Stress May Make You More Likely To Cheat And Overeat By Reducing Self-Control

Alain Saint-Dic
Alain Saint-Dic, Health and Fitness Editor at 20something, brings over nine years of experience in the health and fitness industry. Though he studied pre-law, his love for the human body, it's adaptive ability and unlocking the largely untapped potential of human beings led him to pursue a passionate career in health, fitness, and athletics.

The TV image of scattered pizza boxes, ice cream cartons, and loose candy wrappers on the floor has long stood for food therapy on a broken soul. In an era where “netflix and chill” has become synonymous with hook-ups and relationship beginnings, netflix and food can easily be equal to break-ups and general sad times. Sure, overindulging on all sorts of junk food, provides the perfect balance between comfort and calories, and who cares because it’s our choice, isn’t it…?

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Self-Control v.s. Stress

If your body was a comic superhero, its arch nemesis would probably be stress, dressed in tights and a cape. Stress is detrimental to your body–it causes high blood pressure, fatigue, obesity, heart disease, and a number of other negative effects. What if, in addition to these negative effects, stress could cause you to cheat, impulsively blurt out things you normally wouldn’t, or overeat? Stress has actually been shown to reduce self-control capabilities, and not in the conscious “I need an endorphin rush” kind of way.

Having one or two treats to soothe your woes may be called for, but downing three Ben and Jerry pints may actually be caused by stress because it makes your self-control mechanisms fire weak signals to your brain. According to Science Daily, the effects of stress operate through many neural pathways that intertwine with the effects on self-control. Self-control isn’t a switch that you flip on and off to control your impulses. It’s determined by a series of multiple neural processes which can be affected by stress.

So if you happen to be out with your friends, after a stressful day at work, try to skirt temptation, drink wise and suitor wise, because stress may have just taken control of your ship.

Let Self-Control Triumph!

The last thing that we want to hear is that we’re not in control of things that affect us. It’s one of the most helpless feelings, so we can’t allow the stress supervillain to enable our innermost but socially unacceptable desires. Stress management techniques such as meditation and repatterning can help up combat this. Now this isn’t exact science, but I find that when I put myself in positions to make the right choices instead of choosing the latter, every right choice after becomes easier.

Put yourself in a position to make beneficial choices over detrimental ones after dealing with some sort of stress. A very simple practice would be satisfying a craving after a stressful event. Choose an apple over a chocolate bar, and you’re on your way asserting your self-control dominance!

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