Defy Nutrition

Stress Eating, Emotional Eating, Boredom Eating… What’s the difference?

Woman eating a lot of desserts because of depression

These phrases are thrown around interchangeably, but are they actually the same?

 

Stress Eating

Stress eating is essentially the behavior of using food as comfort in times of stress. According to the American Psychological Association (APA), 27% of adults use food to manage stress.

When we’re stressed, our body increases the release of cortisol. High levels of cortisol lead us to crave hyperpalatable foods (read: high fat, high sugar foods). Why? Because in terms of evolution, the body needs sugar to fuel the fight or flight response to stress. *Insert modern days when most of us have adequate energy stores from easy access to food.* This once evolutionary mechanism is now a default response. In fact, one in 3 adults who report overeating or eating unhealthy foods in response to stress (aka stress eating) say that this behavior is a habit.

It’s important to note that some people don’t eat in response to stress. In fact, stress can trigger the release of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH), which suppresses appetite. According to an APA survey, 30% of adults report skipping a meal due to stress over the last month.


Emotional Eating

exasperated womanStress eating covers one type of emotional eating. But what about the other emotions you’re feeling? You may not be feeling stress when you’re reaching for food. Maybe you’re feeling down, and your brain is saying, “hey, I need some happy hormones!” so it leads you to read for food because eating induces the release of dopamine, a feel-good hormone.

Or maybe emotional eating means using food to celebrate. And no matter what, it’s a cause for celebration! Or maybe you’re a newlywed, who finds herself in the 57% of individuals who admit gaining weight in the first year of marriage.

Emotional eating is a concern when it becomes a habit. Here are some questions to ask yourself to know if you need help:

  • Do I use food to deal with my emotions?
  • Can I handle life’s emotions if I didn’t have food to comfort myself?
  • Do I feel reliant on food to survive life’s stressors?
  • Can I feel better with an activity that isn’t food related?

 

Boredom Eating

Boredom eating is just that. It’s not that you’re necessarily dealing with an emotion so much as trying to break up the monotony. Maybe you’re a stay-at-home mom. You can only cook, clean, feed, and do so much laundry. You feel restless, so you reach for food.

Maybe you’re a student. Studying is rough, man! Why not use food to break up the boring read and subconsciously procrastinate this daunting assignment?

Maybe you’re working from home (as many people are since the pandemic started). You’re not hungry, you’re not stressed, you’re just tired of staring at a screen. Food seems like a good reason to get up from your desk.

pasta near nuts and vegetables

At the end of the day, these three types of eating are technically different though the approaches to them are similar.

 

If you struggle with any or all of these, you may consider checking out our upcoming group program to help you survive and thrive throughout the holidays. We all know the holidays are stressful. Between travel arrangements, babysitters, dog boarding, shopping, social engagements…. The list goes on! Every year, you probably say “meh, I’ll just start January 1.” But what if you didn’t wait? What if you built yourself an arsenal to fight off the stress eating? What if you had a group of likeminded women to support you in continuing your goals during the holidays? What if you had a tangible plan come January 1 that wasn’t a trend or a fad, that wasn’t just another gym trap, but instead a clear cut, custom plan for success beyond the first two weeks of the new year?

 

This program is for you if you answer yes to any of the following:

  • Do you sabotage your goals every holiday season?
  • Do you throw your hands up in November, chalking up the last 45 days of the year to a loss because there’s “just no point”
  • Do you have a tradition of gaining (or losing) 5-20 pounds over the holidays then waiting until January 1 to go gung-ho, just to fall off shortly after?
  • Do you want to break free of this cycle of weight gain, loss and regain?

 

So what are you waiting for?! Join the waitlist!

 

Oh, and remember, stress eating is normal. We all do it. This program is to help you overcome the mental blocks that come with stress eating, treat yourself with grace and love, and have a contingency plan for when you get off track!