Watch what you eat when stressed, public advised

JAYA PETAL:Dr Adnan Omar, vice president of the Malaysian Psycho-Spiritual Wellbeing Organisation, warned those suffering from stress to watch what they eat.

“When used as a coping mechanism for stress and anxiety, eating can become problematic, especially when it involves excessive consumption of junk food,” he said.

Adnan added that poor eating habits are particularly evident among college students who are under stress due to academic, social and family problems.

“During stressful periods, some of them may turn to comfort foods and increase or decrease their consumption as a coping mechanism.

“This can lead to unhealthy eating patterns that further increase stress and anxiety.”

Adnan said consuming large amounts of chocolate, candy or other sugary foods may temporarily relieve stress, but it often results in a cycle of emotional eating and guilt.

“The World Health Organization has highlighted that a 5% increase or decrease in body weight in two weeks could indicate symptoms of depression.

“This underlines the importance of controlling eating habits and maintaining a balanced diet, especially when experiencing increased stress or anxiety.”

Law student Shafiq Hanafi, 24, shared his experience of how emotional pain led him to compulsive eating as a coping mechanism.

“When my mother died in 2022, I felt like my world was collapsing. “I found myself turning to food for comfort and before I knew it, I gained a significant amount of weight.”

Shafiq said the weight gain caused him to lose confidence and he now struggles with self-esteem issues.

Sharmila Rajashekar, 29, a financial executive, said she noticed that her mood and work performance were directly related to the food she ate.

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“On days when the food doesn’t meet my expectations, I end up in a bad mood, which affects everyone around me.”

Adnan said stress often triggers cravings for comfort foods high in sugars and fats.

“The biggest cause of stress in life is the feeling of “loss.” It could be the death or separation of a loved one, the end of a romantic relationship, a decline in academic performance, or the breakdown of friendships.

While comfort food may provide temporary relief, she said it can lead to weight gain and more stress.

“Stress causes negative psychological symptoms, such as insomnia or hypersomnia, extreme fatigue, and loss of interest in daily activities. “It also causes difficulty concentrating and leads to social withdrawal or even suicidal thoughts, which is especially worrying.”

Adnan, who promotes mental health and offers advice on healthy living, stressed the importance of a balanced diet, especially in difficult times.

By following healthy dietary guidelines and seeking appropriate support, people can better manage their stress and maintain their physical and psychological well-being, she added.

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