining me in studio today is my cohost Teresa Wagner, who is also a registered and licensed dietician. And she and I have a great show planned for you today. Before I tell you our topic, I want to lead you in with a few questions, a few questions for all of you listening out there. First off, have you found that lately you're grabbing for high sugar treats? Maybe because of the ongoing stress that most of us have been experiencing these last couple of months. If you can shake your head yes to that question, believe me, you're not alone. Most of us have had added stress and fear because of COVID-19. We all know a lot of people have lost their jobs. We've been dealing with this, stay at home order, which's starting to be lifted, but I think it's been stressful for a lot of us to figure out that new normal with everybody at home and in the house. And not only do we have this novel virus lurking around every corner, but at the end of May and into early June, as everybody knows, we had the riots and the protests that came after the death of George Floyd. That was stressful, especially if you lived near the rioting or had a business in the area. So how have you personally been dealing with all of this craziness? This stress? Have you caught yourself stress eating? Eating unhealthy foods is a pretty common reaction to stress for a lot of people. So today we are going to first address what happens biochemically to your body and to your brain when you're dealing with stress, especially ongoing stress. And second, we want to give you some tools and some techniques to handle this stress better. There are so many negative consequences that can happen in your brain, especially when you're undergoing this ongoing stress. In fact, did you know that stress can actually affect the brain's fear center and we know stress can affect the region in your brain involved with impulse control, with judgment and with planning. So it starts to make sense doesn't it? That when people have ongoing stress and fear, it's common to reach for foods to self medicate. And those are usually high sugar foods, or some people reach for alcohol to self medicate. Well, alcohol turns to sugar. Do you see the theme there? And I get it that when people are reaching for food or for alcohol, they're hoping to calm their anxiety, but unfortunately the high sugar treats, the alcoholic beverages... they often just lead to more anxiety. As registered dietitians, Teresa and I want to explain the impact that stress has on your brain and then we're going to give you some steps that you can follow to help control your stress eating. So if you haven't guessed it yet, today our topic is how to stop stress eating. And again, in studio with me today is my cohost Teresa Wagner and Teresa sees clients day in and day out. And she's shared with me that she's had some clients recently that have been struggling with stress eating so I think she has some good personal experience to share with us in how those clients have been able to deal with that stress eating and get on a better track and welcome Teresa.

TERESA: Well, thanks Cassie. So do you remember some years ago when the Oprah Winfrey show was on?

CASSIE: I love Oprah.

TERESA: Yes. And she would say, "well, what I know for sure". Right. And I can't remember if that's kind of how she closed the show. I can't remember specifically how she used it, but today I'm going to open the show maybe with what I know for sure, using Oprah's catch phrase, is that in the last three months that it has given us a lot of really good excuses to eat either mindlessly eating or to numb uncomfortable feelings. For example, I'm bored. Food is great company and entertainment. I'm lonely. Once again, food makes for good company. I'm stressed or anxious. Food helps to calm the body and the mind. Or maybe I'm overwhelmed. Food can be a break. And for the introverts, I'm happy! Food is celebratory. Can anyone out there relate with any of those scenarios?

CASSIE: I am sure many, many of our listeners can relate to one or two or maybe all of those scenarios. And as a parent, myself of a 12 year old and a 14 year old, I want to say, let's not forget about the eating habits of our kids, especially during this time of quarantine. Now, I don't know that a lot of kids are stress eating. I hope not anyway, but I think a lot of kids, because they've been quarantining at home for the past several months and thus they're very close to the kitchen. I think a lot of them are eating more high sugar snacks simply because they can. The kitchen is right there. So I just want to take a minute to suggest to parents something that I actually heard you say in the past Teresa and that is: parents set up a food schedule. And as I've heard you say Teresa or maybe it was an article that I read it in that you had written, you know, our kids wouldn't have access to snacks 24/7 in the classroom.

TERESA: That's right.

CASSIE: Right. So the same should apply at home. Have set times where the kitchen is open and if the kids want to grab a healthy, balanced snack, or if they have to make their own healthy meal, that's fine. But then let them know all other times the kitchen is closed.

