Stress Linked To Unhealthy Eating Habits

Managing stress & eating right; two big factors to healthy living

Most truckers understand that stress is an inevitable part of a career in trucking. Most truckers enjoy the driving part of the job, but there is stress involved in a truck driving career. There’s stress when you’re in traffic. There’s stress when you are trying to find a safe place to park and rest while avoiding HOS violation. There’s stress when you’re looking for someplace downtown and you can’t find it and you’re lost. There’s stress trying to back into a tiny little spot, where there really isn’t any room for a tractor trailer.

The customer doesn’t care…..he just wants you to be at the dock. There’s the stress of being away from home and worrying about your family when you’re gone. There is plenty of stress in driving professionally for a living. For many drivers, the stress of the road and limited access to parking and healthy food choices result in poor eating habits. Truck drivers are among the highest incidence of diabetes and obesity. 

According to one survey, 38% of adults eat unhealthy foods or overeat during periods of stress. While it might seem like a pint of ice cream or bag of chips offers temporary relief, new research reveals that eating junk food could negatively impact your mood.

The Connection Between Stress and Your Appetite trucker breakfast

Research shows stress is associated with higher fat intake. A spike in cortisol levels (when stressed) increases appetite. According to Vicki Shanta Retelny, RDN, this can create a bigger problem when you reach for fried, salty or sweet foods that have little nutritional value and a lot of excess calories because these foods increase inflammation and cause your blood sugar to spike, which can tank your mood.

Oxidative stress, inflammation, and insulin resistance are all factors that can trigger brain changes associated with depression. Diet can combat these mood-altering brain changes. While the foods you choose have an impact on your mental well-being, the reverse is also true: Your mood can influence your appetite.

How Diet & Stress Affect Men and Women Differently

truck driver diet

According to a study, published in the Nutritional Neuroscience journal, men and women had different responses to poor eating habits. Mental distress in men was associated with the least healthy dietary patterns and women were less likely to experience mental well-being compared to men if they didn’t follow a healthy diet and lifestyle.

“A healthy diet and exercise are needed for both genders. But women may need to pay closer attention to their diets and exercise as they may be more sensitive to dietary variations.” This may be in part because women’s brains have more neural connectivity (or regions) between cortices, making a healthy diet even more important for their mental health, explains researcher Lina Begdache, PhD, RD, assistant professor at Binghamton University.

The Best Diet For Improving Your Mood

A 2018 literature review found that people who followed a strict Mediterranean diet, which included lots of fish, nuts, vegetables and fruits, had a 33% lower risk of being diagnosed with depression compared to those who ate a so-called western diet that was high in processed meats, trans fats and alcohol.

The Bottom Line

Eating a healthy, well-balanced diet and spending time in nature can help improve well-being and alleviate depression. It’s also important to find productive ways to control stress. Instead of heading to the kitchen (or fast food/convenient store) in search of something sweet or salty the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed, try journaling, reading a book or calling a friend. Get moving – working out is good at alleviating everyday pressures and stress while also keeping your waistline in check.

All of these things can be challenging for truckers but when you consider the cost – your health – you simply need to find the best way that works for you. Plan ahead – choose your meals and snacks wisely, replacing convenient, fast food choices with healthier alternatives. Find the best time to get outside and exercise while you are out on the road.

 

Sources:
Healthy Food Choices When Stressed
APA survey: Stress and Eating
Perceived Stress and Fat Intake Study
Why Stress Cause People To Overeat
Career in Trucking: Managing Stress