What is Stress Eating and How to Avoid It?
May 26, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

What is Stress Eating and How to Avoid It?

What is Stress?

Stress is a very common word that is heard in everyday life. Stress may be caused by one or multiple stressors. A stressor may be stressful for some individuals in a situation and not for others.

These stressful situations that cause anxiety, panic and fear are dealt with in various ways by those affected. Some people deal with this stress by going out for a walk or taking a bath, or removing themselves from that stress-inducing situation entirely. While some people eat their favorite snacks or meals that fill their emotional needs.

What is Stress Eating?

Stress eating is also known as emotional eating. In psychological terms, stress eating is a coping mechanism to deal with stressful situations. This coping mechanism reduces stress, distracts the individual from the intensity of that stress, or entirely banishes that stress from their system.

Individuals who are stress eaters feel relaxed afterward as it makes them feel better physically and mentally. Stress eating is a coping mechanism that has nothing to do with physical hunger. It is all about the soothing feeling which follows the stress eating and that is used to suppress the anxiety or panic that is induced by the stressful situations.

People who deal with stressful situations by eating snacks often carry these snacks with them, especially to work. Anxiety-provoking situations are not easily tackled by anxious people, so they keep necessary measures with them for that temporary relief. These snacks mostly include sugary stuff or junk foods.

If the individual is experiencing sadness after a sudden loss or frustration after an argument with a loved one, for example, they may turn to a pastry, bag of potato chips, or candy bar to manage their emotions instead of dealing with them through communication.

Physical Changes

Stress causes the body to release cortisol (a stress hormone) that increases the cravings for sugary stuff in the body. It totally depends on the stress eater, though, as to what soothes them in the time of stress. This stress eating decreases the cortisol level back to normal, which is felt in the form of relief.

Physical Hunger vs. Stress Eating

Physical hunger and stress eating are two different things. Physical hunger is when your stomach is empty and you feel the need to eat to complete your appetite. While stress eating is a temporary coping mechanism to deal with stress by eating, which leads to temporary relief.

How to Avoid Stress Eating

Stressful eating may seem like a useful coping mechanism but it can be harmful to the individual if repeated often. Individuals who get easily stressed or those who work in a stressful environment may stress-eat often. This may lead to obesity, binge eating or overeating which is followed by weight gain and other medical symptoms. You can book your appointment with Shifa4U online to treat any symptoms.

Stress eating can be stopped by knowing several things, like making a note of the stressors in your life. For example, if you are stressed about your exams, you can study for them with a close friend who can help you, instead of eating your stress away.

You can also ameliorate your stress eating by removing the eatables and snacks that seem to urge you to eat during stress. Lastly, you can try replacing your stress eating habit with other activities that relieve stress. For example, going out for a walk, deep breathing exercises, etc.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.