TERESA: Yeah. And you know, I think that setting up a food schedule can be a really good idea for adults too. I think right now this is a really common scenario. We shuffle into the kitchen and play a game of mental tug of war thinking, "Hm, what can I eat", then a voice inside our head says "you're not hungry", but we argue back: but I feel like eating something. And that small voice in our head says "but you just had lunch an hour ago". Then we pause and take a moment to really focus on our stomach, to see if in fact maybe we are hungry. Even if we're not, maybe we choose something that we feel is innocent to see if that will take care of that little hunger itch that we have, say a small handful of chocolate chips, and then justify it with the knowledge that dark chocolate has antioxidants. It's healthy right. After the sweet treat, of course, we need something salty and crunchy to balance out that sweet, right?

CASSIE: Of course!

TERESA: This is when the sweet salty cycle begins. And after a few spins, the voice in her head returns saying, "why did you do that? You weren't even hungry to begin with."

CASSIE: That, really, Teresa, is a great visual of how stress eating begins, and then it can lead you to crave more high sugar treats, cause once we feed herself fat sugar, here we go. And we know that can certainly over time lead to weight gain, but let's not forget sugar equals inflammation. So it can lead to more aches and pains, not to mention a lot of other health problems over time as well. So yeah, I really liked that visual you just painted. Maybe next let's in case some people out there don't know what a craving feels like, or if they are really having cravings, why don't you explain what that might feel like?

TERESA: Well, yeah, and maybe for you, it's less of a mental tug of war, but more of a feeling that you have. You have maybe a flutter in your stomach that's not nerves, it's not hunger pains. Maybe it's kind of an ache in or between your shoulders. Or perhaps you feel it in the back of your throat. Or maybe you have a discomfort throughout your entire body. Cravings are hard to describe. It's an intangible, right? Like love is an intangible or fear is an intangible. They're very hard to describe, but most of us have had a craving. I am jealous of the person that hasn't have a craving if they haven't.

CASSIE: Does that person exist? I don't know!

TERESA: I think they're a unicorn! The question is how do you describe them? Describe cravings, right? So I look to Merriam Webster because who doesn't when you need a definition and it's defined as "an intense, urgent or abnormal desire or longing". When I was looking for how else to describe it and to explain cravings, I saw it described as "an irritation within the system". So in my opinion, combining the two descriptions is perfect. It's an intense irritation.

CASSIE: Yeah. I can relate to that. I think then that begs the question, what are some causes of this intense irritation? And I think that's where we have to look a little bit deeper into our biochemistry. For most people, the first biochemical cause of that intense irritation, or we could say the first biochemical cause of stress eating, is blood sugar. You know, we can talk about the blood sugar roller coaster ride. If we choose that high sugar treat and our blood sugar level goes up higher than normal, then our body releases a hormone called insulin. This gets released from our pancreas and insulin's job is to bring that blood sugar level back down, but it often overcompensates. And so after that really high blood sugar, the insulin over-corrects, and then we get that blood sugar crash. And when you're at this really low blood sugar, the blood sugar crash, that's when a lot of people experience anxiety, maybe they get irritable. And then more cravings set in and we get into this vicious cycle. And we'll talk a bit more about this on the other side of break, but we're going to take our first commercial break. If you're just joining us, you're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. This show is brought to you by Nutritional Weight & Wellness. Our topic today is how to stop stress eating. And before we go to commercial, I want to let you know, one more effective and fundamental habit that you can practice to control stress eating. And that simple habit is to drink plenty of water. Drinking water is more than just a good idea. It's a necessity, but did you know that water helps the electrical system of our bodies and brains to function better? Water helps support our nerves. Water even keeps our heart rhythm regular and let's not forget that drinking plenty of water can help our blood pressure stay in a normal range. And water helps to flush out toxins that we're exposed to regularly, like we get from pesticides in our foods or from the bad fats that are in the processed foods maybe you've been grabbing for. There's so many other sources of toxins too, but drinking 8 to 10 glasses of filtered water every day can help to flush out those unwanted toxins. While all of you head to the faucet to fill up your glass, we are going to head to commercial, stay with us. We'll be right back.

TERESA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Getting an adequate amount of sleep is essential for everyone as it helps our body reset stress. We process our thoughts and our emotions and heal our bodies while we sleep. Sleep is truly critical for every system in our body. Lack of sleep reduces our brain's ability to function properly. Lack of sleep makes it difficult for us to focus or be productive or to balance our moods and our emotions. Most of you know how it feels when you don't get a good night's sleep. However, did you know that over time, lack of sleep can contribute to weight gain, decreased immunity, and even brain degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer's.

CASSIE: Scary. Sleep is so important.

TERESA: Yes so important.

CASSIE: I make it a priority.

