Why Stress Eating is Worse Than Overeating Alone After Gastric Sleeve

Vertical sleeve gastrectomy can help solve a number of problems in your life, but it can’t eliminate stressors that are thrown at you. From relationship problems to family illness to job loss, sometimes anxiety feels like a constant companion. And when it does, how often do you reach for celery for comfort? I’m guessing never. But eating poorly when you’re stressed out can pack on the pounds more than overeating at other times. Here’s why.

How Comfort Food and High Stress Collide in Your Body
A recent animal study published in Cell Metabolism found that chowing down on high-calorie foods when you’re stressed causes weight gain faster than the same foods do when you’re not stressed. Interesting, huh? In a nutshell, the study showed that chronic stress combined with poor food choices sends insulin levels through the roof. Before long, a neuropeptide called NPY also goes into overdrive, messing with your ability to burn energy (calories) through heat and prompting you to overeat. Stress alone didn’t do this, nor did crappy eating by itself. The combo, it seems, is where things take a very bad turn.

Handling Stress the Healthy Way
So what’s a VSG patient supposed to do when trauma comes knocking? If you can’t control the strain you’re under, take heart that you can control what does into your mouth. Here are some helpful coping tips.

  • Call it by name. Losing your home in a fire is a different kind of stress than, say, battling traffic on your way to work. One might make sour your mood for a bit, while the other affects every area of your life for the foreseeable future. If you’re battling that kind of stressor, don’t downplay it. Stuffing down your feelings often leads to stuffing down an entire box of cookies. By acknowledging that you’re hurting and that life is a mess right now, you can actually start to take control of how you respond to it, rather than feeling helpless.
  • Identify your non-food comforts. Looking for solace in the midst of stress is a normal human reaction. So many of us fight the battle of the bulge because food is an easy, effective avenue to instant comfort. For a hot minute, anyway. But there are plenty of other things that can soothe your soul besides ice cream: getting your nails done, curling up with a book you’ve been wanting to read, or escaping into a game or movie on television. Whatever works for you, now is the time to prioritize those things.
  • Get social. One of the best ways to battle serious stress is with human connection. Technology meant to keep us in constant contact has actually led to feelings of isolation for a huge percentage of people. Fight back against that isolation by surrounding yourself with people you trust. Call a friend for a coffee date, go shopping with your sister, or take a walk with your spouse. Keep your calendar booked with things—and people—you can count on to care for you.
  • Commit to a reset. If you’re already fighting regain following a particularly stressful time, check out the “Back on Track” guide from our very own Brandi Carter. A kind of detox to help your body reset, it offers tons of helpful advice and gastric sleeve diet tips to move you (and the scale) in the right direction.

Stress is as certain as death and taxes. When you’re feeling pushed to your limits, it can be easier to get a quick hit of comfort through unhealthy foods. But I urge you, instead, to be truly good to yourself by picking up the phone or a book rather than a fork.

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