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Quinn on Nutrition: Domino effect

May 1, 2017

They call it the domino effect — when one event sets off a chain of similar incidents. I prefer when life dominoes in a positive direction, such as when lunch with an old friend leads to an unexpected meeting with another old friend and another … all in the same day. 

When stressful events domino, however, they seem to throw my food choices out of whack. One recent example: Right after I checked in for a flight out of my small hometown airport — where travelers are welcomed with beverages, cookies and familiar smiles (really) — I was informed our plane would be delayed "about a half hour." 

No worries. I settled down with a nice cup of tea and was confident I would make my Denver connection in plenty of time.

Another announcement came soon after. Our flight was now delayed "about 2 hours."

"That’s just an estimate," I was assured by an airline employee. "You should still make your next flight."

I made another cup of tea. Time ticked by.

Two hours later, I clearly had missed my connection. And I suddenly had this urge to eat a cookie … make that 3 cookies.

When we finally landed in Denver, I was informed I had missed all other flights to my destination that day. I was given a hotel voucher and was told — if all went according to plan (hahahaha) — I would arrive at my destination in time to rush to my scheduled event.

Realizing I had only eaten three cookies in the past 8 hours, I resisted the urge to walk to the nearest restaurant and order a bottle of wine and the biggest juiciest bacon cheeseburger on the menu.

Why is that? Why do we — when life throws curves that domino — suddenly want to slam down the nearest source of sugar and fat?

It’s physiological, says brain and hormone experts. Animal and human studies have discovered that hormones released during times of physical or emotional stress can make us want to eat more (or less) depending on the severity of what we experience. Chronic stress — when negative life events continue to domino — can trigger a desire for, you guessed it, foods high in fat and sugar.

It’s almost as if our brain tells our body, "You need to fortify yourself to get through this difficult event. Here, have a cookie."

There is hope, however. Here are some ideas: 

—Be kind to yourself. Believe it or not, life rarely goes as planned. And we usually survive these crises and momentary lapses in judgement. 

—Plan ahead. I was extremely thankful I had placed an apple and bag of nuts in my carry-on bag that prevented me from seeking out M&M’s in my distress. And knowing that I desperately needed sleep instead of heartburn, I ordered a meal that brought me real nutritional comfort — grilled fish with vegetables, a large glass of lemon water … and a small glass of wine. 

The goods news: I made it to my destination … on time, with just a few nutritional bruises. That’s the chain of events I appreciate.

 

 





 


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