TERESA: I try too. It's hard, right? I mean, I feel like we have to be so disciplined with sleep because Netflix calls, you know, you just want to watch one more episode of something.

CASSIE: Oh I hate the TV. If it was up to me, I wouldn't have one in my house. Well and summer is hard your point of it being hard, you know, I, and this is what I do. I write it when we start to get off track, I write myself a yellow sticky note in the kitchen where I'm going to see it. Like this is the time we will get our snacks and then be walking up to bed at this time. And I'm usually not right on, but at least it helps me get everybody moving a little bit sooner because it's hard when it stays light.

TERESA: Oh yeah. It's nine o'clock and the kids are still out playing and I'm like, I need to be in bed in an hour!

CASSIE: Yeah. But keep on trying, because yeah, getting enough sleep is so important for so many aspects of our health. So when we went to break, I was mentioning how....blood sugar. So let's say that you grab for, what? A donut, because you're stress eating. You spike that blood sugar. That makes your body release a lot of the hormone called insulin. And as I mentioned before break, insulin usually overcompensates and clears that sugar from our blood really fast. And then what happens? The blood sugar plummets really low and, at a low blood sugar, you have more cravings because your brain says, hey, your blood sugar is really low, you better grab for something that's going to turn to sugar fast. So I think you were going to speak a little bit more to that blood sugar roller coaster ride.

TERESA: Yeah, absolutely. And we certainly have a lot of environmental stress going on right now. And we have fear right now and when our body and our blood sugar is on that roller coaster ride that you were describing, we experience biochemical stress. So sometimes I think that's confusing for people because we have biochemical stress. Low blood sugar is very biochemically stressful, but we more associate stress with like, you know, we have to stay at home and we're lonely in that's stressful. Or when there's a lot going on in our, you know, in our world today. That's stressful. So we associate, or work maybe stressful, but we don't really think about, oh my blood sugar is low, that's really stressful.

CASSIE: The inner stress that we're creating.

TERESA: Yes as the inner that we're creating. As dietitians and nutritionists at Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we believe one of the most ongoing, stressful situations that we can expose our body to is that blood sugar roller coaster. Why do we need to get our blood sugar in the normal range? And it's, it's much more than just about weight gain. You know, there's a lot of complications that can happen because of imbalanced blood sugar. But we could look at some research on how higher blood glucose levels affect our immune system. So there's some data coming from China that suggests that people with diabetes or with higher blood sugar levels are more likely to experience serious complications and even death from COVID-19 than people who have healthy blood sugar levels.

CASSIE: Now, if that's not motivation to keep your blood sugars stable, I don't know what is, cause this COVID-19 is scary.

TERESA: It is scary. And what I'm finding is that my clients they're trying to do all the things, you know, they're washing their groceries when they come in, the packaging on their groceries and their maintaining social distance. And they're doing all these things.

CASSIE: Wearing in a mask.

TERESA: And they're wearing a mask. And one of the most fundamental things that we can do to protect ourselves is to support our immune system. But then we're stress eating with that sugar, causing a decrease in our immune function.

CASSIE: Yes. I think food... I love that you just said that. Yeah. Food is our most powerful weapon against this. And you just stated some research that those high blood sugars set us up to experience more serious complications and maybe even death from COVID-19. So if we look at, cause I'm sure some of the listeners are wondering why are people with high blood sugar levels at a greater risk? Well, the main reason is that high blood sugars can interfere with our body's white blood cells ability to fight off infections. So when I visualize white blood cells, I think of this army of little men, all dressed in white in my body and their job is to fight the bad virus or fight the bad bacteria that might get inside of us. And that's all great if they're working as they should and fighting really well. But if we are grabbing donuts or snacking on potato chips or eating a lot of pasta, all of those are high sugar foods. If we're constantly running a high blood sugar, then we are really suppressing the ability of those white blood cells to fight off viruses like COVID-19. Stress eating is not good because it inhibits our immune system. We also of course, know that it could eventually lead to weight gain if we're constantly grabbing for those high sugar foods and those processed carbs. As I mentioned before, sugar equals inflammation. Maybe you've noticed that you've had more aches and pains since we've had these stay at home orders. Maybe it's because of your food choices. So when we think about, just bringing it full circle here, how can we best manage the environmental stress in our lives? Whether you're stressed out because of COVID-19 or because your spouse is driving you crazy and now they're working from home.

TERESA: That doesn't happen at my house.

