When we are highly stressed for prolonged periods, our adrenal glands (which control many stress hormones) are on overload, triggering raised appetite and food cravings.

Thankfully we can prevent adrenal malfunction by taking care of our diet. Swap external energy fixes such as sugar, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes for a multivitamin and mineral supplements. Consider taking supplements containing zinc, iron, B vitamins, vitamin C, iodine and magnesium, commonly lost from the body during the stress response.

There is mounting evidence that one of the most insidious side­effects of chronic stress is an infuriating inability to lose weight. Not only does feeling stressed and tired cause us to look for an instant energy fix (often found in high­calorie or high carbohydrate foods) but it also makes any excess weight we are carrying harder to lose. Excess stress hormones in the body encourage fat storage, especially that hard­to­shift type around the middle.

  • ●  Do you feel on constant alert?

  • ●  Do you react quickly to stressful events?

  • ●  Do you struggle to relax?

  • ●  Do you feel under pressure to take charge of things?

  • ●  Do you feel increasingly unable to cope?

  • ●  Are you prone to mood swings or have a tendency towards irritability?

    Being wired and stressed is one of the most common stress types, and is particularly harmful in the long term because it wears out our physical and mental systems.

    Make sure you are getting all your nutrients by eating protein with every meal (eggs, meat or fish), healthy fats (such as avocado and olive oil) and plenty of vegetables. Eat more red meat, fish and eggs, spinach and watercress (all rich in iron) and poultry, milk, tofu and mushrooms (for vitamin B12).

    Get more fluid by increasing fruit and veg intake and exercise to reduce stress hormones. Keep exercise calm such as with yoga, pilates, tai chi, stretching, walking and not competitive or strenuous.

    Be sure to eat at regular intervals to stabilise your blood sugar too. A sudden crash in blood sugar levels often send us straight for the coffee pot or chocolate counter.

    A few simple improvements to our diet can turn our response to stress completely around. Begin by crowding out bad choices with healthier choices until you have no space left for the bad choices. You can do this by replacing a coffee with a large water and increasing your intake in increments over a period of weeks, along with other small changes in your diet.