After a fight with your spouse, do you run to the kitchen to binge on carbs, ice cream or potato chips? Do you pull out a bag of M&Ms and devour the whole one-pound bag? It turns out, there is a scientific link between marital stress and eating junk food.
According to a study of 43 couples, "The couples who experienced the most stress also had elevated levels of ghrelin, the hormone that signals hunger in the brain. The distressed couples were also likely to eat more calories, protein and sodium. ... Hostile couples had significantly higher amounts of the appetite-triggering hormone after arguments." These findings were true for both men and women.
Stress is bad for your health, but if you give heed to the I-need-more-food hormone, it can affect your healthy eating habits, too.
What can you do when marital stress hits to avoid abusing junk food?
You've had a disagreement and now you're looking for some emotional comfort from your pantry or refrigerator. If you can moderate yourself, indulging isn't all bad. If it seems to help boost your mood, it's OK to have a small amount of chocolate. But instead of eating the whole chocolate cake or pan of brownies, limit yourself to one serving. Don't sit on the couch in front of the TV with a party-sized bag of chips; limit yourself to a handful or two. Don't eat so much you need an intervention or that it leads to an unhealthy lifestyle. Moderation is key.
When the stress hits high levels, seek some deep relaxation to combat its effects. Taking deep, slow breaths can help bring your body out of stress mode. Meditation, yoga, prayer or even a relaxing bubble bath can not only rejuvenate your mind and body, but it can also help you find a more clear perspective. Whatever you can do to help yourself de-stress will be helpful.
If relaxing is more difficult for you, exercise may be the way to go. Running, cycling, dancing, kickboxing or throwing punches at a punching bag (how many of us sometimes want to punch something anyway?) can do wonders to conquer stress. It's a healthy alternative. Exercise releases endorphins, which elevate your mood and help you feel better. It's a win-win situation for your health.
Granted, after an argument or other stressful encounter with your spouse, the last thing on your mind is intimacy. However, after the conflict is resolved and it's time to make up, those stress hormones can be further alleviated through sex. According to WebMd, "touching and hugging can release your body's natural 'feel-good hormone.' Sexual arousal releases a brain chemical that revs up your brain's pleasure and reward system."
Sex not only helps ease stress, but it plays a huge role in bonding between couples - plus it burns calories!
When stress comes up, fight the urge to give in to the hunger-inducing hormone your body releases, and try a more healthy way to manage stress levels. Couples can do these activities together to further benefit their marriage relationship. Also, following these suggestions on a regular basis - not only when you're stressed - can be a healthy way of life.