CASSIE: Right?! Never, ever.

TERESA: What?! You're working from home?! Haha!

CASSIE: Whatever your stressors are, first and foremost, as a registered dietician, I would say eat balanced meals and snacks throughout the day. Because when you get balanced from the inside out, you're better able to roll with the punches and handle those outside stressors. Now the longtime listeners know what I mean by that word balanced. But if any of you are newer, I'm going to explain it briefly. Balanced simply means... remember that the magic number is three and every time you grab for a meal or a snack, you want to have three components. You want some healthy animal protein, some vegetable carbohydrates, and some healthy fats. Now there's a second piece to that magic number three. And that is that you want to be eating about every three hours. So protein, vegetable carbs, healthy fats. Those three things about every three hours you'll balance your blood sugar and truly magical things happen when you balance your blood sugar.

TERESA: Yeah. And I think a lot of times people say, well, that works for other people and I get that, that can work for other people, but you don't know MY cravings. That there's no way that that could work for me.

CASSIE: Hey, that was me. Did you hear my story? You don't even know that the first time I ever took a Nutritional Weight & Wellness class, I wasn't seeing clients yet, but I wanted to start with this company. So I was required to take some of their classes and the teacher stood up and said, I'm going to teach you how to live craving free. And I'm in the back of the class, just snickering, because I thought, hey lady, you don't know MY cravings. But I don't have any cravings when I eat protein, carb, healthy fat. Cravings go away.

TERESA: Yup. They sure do. Okay. So now we want to take a step into a deeper understanding of how food can be a stressor or how food can help us manage biochemical stress and environmental stress. Have you ever thought that the foods that you eat are the cause of your stress?

CASSIE: We're going to talk more about that when we get back from break. You're listening to Dishing Up Nutrition and uh, yeah, let's talk more about that on the other side of this commercial, we'll be right back.

TERESA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. Is it true that how you think determines how we feel? There's a well known saying by Abraham Lincoln, "Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be". Perhaps that should be reworded to "most folks are as happy as their brains allow them to be". Current research shows that many people lack essential nutrients for brain wellness. Our brains solid mass is made up of fat. A critical fat for brain wellness is the fatty acid DHA. Breastmilk interestingly is high in the fatty acid DHA. So that's, you know, when the baby is developing their brain and their…

CASSIE: Mother Nature knows what she's doing.

TERESA: That's right! So if you're concerned about your brain wellness, we suggest taking two to six DHA soft gels daily. Brain wellness is critical for a good memory and positive moods.

CASSIE: I started giving this to my daughter for moods, oh, when she was probably five or six, six or seven, I mean, it's a small capsule. And she learned to swallow pills early and it really makes a difference. I would try to wean off every once in a while, you know, cause I'm always trying to like follow a tight budget and I would be like, no, there comes her belligerent nature again. So it really is... it works. It is what our brain should be made up of, that DHA. And we just don't have enough food sources available that provide it to us. Say, I want to mention Teresa before we jump back into our topic of how to stop stress eating. I wanted to mention this as we were going to commercial and I, I got a little behind, but I want to let everybody know that next week, next Saturday is going to be another great show. So you might want to mark it on your calendar and be sure to tune in next week is going to be the owner of Nutritional Weight & Wellness, Darlene Kvist along with Carolyn, one of our fellow registered dietitians, and they are going to be discussing whether or not genetics determine your health. Their topic is Do Genetics Determine Your Health. And I know I've had so many people over the years say to me, say things like, you know, well my grandma had arthritis, so that's why I have arthritis or the guys will say, well, my grandpa had heart disease and I know that's what I have. It's just in my genes. Well, maybe not. So tune into that show. They're going to have some great research. I think you're going to be surprised at what you learn.

TERESA: Okay. So before the break I asked a question. I said, have you ever thought that the foods you eat are the cause of your stress? Well, if you skip meals or eat high sugar processed foods, you are actually adding stress to your body and your brain. It's all about blood sugar. When your blood sugar is out of balance, your body releases the stress hormone, cortisol. Unbalanced blood sugar can cause a release of cortisol, which results in weight gain and belly fat. If you are feeling moody, tired, anxious, shaky, have cravings for sugar, or have an inability to focus and concentrate, it just may be the result of skipping meals or eating high sugar junk foods.

