When we're stressed, low on sleep, or a combination of the two, we're more likely to reach for the sugar and carbs. In fact, a study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that those who slept just four hours a night had increased activity in the pleasure centers of the brain when around pepperoni pizza, donuts, and candy.
The same goes for stress: The areas of the brain affected by stress actually alter a person's capacity for self-control, particularly when it comes to food. So how can you resist the temptation to fill up on unhealthy, processed foods when exhausted or stressed out? Brooke Sheller, a functional medicine nutritionist at the Integrative Wellness Group, swears by a three-part plan of attack:
Make Protein Your "Pick-Me-Up"
Rather than reaching for a morning bagel, "try a plant-based protein smoothie or eggs with veggies," writes Sheller for Mindbodygreen. "Plan ahead the night before if you know you might need a few extra winks in the morning."
Fill Up on Healthy Fats
Protein is pretty much your only savior when tired or stressed. It "helps to stabilize your blood sugar and minimize cravings for unhealthy foods," explains Sheller. Fill up on healthy carbs, like starchy vegetables, and healthy fats like meat, nuts, and seeds.
End the Vicious Cycle
Countless nights of bad sleep coupled with constant stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits or even weight gain. It's important to "cut off work at least an hour before bedtime and save the late nights out for the weekend when you know you can catch up," suggests Sheller.
Have you managed to cut processed foods out of your diet? Share your experience with us below!