Round 2: Submit Results Now
Monday, January 23 - Sunday, February 5
Deadline for submitting results: Monday, February 13.
Stress Induced Eating
There is much truth behind the phrase "stress eating." Stress, the hormones it unleashes, and the effects of high-fat, sugary "comfort foods" push people toward overeating. Researchers have linked weight gain to stress, and according to an American Psychological Association survey, about one-fourth of Americans rate their stress level as 8 or more on a 10-point scale.
In the short term, stress can shut down appetite. Additionally, stress also seems to affect food preferences. Numerous studies - granted, many of them in animals - have shown that physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both. High cortisol levels, in combination with high insulin levels, may be responsible. Other research suggests that ghrelin, a "hunger hormone," may have a role.
Once ingested, fat- and sugar-filled foods seem to have a feedback effect that inhibits activity in the parts of the brain that produce and process stress and related emotions. These foods really are "comfort" foods in that they seem to counteract stress - and this may contribute to people's stress-induced craving for those foods.
Of course, overeating isn't the only stress-related behavior that can add pounds. Stressed people also lose sleep, exercise less, and drink more alcohol, all of which can contribute to excess weight.
Understanding Food Labels
Food Labels offer a lot of valuable information, and knowing some basics can help put it in perspective. The next time you're at the grocery store, take some time to read the nutrition panel using these helpful pointers:
- Look at the ingredients list. When you look at the ingredients, ask yourself the following questions: Do I know what all of these words mean? And, how many ingredients are in this food? Work towards eating foods with only a few ingredients, and ones that contain ingredients that come from whole foods.
- Check out the serving size. In order for all of the values in the food label to be accurate, they must represent the actual amount consumed. For example, if a food label says five crackers is a serving but you always eat ten, then all of the values in the food label must be multiplied by two in order for them to be accurate. Sometimes food companies make serving sizes unrealistically small, and then if consumers only look at calories when buying a product, it appears like a good choice.
- Read the Total Calories. If weight loss is your target, this is very important to consider. That's because regardless of indicators of food quality (such as nutrient density), the total calories that you consume each day has the greatest impact on your body weight. When you realize that the Hungry Man meal supplies over 50% of your calorie needs, you may choose the Healthy Request instead.
- Consider the Total Fiber content. Think about this - the average fiber intake of the US population is 11.1 grams per day, but the recommended intake is closer to 25 grams for women and 35 grams for men! Fiber is an important component of your diet for many reasons. Several studies have determined that total food intake decreases when fiber intake increases, by promoting a feeling of fullness that is longer lasting than low fiber foods.
- Sodium matters. Most Americans are consuming far too much sodium. Your best bet is to stick to foods from these basic food groups: fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, protein-rich foods, and whole grains. However, where you find yourself purchasing a boxed, bottled, or frozen food, it is worth taking a look at the sodium content. Prepared foods may contain over half of a day's worth of sodium in a single serving. When perusing the grocery store aisles, look for "low sodium" or "No Added Salt" on the front of packaging as well.
- % DV. These figures provide a basis for determining how a serving of a certain food fits into your daily requirements for selected nutrients. For instance, an 8-ounce glass of milk supplies 30 percent of the DV for calcium, which happens to be 1,000 milligrams. That means eight ounces of milk provides 300 milligrams of calcium, a considerable bang for the buck. The % DV is the best estimate of how a serving of that food contributes to daily nutrient needs.
Other Label Claims to Consider
|Calorie Free||The product contains fewer than 5 calories per serving.|
|Low Calorie||Each serving supplies 40 or fewer calories.|
|Light or Lite||The food contains a third fewer calories or 50% less fat. If the food derives more than half its calories from fat, then its fat level must be reduced by 50% or more to make this claim.|
|Low in Sodium||It has half the sodium of its counterparts.|
|Fat Free||The product contains a half-gram of fat per serving, or even less.|
|Low Fat||You won't get any more than 3 grams of fat per suggested serving.|
|Low Saturated Fat||One gram or less per serving is saturated fat.|
|Cholesterol Free||This product serves up 20 milligrams or less.|
|Sodium Free||A serving provides fewer than 5 milligrams of sodium.|
|Very Low Sodium||A serving contains 35 milligrams or less of sodium.|
|High Fiber||A portion of this food serves up at least 5 grams of dietary fiber.|
|Sugar Free||Less than half a gram of sugar per serving.|
|High, Rich In, or Excellent Source Of||One serving supplies at least 20% of the DV for a certain nutrient.|
|Good Source||A serving provides at least 10% of the DV for a certain nutrient.|