Emotional Eating When You’re Stressed: Here’s How To Overcome It

Emotional Eating When You’re Stressed: Here’s How To Overcome It

Emotional eating plays an important role when it comes to eating habits. Because whether fat or thin, efficient or not: Science now knows that 80 percent of what we eat is determined by stress in our lives. Eating when stressed is not uncommon for emotional eaters – and all too often this leads to adverse health effects.

You can find out which foods particularly stress our bodies here in our picture gallery. Click through!

“Even banal stressful situations have a massive impact on our metabolism,” says the American nutritional psychologist Marc David. “He drives us to perform at our best and brings out the best in us. However, stress has another effect on our bodies. It massively changes our metabolism,” says the expert.

By definition, stress is nothing more than any actual or imagined threat. “We perceive problems in the relationship or the worry of being late for an appointment as just as threatening as the fear that one is not pretty enough to please the other person,” says Marc David. In other words, we are more or less constantly stressed – and that leads to emotional eating.

How does emotional stress affect the body?

The main actor in our stress system is the messenger substance cortisol. It is poured out every time we are stressed and supposedly have to perform at our best. In this context, however, the Lübeck scientist Professor Achim Peters made a fascinating discovery: To protect itself against the constant flood of cortisol, the brain regulates our stress system. We become more relaxed, so to speak. However, the brain pays for this positive effect with an increased demand for sugar. As a result, whenever we’re stressed, our brain calls for food—and the sweeter, the better. We become emotional eaters. And we are not alone. According to a study by the US Psychology of Eating Institute, emotional eating affects three out of four people.

Stress eating – the risk of being overweight

If strain and stress are permanently compensated by food, this inevitably affects health. Because the risk of obesity increases and with it the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases. Attempts to lose weight with the help of a diet are bound to fail.

Because a diet is nothing more than stress for the body, to which the brain automatically reacts with the desire for sugar. But when dieting does the exact opposite of what you want, how can you lose or even maintain your weight despite emotional distress? “To counteract weight gain, it is important to tackle the central stress factors at their roots,” says Professor Peters. Those who succeed in this will automatically gain the weight that is genetically predetermined for them.

How to stop emotional eating

However, when it comes to battling the stress pounds, the first thing to do is figure out what kind of emotional eater you are. Various tips can then help, depending on the type, to wean yourself off emotional eating and to stop stress eating.

What types of emotional eaters are there?

1. The reward eater
Reward eaters are extremely conscientious people. You never avoid unpleasant tasks or problems, but approach them purposefully and persevere to the end. During this time they are quite resistant to stress. As soon as the work is done, however, they follow the motto: “If no one else notices what I’ve done, at least I’ll treat myself to something good.” The insidious thing about this form of emotional eating is: To perceive the meal as a reward, it has to be particularly high in sugar so that the release of endogenous happiness hormones is catapulted to maximum levels. But that can quickly become a boomerang.

Often reward eaters are advised to reward themselves with something other than food, such as a good movie, or listening to their favorite song. The problem is that the reward must be given immediately when the mind asks for it, otherwise, the brain will no longer register it as a reward. Learning to overcome emotional eating is therefore only possible with iron self-discipline and a change in beliefs. If you no longer have to reward yourself because you value yourself and your performance and are good enough, you no longer have to reach for food.

2. The aggressive eater

Serotonin is one of the most important messenger substances for our feeling of happiness. If too little of it is available, we get into a rage much more easily and quickly. The problem: Serotonin is also a kind of barrier that normally ensures that we don’t eat too much. So if there is a lack of serotonin in our body, we get angry more often and easily. Psychological stress can create the feeling of having to eat something immediately. However, this impulse is not slowed down because the serotonin barrier is missing. The result: Aggressive eaters are increasing rapidly.

Reach for healthy foods that fill you up quickly and have a positive effect on the serotonin balance. These include dark chocolate, nuts, bananas, dates, and salmon. In this way, you eat in response to the emotional stress, but healthily!

3. The Frustration Eater
According to a study by Bruce Arnow, a professor at Stanford Medical School, three emotional worlds have the greatest influence on our eating behavior: anger, frustration or worries, and fears. This is especially true when these feelings determine our lives for months or even years. In extreme cases, they lead to increasingly violent eating attacks – also known as binge eating – at ever shorter intervals. Anxiety is one of the strongest stress triggers. They radically change the hormonal balance. Important messenger substances that keep our appetite in balance are then no longer produced sufficiently.


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