CASSIE: Right. So true. I'm just thinking about when I teach lunch and learn classes for one of our many corporate clients, so often the participants in class really get it that if I'm talking about pop, that's going to spike their blood sugar, right? I mean just a 12 ounce can of soda is about 10 teaspoons of sugar on average. But very often those same class members can't wrap their head around the fact that pasta will spike their blood sugar. Or that pizza is another high sugar food. The pasta, the pizza, the bread, the bagels, they will all drive up your blood sugars. And I'm just having this visual of so many of the hot dishes that my mom made growing up. I just can't even imagine the sugar load that I used to get from those. I'm thinking of one recipe in particular. It was her macaroni hamburger hot dish. And if you look up, I did this for the show prep, if you look up a cup of elbow macaroni pasta, before it's been cooked, it has 78 grams of carbs. And if I remember right, my mom's old recipe calls for two cups of that elbow macaroni to be added to the hot dish, so now we're up to 156 grams of carbs. That's a lot, if you're wondering, and maybe that number doesn't mean a lot to people. Let me put that into teaspoons of sugar. That hot dish turns into 39 teaspoons of sugar just from the noodles. You know, when you pour the cream of mushroom soup and all the other, I will say junk, that goes into that it makes that number of teaspoons of sugar go up even higher, but just the macaroni in that hat dish turns to 39 teaspoons of sugar. No wonder those hot dishes are off limits for anyone who has prediabetes or diabetes or any type of blood sugar problem.

TERESA: Yeah. And if you want to think about that 39 teaspoons of sugar is almost a cup of sugar. So it's like adding a cup of sugar to your hot dish.

CASSIE: Can you imagine? Like I'm making a hot dish, I'm just going to pour this sugar in there. But that really that's a great visual because yeah. In our bloodstream, that pasta turns to that sugar really quickly.

TERESA: Yeah. And so another thing that we can do rather than making a soup with noodles or with rice, we suggest making a pot of maybe our hamburger soup. It's full of protein. It has a bunch of vegetables in it and it has beneficial fat in it. And you can find this recipe at our website:

CASSIE: And I just want to interrupt you for a second because I just made that recipe this last Thursday for our evening meal because my twelve-year-old requested it.


CASSIE: And of the two kids, she's my pickier eater, but she loves that hamburger soup. And it's a great way to get several vegetables into your child's body, let alone your own, just in one bowl. So yeah, that's a family favorite at our house and I like making soup even in the summertime because I like to do a double batch so that I have leftovers and to take soup to the office when the air conditioner is turned on is really a comforting thing. So yeah. Don't be afraid of making soup even though it's June.

TERESA: Yeah. We were just talking about that before, how we wish we could wear our summer clothes, but you walk into buildings and it's freezing.

CASSIE: You feel like you should wear your turtleneck because the air conditioner is cranked. I know!

TERESA: For stress management, we suggest eating three meals and two snacks every day. So like Cassie was saying with that magic three, you know, we have our protein, fat and carb every three hours. So to keep our blood sugar balanced, we encourage you to feed yourself with good food on a regular basis. Low blood sugar encourages feelings of stress and anxiety. I tell people it doesn't necessarily cause it, but it is the fertile ground for it to grow.

CASSIE: Absolutely. And I mean, any good psychologist will tell you that if you are prone to panic attacks, most often they occur at a low blood sugar.

TERESA: Right.

CASSIE: There's a connection.

TERESA: Yep. Low blood sugar plus a stressful situation. Anxiety.

CASSIE: Recipe for disaster.

TERESA: Yup. To avoid having low blood sugar, do your best to eat adequate portions of protein. So three to four ounces is what we recommend. So thinking of the size and thickness of the palm of your hand. Your favorite vegetables, you can have, you know, you can have them fresh. This is a great time of year for fresh vegetables. But if you aren't going to the grocery store as often, I would say stock your freezer and have a bunch of frozen vegetables available to have too. And then we also want to eat healthy, beneficial fats. Our clients who follow our suggestions to take a few minutes every evening to plan times to eat their meals and snacks the following day are so happy that they are no longer experiencing the negative effects of having low blood sugars. They're not mindlessly wandering into the kitchen raiding the pantry or their cupboards. Eating good food throughout the day ensures that your body and brain get the nutrients that they need to keep your blood sugar stable, which in turn will help you to focus and concentrate and perform at an optimal level. I also try really hard to keep the processed junk food out of my house, because that is just a magnet for everybody in the family. Right. So best practice for me and my family is to keep it out of sight so it's out of mind and that doesn't mean they don't ask for it, but if it's not there.

