Eating can be a wonderful, unique, cultural and satisfying experience. Unfortunately, eating can also be in response to a stressful situation or environment. Stress eating, also known as emotional eating can present as an intense desire for a certain food. It is often a mindless activity and is typically associated with fear, stress or anxiety. Not only does the act of emotional eating frequently lead to a feeling of guilt but can also have a long-term negative impact on overall health and weight.
A recent study published in the Journal of Biological Psychiatry suggests that, women who experienced one or more stressful events the day before eating a single high-fat meal had slower metabolism. Researchers questioned study participants about the previous day’s stressors before giving them a meal consisting of 930 kcal and 60 g of fat. On average, the women who reported one or more stressors during the previous 24 hours burned 104 fewer calories than non-stressed women: a difference that could result in weight gain of almost 11lbs in one year.
There are numerous stressors that can lead to emotional eating.
If you are experiencing a stressful situation and feel that turning to food would make you feel better, take a deep breath. Ask yourself, am I truly hungry?
If you are hungry, select foods that are nutritious. Avoid simple sugars and highly processed items
If you are not truly hungry, ask yourself how you might be able to self-soothe:
- Take a bath
- Make a cup of tea
- Read a book
- Play music
- Dance or sing
- Call a friend
- Check in on Our Village
- Get outside or take a walk
- Work on your favorite hobby
Our everyday lives consist of multiple stressors, some of which cannot be avoided. Due to the fact that emotional eating can negatively impact our overall health and livelihood, it is important to make a plan and ensure that it could be carried out if necessary. Keep a healthy emergency meal on hand and manage your stress by completing activities that do not include food. To ensure a healthy relationship with food it is important to disassociate certain foods and stressful live events. Try to keep eating fun and enjoyable. Do your best to nourish your body and indulge only in moderation when your environment is calm.
Teresa Brennan, RD, CD, CNSC is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Nutrition Support Clinician. She holds a certification in Adult Weight Management and is currently a busy mom of two little ones. Teresa is a consulting RD for FIT4MOM Eastside.