Cellular Stress: The Connection Between Food and Our Emotions

By Jesse Kepka
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Nutrition Coach and Corrective Exercise Specialist

I’m going to walk out on the plank here and hope I don’t get shoved off to the sharks. I’ve talked before about the sticky and deep connection we have between food and our emotions in the way we handle bad stressors. My premise is that stress causes a breakdown/wear-and-tear at a cellular level as well as poor food choices. 

Let me try and illustrate this for you: 

Imagine it’s Monday. You’re off to work and find yourself on the side of the road with a flat tire. You lose your credit card. Your boss is particularly heinous. No lunch for you since you didn’t pack one and have no card to swipe. You hit traffic on the way home and find you left the garage open all day. Inside the house, you find your furry little friend has puked up something that smells like the bottom of a Porta Potty. Mondays have a bad rep for a reason, right? The last 8-10 hours have left you not only emotionally fried but at a cellular level, the stress has done some serious physical damage. Now, in this moment, what do you want to eat? 

I’m guessing anything fried, loaded with sugar or that contains alcohol. No judgement here. You feel you deserve a treat simply for surviving. Though, I do have a “but.” 

BUT – when you choose the aforementioned bad things, you’re only exacerbating that same cellular-level damage that you have been enduring all day. Your physical body is tired, and you’re making it work even harder to process things of which it doesn’t need or want any part. Layers upon layers of damage. 

What if you were to choose good things at the end of this day? Not only would you claim a win, but you can start to reverse the damage done from the emotional and inevitable physical stress from the pyramid of unfortunate encounters. What if we were to call the good, healthy foods the actual treat for the body – the reward for surviving. The reward is to be nourished well, not to be put into a state of further stress. 

Can we somehow shift our brains to agree with our physical body – the reward is to be coddled back to normal with whole proteins, fruits and vegetables? 

*braces for the sharks* 

Tip shared by Jesse Kepka, NASM-certified personal trainer, corrective exercise specialist and owner of Elevate Fitness. Jesse is a co-organizer for Priority Fit Camp. Each week, we publish a health and wellness tip that is shared at the Priority Fit Camp community workout. The free group class happens every Saturday at 7:50 a.m.  

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Photo credit: “two-sharks-on-water” by Pikrepo licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0