The amazing stress-eating trick

Welcome to the positive corner of wellness. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If...

Welcome to the positive corner of wellness. Here’s a daily digest designed to make you healthier in less than 5 minutes. If you were forwarded this message, you can get the free daily email here.

Today’s Health Upgrade

  • Gluten’s redemption

  • The stress-eating trick

  • The 10-minute brain boost

We Owe Gluten An Apology

Gluten needs a new PR team. That’s because the last decade of gluten fear might have been mostly a case of mistaken identity.

The latest research suggests gluten is likely not the cause of many stomach problems and IBS; the real culprit is probably fructans, a carbohydrate source often found in grains, vegetables, and some ultra-processed foods.

That was the takeaway of research that examined what happens when people are given three different types of porridge — one with gluten, one with FODMAPS (a group of carbohydrates, including fructans), and a placebo. There was no difference in GI issues between the placebo and the gluten group, whereas the diet higher in FODMAPS caused problems.

So how do you explain all the gluten-free success stories? It’s likely a placebo effect. In a 2017 study, 40 percent of people reported GI issues when given a placebo but were told it was gluten.

If removing gluten makes you feel better, then go for it. But, for most people, unless you have celiac disease (that’s less than 2 percent of the population), gluten likely isn’t your issue. Instead, look into eating a diet lower in FODMAPS (this overview from includes a list of foods that could cause issues), and you might finally experience relief without having to cut out all gluten.

The Stress-Eating Solution

You don’t need us to provide a study to prove that stress can make you overeat. But did you know that you can outsmart your brain to eat less and feel better?

When stress is high, learning to activate and relax your muscles can reduce your anxiety and control your hunger.

Don’t worry, you don’t need the gym or any equipment for this method. The technique is known as progressive muscle relaxation, and it’s done by flexing your muscles for a few seconds, relaxing, and then repeating the process. You can practice by taking a deep breath, tensing the muscles in your feet and hands, and then exhaling and relaxing. This practice alone can reduce stress, which can then help curb hunger.

More interesting? A recent study found that you can trigger the same relaxation and hunger control by eating a piece of fruit. In the study, participants would do 5 minutes of the deep breath-tension-relaxation combination followed by eating a piece of fruit. After just seven days, the participants could eat the fruit when they were stressed — without progressive muscle relaxation — and feel less stressed.

Magic? Not exactly. Your brain is great at learning and making associations. By combining the relaxation technique with fruit, the brain learned to connect stress relief with the act of eating something healthy, much like the old psychology experiments conducted by Pavlov. Whether you combine it with fruit or not, when stress hits, spend 5 minutes per day tensing and relaxing, and it can put you back in control and improve your mood.

The 10-Minute Brain Boost

The next time you feel yourself fading at work, schedule a “fake” meeting and take a 10-minute mental break. It just might be the change you’ve been looking for.

A new study found that a 10-minute break during the workday improves mental vigor, makes it easier to push through brain fog when your job gets hard, and reduces mental fatigue.

Interestingly, the breaks helped improve creative tasks the most. That’s because innovative thoughts are usually sparked when you let your mind wander. It’s why some people have some of their best thoughts in the shower or during a good workout.

It’s easy to get caught up in working longer hours, but you’ll likely find that a few strategic breaks throughout the day can give your mind the jolt you need to do more and burn out less.

Note: scrolling social media, as we talked about last week, isn’t a break for your brain.

The amazing stress-eating trick

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