CASSIE: Right, right. We can all relate. Yeah. If it's not calling your name from behind the cupboard door, there's no going and grabbing it. I'm glad you mentioned protein too Teresa because I have found that over the years that if I'm dealing with a lot of stress, I feel like I need to eat even a little more protein than usual. And because of all the stress that we've all been experiencing these past few months, the added stress, I am really being conscious of getting at least four ounces of high quality animal protein at every meal. I don't skimp on that because that, for me, leads to stress eating if I'm not getting that protein in. So let's see. I think I should give an example because people like the food examples, right? So I'm just thinking of the breakfast I had this morning. So on a weekend like this, when I have to do radio and I live about, I don't know, I suppose 40 miles from the studio here. So I leave plenty early on radio mornings. And it's for this reason that I like to make my breakfast the night before. And one of my favorite breakfasts on an early morning like this is what I call my breakfast bowl. But it's really just my version of our Sonoma Chicken Salad recipe. That's in the Nutritional Weight & Wellness cookbook. Yes. I have salad for breakfast. I do that quite often and I just love it. So last night I just put a few handfuls of mixed baby greens into a Pyrex bowl. And then I use my kitchen sheers to cut up a small leftover chicken breast that I had. So I put that on top of the greens. Next, I chopped up a little red onion, threw that in. Sliced up five or six red grapes. And then at the end, I top it with a small handful of walnuts. And then I take just a dollop of mayonnaise and add a little real maple syrup and a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar, whisk that up. And that's my dressing. It is so delicious and it balances my blood sugar and it makes me ready for the day. And again, that is in our Weight & Wellness Cookbook and Nutrition Guide. And we're going to head to our next break. You are listening to Dishing Up Nutrition. Before we go to break. I want all of the listeners to think about this. Most likely we're going to have this added stress for the foreseeable few months or more at least. And sometimes some of us need a little extra help besides just the good balanced food that you want to be eating throughout the day. Some of us need a little extra help. Something that helps me and when I was seeing clients helped a lot of my clients is a supplement called 5-HTP. 5-HTP helps our body make serotonin and serotonin is that feel good, brain chemical. It's also that brain chemical that helps us to get a good night's sleep. So if you take a couple of capsules before bed, it can help with sleep. If you take a couple of capsules of 5-HTP before a meal, a lot of people find that it helps to reduce cravings and helps to reduce stress eating. And there are a lot of different supplements that can help with stress, with sleep, with anxiety. If you want to learn more about this, and if you feel like you need a little extra help from a registered dietitian or a nutritionist, you can call the office today at (651) 699-3438. The ladies that answer the phone are really good at helping each person find out the solution that's right for them personally. And don't go away. We have more great information to share after this break.

TERESA: Welcome back to Dishing Up Nutrition. In place of our in house Nutrition 4 Weight Loss program, we are now offering Nutrition 4 Weight Loss, that series, via zoom. Our next series starts on Monday... on Monday, June 15th, and I'm teaching that class. So I would love to have anybody that wants to join, join us.


TERESA: So I'm teaching and then Kris is also... We're sharing the series. So every other week you'll have one of us. As an extra bonus, we are including one additional nutrition appointment for a total of three individual sessions with a dietitian or nutritionist. And this appointment is just for you. So it was one on one with a nutritionist or dietitian. We are hoping to have people join us from all over the U.S. And even over the globe, if they would like to, because everyone needs to practice good nutrition during this stressful time. All of us at Nutritional Weight & Wellness appreciate your support and hope that our nutritional knowledge and practice keep each and every one of you well. To sign up for our Nutrition 4 Weight Loss series via zoom, call (651) 699-3438, or sign up online at So before the break, we were talking about breakfast and the importance of breakfast. We talk about this quite a bit. And some of you may be thinking, why is breakfast of protein and vegetables so much better than say a simple bowl of cereal? Well, protein is made up of amino acids, which are the building blocks of our neurotransmitters. We actually have about 200 different neurotransmitters and there are two that are pretty well known, serotonin and dopamine. The neurotransmitter serotonin comes from the amino acids in eggs, fish, poultry, and cheese. And when we have sufficient serotonin, we feel calm, relaxed, happy, and we have a sense of wellbeing.

