There’s a huge emotional component to both weight gain and loss. Negative thoughts can greatly affect our body’s ability to metabolise food and run efficiently. These thoughts act as stressors and actually cause levels of cortisol and insulin (hormones released when stressed) to rise. Continuous raised levels of stress hormones cause the body to perform much less efficiently and at a lower performance level.
Emotional eating when stressed out is one of the surest ways of putting on unhealthy weight. You’re eating in response to your feelings, even when you aren’t hungry. This kind of eating means that your emotions, not your body, dictate when and how much you eat. Food offers comfort. High-fat, high-calorie foods we love that make us feel better. The more fattening, sweeter or the saltier the food, the better we seem to feel.
Stress eating happens due to several things. Some stress eaters binge when they are scared, sad or confused. Others eat in order to avoid thinking about problems or taking the action needed to solve them.
Are you a Stress Eater?
You are a stress eater if your answer to any of the following is yes:
- You eat without even realising that you’re doing it
- You feel guilty or ashamed after eating
- After an unpleasant experience, you eat even if you aren’t feeling hungry
- You crave specific foods when you’re upset, like chocolate when you feel depressed
- You eat because you are bored or feel there’s nothing else to do
- Eating makes you feel better when you’re down or worried about something
Ways to stop Stress Eating
There are different ways to control emotional eating and turn your stress into a more positive experience. Ask yourself:
- What’s the source of stress? Are there relationship issues that cause pain? Or perhaps family or work-life imbalance? Identify your triggers to take active steps to tackle stress before it gets out of control.
- Find new ways to relieve stress. Once you know what causes you to eat more, set up healthy systems to avoid eating in those situations. Learn healthy ways to reward yourself.
- Get help. If your own methods don’t stop stress eating, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Many psychologists and psychiatrists are trained specifically to deal with emotional eaters and find solutions to curb the habit.