Stress eating – what is it?

If you’ve ever reached for another chocolate bar while being in nerves – you’re not the only one. While nutrition is primarily supposed to empower the body, people eat it for many other reasons as well. Have you heard of such a thing as stress eating?

Eating as a way out of stress

It has been known for a long time that food and the state of our mind are related to each other. Food is addictive. When we fall into the habit of comforting ourselves with treats, we set off a real bomb in our life.

In short, it is about relieving stress through eating food. When you feel bad, something goes wrong and you feel stressed – you reach for something tasty. Eating soothes the nerves and calms down. The feeling of satiety evokes a sense of security. The body is slowly getting used to overcoming unwanted emotions.

Of course, you cannot solve any of your problems in that way. On the contrary, when you eat instead of taking care of the actual problem, you leave a lot of work pending. As a consequence, you experience even more stress. It’s such a vicious circle.

It is worth mentioning that hunger naturally accompanies stressful situations. Stress activates the adrenal glands, releasing cortisol into the body, increasing the appetite. Stress also interferes with the action of hormones (e.g. ghrelin) that regulate appetite. So it’s no surprise that you want to eat something whenever you feel stressed out.

Causes of emotional eating

Excessive cravings for sweets in stressful situations have recently been analyzed by scientists. A research team from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia discovered the molecular mechanisms of stress ingestion.

When you are mentally stressed, your body releases hormones called glucocorticoids (GCs) that regulate your metabolism. They have a strong influence on the body’s carbohydrate, protein, lipid and water-electrolyte balance. Studies have shown that the high concentration of GC receptors in cells is responsible for greater sensitivity to sweet taste. So the level of GC influences what kind of food we choose at the moment.