CASSIE: I love serotonin. That's my favorite. I like to call the neurotransmitters brain chemicals. It gives me a better visual. So I'm going to talk about another neurotransmitter or brain chemical. And that is dopamine. Dopamine also comes from amino acids. It's found in high amounts in things like beef, chicken, and pork. And when I think of somebody with a lot of dopamine, I think of somebody that has a lot of energy. They are always on. They have great focus and motivation. They're getting things done. Now, if somebody is under a lot of long term chronic stress, they're going to use up these brain chemicals, burn through them pretty fast. So somebody that in the past may have had plenty of dopamine and used to have high energy and be motivated, they could become depressed. They could start to develop anxiety, have low energy, and start to have cravings, cravings for high sugar foods and/or stimulants like coffee or energy drinks. And this is when it really becomes important to eat on a schedule and get plenty of animal protein in, so you can build up those brain chemicals so that you don't fall into that trap of depression and anxiety. So again, lots of animal protein, the size of the palm of your hand, and about that thickness at every meal. Now I have had people say to me, well, I don't need to worry about making neuro-transmitters or brain chemicals because I'm already on an antidepressant. Well, the truth is antidepressants don't help us to make more serotonin or make more dopamine. They try to help what's already there work a little bit more efficiently, but they're helping us to make more. So if you're deficient those antidepressants aren't going to work well or aren't going to work for very long, because again, they're not helping you make more. Your best way to make more brain chemicals is to eat animal protein four or five times throughout the day.

TERESA: So how do you stop stress eating? Well, in addition to eating on schedule, it's extremely important to get seven and a half to nine hours of sleep every night. Not just some nights. Every night. At Nutritional Weight & Wellness, we help our clients understand that if they want good mental health, they need to accept the reality that sleep helps them detox their brain. And it gets rid of the toxic chemicals. And you know what? It also helps your body get rid of those toxic thoughts that we have.

CASSIE: Isn't that interesting getting enough quality sleep each night helps us detox. And you know, a lot of the experts... I know you mentioned this earlier in the show, believe that there's a link between Alzheimer's and a chronic lack of sleep. And if anybody wants more information on this topic of sleep, we had a great Dishing Up Nutrition program back in 2018. May 14th, 2018 called Why We Sleep. So I encourage you to go back and listen to that podcast when you get a chance.

TERESA: Now, I want to talk about alcohol and stress eating. This quarantine has brought about a significant spike in liquor sales.

CASSIE: You should see the liquor store by my house. It's right next to my grocery store. I'm like, oh my gosh, I've never seen so many people going in and out in the middle of the day.

TERESA: So if you find yourself reaching for more wine, beer, or cocktails, well, you're not alone. But you know that drinking alcohol produces a pleasurable feeling. This feeling is related to an increased activity of dopamine, which is our energy, our motivation, our focus, our self esteem chemical. That increased dopamine activity causes our body to use more dopamine too fast, which leaves our dopamine stores depleted. So you may feel lethargic and unmotivated the next day. Does that sound familiar? Alcohol can also interfere with other feel good chemicals like serotonin and your endorphins, causing the post-party blues and those post-party blues may go into the next day or even over the next few days. So you can see how this can become a continuous cycle. We feel sad and unmotivated and many of us look for food or more alcohol to cheer us up. Maybe that's why the greasy fast food sounds so good after a night of too much drinking. And don't forget, alcohol can leave you dehydrated, thus triggering more cravings due to dehydration. So the fix: don't drink alcohol. It's that simple. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's the solution. Once you start cutting it out and ride a couple of days with uncomfortable moods, you'll realize you function much better without it. For many people having extra drinks when the quarantine started, made it more fun and a little bit more bearable, but after nearly three months of sheltering in place, alcohol should not be a long term coping mechanism. So let's save the drinks for special occasions, practice moderation, and rotate between alcoholic drinks and water.

CASSIE: Great tips, such great tips. And sadly, we are almost out of time, but if any of you want more information on this topic of how to stop stress eating, which in reality is all about fixing your cravings, please take a minute to read a great article that my cohost here Teresa wrote last week. You can find it on our website at So when you're on that home page, just click on articles. And the title of this article Teresa wrote is called Six Reasons Behind Cravings And How To Fix Them. It's really packed with a lot of great information and a lot of real life solutions that you can start putting into practice today. So as always, we like to remind our listeners as the show draws to a close that our goal at Nutritional Weight & Wellness is to help each and every person experience better health through eating real food. Yes, it's a simple message, but it's a powerful message. Eating real food is life changing. Thank you so much for listening today. Be well and be safe.




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