Is Stress Making You Eat More?

Why Do You Eat?

We all deal with stress.  And we each have our own way of dealing with it.  A very common way to deal with stress, especially chronic stress, is eating.  When we are stressed, our body releases cortisol, a stress hormone.   In addition, another hormone that is released is ghrelin  a hunger hormone.There are a few differences between eating when you are stressed out and eating because your body physically needs food. Click To Tweet

Ghrelin stimulates the release of dopamine in the brain, this tells the body that it wants to eat.  Cortisol is what triggers our food cravings such as salty, sweet, and fried.  In other words, when you are feeling stressed, you have an intense desire for foods that give you pleasure and a burst of energy.

However, how do you know when you are eating because you are hungry and when you are driven by stress?

Stress Eating
Stress Eating

What is Stress Eating and Physical Hunger?

There are a few differences between eating when you are stressed out and eating because your body physically needs food.  However, when you are stressed it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference.  Here are some of the main differences between and stress eating and when you physically need to eat.

  • When you are hungry because of stress, it comes on suddenly and feels overwhelming. Physical hunger comes on more gradual and doesn’t demand to be instantly satisfied. When you are physically hungry, all food sounds good.  You just want to eat.  However, when your hunger is due to stress you will crave specific foods, such as pizza or chocolate.
  • When you are eating due to stress, you are typically eating mindlessly without really thinking about how much you are eating. (Like when you eat the whole bag of chips).  However, when you eat for physical needs, you tend to be more aware of how much you are eating and when you are full.
  • Physical hunger is satisfied when you are full. If you are stress eating, your mind will still want more food even when your stomach is full. This is because stress hunger does not come from the stomach.  You may not be experiencing any more hunger pangs, but you are fixated on the texture, smell or taste of specific foods.
  • When you are eating to deal with stress, you often have feelings of guilt after you eat. This can because you ate the whole bag of chips or the whole pint of ice cream, and you know that is not good for you.

How Can You Stop Stress Eating?

Knowing that you are stress eating is the first step to being able to overcome the habit, because you acknowledge that your eating is an issue.  The real cause is that you need to deal with your stress, before you can overcome this habit.  Mindfulness training would be a great place to start.  A study published by the Journal of Obesity found that women who engaged in mindfulness training were less likely to stress eat.  This training involves stress reduction techniques and how to effectively recognize hunger.  In addition, it is being more of aware of the taste of the foods they were eating.

Eating to make yourself feel better is not always a bad thing.  Recognizing the reason, you are snacking and doing so in moderation is alright.  You can do this by focusing on the taste and texture of the foods.  One brownie or one small bowl of ice cream can be enjoyed without feeling guilty.  Eating for joy is healthy if you are reaching for those snacks and can do so in moderation.

For further information check out :The Stress-Proof Brain offers powerful, comprehensive tools based in mindfulness, neuroscience, and positive psychology to help you put a stop to unhealthy responses to stress—such as avoidance.


Shirley Noah, founder of In Good Health Coach, has a background in research about health and wellness. She pursues natural health techniques and sharing information on the use of herbs, essential oils, eating and foods for a healthy lifestyle and more.  She believes that we – not just the doctor or dentist – have the responsibility of investigating the best tools to achieve and maintain our own health.  We are the ones having to live with the results of our choices.  It is her hope to make the learning process easier for you by condensing many foundational truths.

Watch for my new book-Understanding the Stress Connection: Break the Power of Chronic Stress with Healthy Eating and Healthy Habits

2 thoughts to “Is Stress Making You Eat More?”

  1. Hello Shirley,
    You know im one of those people that eats when there is stress. I always eat chips and chocolate bars when im over thinking and when im late for some important tasks which i was not able to finish on time.
    Your mindfulness training is the solution to all these which is very helpful for everyone.
    Thanks for sharing such an awesome information
    Francis recently posted…The top 5 infrared mat reviewsMy Profile

    1. Yes, I was also that way. I have a lot of stress in my life. I eat without thinking. I was a chocoholic, but I learned that
      eating chocolate and sugars was depleting my body of essential minerals. Sugar makes your body acidic. When I discovered that
      your body will use nutrients (calcium) from your bones etc to keep your heart and essential moving parts going it was easier to BREAK HE HABIT.

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