Is My Stress Eating Causing Acne To Get Worse?

chocolate layered cake

By Banish Contribution By SeYoung K.

Do you stress eat?  Can stress eating attribute to more acne?

Acne is more than just a physical skin condition.  Our skin is connected to the rest of our body and mind and the response of eating comfort foods can also contribute to acne since the highest endorphin releasing foods tend to be high in fats, sugars, and highly processed.  Endorphins are the chemicals responsible for making us feel good and help cope with stress and pain. 

To get more of a backstory, bad food habits have followed me for years.

When I got stressed, which was quite often, I run to ice cream, french fries, and everything in between. I wish it wasn’t true, but in those seasons my skin felt significantly oilier and I broke out in acne a lot more the days I devoured through “stress eating.”

This is a dangerous train to hop on because you can quickly get caught in the cycle. What is this stress eating cycle? It’s a habit where stress triggers higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body.  These raised levels trigger the hunger response in our bodies which can cause us to overeat.  These negative emotions from stress can trigger us to eat, and feel temporarily relief from the food, but it is a vicious cycle. 

If you are a stress eater, you know this cycle all too well.  In order to combat this, I’ve tried a few things like writing myself notes on the fridge as a reminder to slow down before I just grab the first thing in the fridge and slam it down in light of a fleeting emotion.

Easier said than done, right? 

How Stress Eating Can Cause Acne

According to this study, there is a correlation of a higher chance of current acne breakouts and the amount of certain foods you have eaten such as high fat foods like dairy,  and high sugar foods and drinks. 

 If someone had consumed a large amount of high fat or sugar food or drinks the day before, it increases the chance of more acne breakouts showing up the next day. 

Some reasons why high sugar foods could cause acne, it because sugar spikes the insulin hormone in the body and raises inflammation, which acne is an inflammatory condition of the skin.  

High fat foods could contribute to acne because the high amounts of saturated fat also contain insulin growth factors.  These stimulate the products of sex hormones that could lead to more adult acne breakouts.  

A change in diet by removing high fat or high sugar foods could improve acne and skin.  

Stress itself may also lead to more acne breakouts too since stress raises cortisol and slows the the healing process so if your skin barrier is damaged, or your frequency of acne breakouts is the same, but it's taking a few more days longer to heal then it can seem like stress is making acne worse. 

Tips To Manage Stress Eating

Practice finding another outlet for emotions.

My best advice for the stress eaters out there is to try being more vocal about your emotions. You would be surprised at how much verbally processing your inner world can change your behavior.  You’re trying to respond to an emotional and physiological response with a different means. Now, I’m not saying we all shouldn’t eat what we enjoy. I can say with confidence that I will never give up my ice cream. I’m saying we shouldn’t use food as the only coping mechanism. 

 Eat Healthy Meals Earlier In the Day

People who stress eat tend to do so in the evening, or near the end of the day, most likely because that's when all the day's worth of stress has built up to the highest levels.   To combat stress eating junk food in the evening, make sure you've prepared nutritious meals to eat earlier in the day to curb hunger. 

Create Healthy Snacks And Limit Portions

It's easy to go for  highly processed foods as snacks.  Try to keep your fridge and pantry stocked with less processed options, and substitute dessert cravings with whole fruits.  Snack on a handful of nuts instead of that handful of chips, etc. Or create your own snacks like fresh banana chips or apple chips to get your crunchy, sweet craving in without the extra sugars and fats.   Maybe have that cookie, but if you're still feeling hungry after, have your healthier snack options on hand instead of eating several more cookies. 

It doesn't mean that you have to deprive yourself of your favorite comfort foods, but more as a way to help limit the portions of them, and substituting for healthier alternatives. Being mindful of how you feel can also help you determine if you are actually hungry, or if you are just responding to an emotion that you're currently feeling. 

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