What To Munch When You're Crunched?: Poor Diet Choices Can Mean Lifestyle Risk for Stressed TeensTuesday, April 04, 2006 By Daniela G'Mariam and Michelle Jaramillo
With the end of the school year rapidly approaching, and graduation right around the corner, the stress level of Oakland Tech students has skyrocketed. Often this leads them to turn to their favorite fatty foods for comfort. “I usually eat donuts, muffins, spaghetti -- mostly junk food -- when I feel stressed,” says Veronica Rompelman, a senior at Tech. “I like eating my mama’s home cooking-anything with cheese!” says Karina Castillo, also a senior. According to the Wholistic Stress Control Institute web site ( http://www.mindspring.com), some signs of stress are headaches, forgetfulness, a drop in school performance, and overeating. While stressed over school family and friends, many teens tend to overeat and under eat; both can cause damaging long-term effects. Studies have shown that half of all boys and 2/3 of girls skip their breakfast, which provides a source of energy and often predicts how well things will go that day. Often, teens who are stressed turn to high-carb and high-fat foods, such as potato chips, ice cream, pizza with all toppings, French fries, fried chicken, mac and cheese, and soda. Contrary to popular belief, high-carb foods are not all bad; nutritionists say there is a biological reason behind the fact that we seek out such foods when we are depressed or anxious. According to a September 2003 article on WebMD, studies show that “high-fat, high-carbohydrate comfort foods actually fight stress” by reducing the flow of stress-type hormones that flood the brain when people are stressed. However, high carb fatty foods can lead to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and abdominal obesity according to an article in Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com). Our body reacts to all levels of stress, whether it’s stressing over tests, GPA requirements, or a burnt down home and to the sound of gunshots. Unfortunately the effect of the foods we eat and the drinks we intake are the furthest from our thoughts. “When I stress out and I eat, it makes me feel better while I’m eating, but worse afterwards, because I know the food is not good for me,” says Rompelman. What is stress? Many studies have agreed that stress is a fight or flight response that the body experiences as a result of difficult situations. Stress also causes high spikes in blood pressure, and not only throws the body in overdrive but also considerably weakens our immune system-causing long-term health problems. Unfortunately, high school can be a particularly stressful time for many students. And at times following a strict regime diet seems like just another thing teens have to abide by often we turn a blind eye. At other times, we can’t help but obsess about the calories that are contained in foods we eat. Either way, stress is a seed that can ripen into to health problems such as obesity. And it’s surprisingly easy to make bad choices, especially when it comes to “comfort” foods that we think will ease our stress. For example, the combination of a Starbucks coffee and a bacon-double cheeseburger could actually cause more stress than comfort. According to a 2004 article in Psychology Today, caffeine is a stimulant, which can cause stress; so can high-fat foods, which cause the body to work overtime to digest them (http://www.psychologytoday.com). “I stress out a lot because I am a senior and (I) got to check myself with whatever I eat -- I eat too much!” says Castillo. Luckily, there is hope for stressful eaters; there are many ways to relieve stress without having to run and turn to favorite fatty foods for comfort. One of the best ways to relive stress the natural way is meditation. Lighting aromatherapy candles, and surrounding oneself with positive thoughts can help clear your head of the stress of everyday life. If this does not work, setting aside 10 to 20 minutes a day to take a walk or get active with friends, such as shooting hoops or shopping will drive those dark clouds off your shoulders. This will do wonders for your health and social life, and it might be exactly what the doctor ordered. You can eat what you want and still be on top of your game.