Whether you’re stressed, bored, upset or frustrated – your feelings can change the way you eat!

According to The University of Melbourne, around 40 per cent of people tend to eat more when stressed, but another 40 per cent will eat less. The remaining 20 per cent remain neutral. 

So you may be wondering, why is it that some people’s eating habits change as their emotions do?

We’ve got the intel so you can make more informed choices if ever you come up against a similar experience!


Emotional eating explained

The process of emotional eating predominantly involves a person indulging in food – it could be your favourite sweet or savoury snack, or whatever’s in the pantry – to help cope with feelings of boredom, sadness, anxiety and stress.

As for why our body makes us react this way, during bouts of these emotions we experience an increase in the stress hormone, cortisol. This can cause an increase in appetite as your body is trying to find more energy to combat the stress. Eating food we love can also be a way for us to calm our emotions.

There is another side to emotional eating, though, and that is deprivation, restriction and/or loss of appetite because of those same feelings mentioned above.

Just as it can increase your appetite, cortisol can also cause a reduction in it. Crazy, isn’t it? Essentially, it can increase acid production in the stomach as a ‘fight or flight’ response to feelings of stress and anxiety, meaning you might not feel like eating as much as you usually would. 

How to combat emotional eating

Of course, it’s OK to indulge every now and then, we’re all human!

But if you’re noticing that emotional eating is becoming a pattern for you there are some steps you can take to regain control:

  • Practice mindful eating. Before you go to eat something when experiencing stress, anxiety or sadness, take a moment to connect with yourself and identify if you’re eating because you’re hungry or because it’s a distraction. Sometimes dehydration can even be confused as hunger so try having a glass of water and then wait 15-20 minutes to see if you’re still hungry. Listen to your body.

  • Find other things that make you feel good. Whether it be an exercise class, a walk outdoors or even calling a friend to catch-up, find something else that brings you comfort.

  • Seek help if you need it. Remember you never have to go through this alone, there is support out there. You can contact your GP for support and guidance on where to seek treatment that will suit your needs.