Have you noticed that you have a tendency to raid the fridge or cupboard when you are stressed? That is called emotional eating and it is a coping mechanism for stress, boredom, loneliness, fear, worry, anger, grief and depression. We all get caught with our hand in the cookie jar occasionally but regularly letting our emotions run our eating choices can have a negative effect on our health.

When we are stressed, our bodies go into a fight or flight response and release cortisol. Cortisol signals the body to store fat in case we need energy in the future, and it increases our appetite. Research has shown that depending on our feelings, we make different food choices. For example, when we are angry, we choose crunchy foods and when we are sad, we reach for sugary treats. We have sweet soft foods when we are anxious and salty foods when we are stressed. The act of eating distracts and soothes us.

The key to managing our emotional hunger is to pay attention to what we eat so we don’t get into a cycle of managing our emotions with food. Use a food journal or a food app on your phone to track your food, emotional state and stress level during the meal or snack. Journaling helps you to see your habits clearly. Use a hunger scale before you eat to evaluate if you are truly hungry or eating due to emotions. The chart below shows the differences in physical and emotional hunger.

Using these tools and having awareness of emotional hunger and how stress impact may lead to you to healthier habits.

Italian Trulli

Source: What stress and diet have in common? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OD4Wnmy2rwQ

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