‘Stressed is DESSERTS spelled backwards’!
Emotional eating is something that we all have experienced in some or the other phase of our life. Some
of us eat even when not hungry, when we are happy or, some do it when they are sad, a lot of us do it
when we are bored, angry, hurt, nervous or depressed.
If we define emotional eating, it can be simply stated as ‘eating when we are not hungry, to satisfy or fill
a void’. There are various psychology books available in the market to address this problem. Also there
are counseling and coaching sessions available to help people combat emotional eating. So one can
imagine how big this issue is as most of us suffer from it.
Yes, it is a serious problem, because it is emotional eating that leads to weight gain, obesity and a whole
load of medical complications. And to make it worse, when you eat out of emotion, your choices of food
are surely not going to be fruits and salads, but junk food, food rich in sugar which produce happy
feelings, which raise your blood sugar levels quickly, giving you an energy rush. For emotional eaters,
food is the best friend to boost spirits, calm stress and alleviate boredom.
According to the August issue of Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source, emotional eating often leads to
eating too much, especially high-calorie, sweet, salty and fatty foods. Women are especially prone to
emotional eating and then feel guiltier and less healthy than men do after snacking on “forbidden”
The connection between stress and eating likely has roots in brain chemistry. Faced with a real threat,
the fight-or-flight reaction kicks in and suppresses appetite temporarily. But when faced with persistent
stress — health problems, difficult relationships or too much work — many people turn to high-fat, highcalorie foods for comfort. A hunger hormone called “Ghrelin” is released in our body when we are much
stressed too much. Ghrelin makes us excessively hungry and we gorge on food. This acts likes a natural
antidepressant mechanism.
Let’s understand two hormones associated with hunger- Leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is released to lower
the appetite and ghrelin to induce hunger. Leptin is made up of fat cells and hence thin individuals (low
fat levels in body) have low leptin levels and vice versa. However, in obese individuals there may be
resistance to this appetite suppressor effect of leptin and making weight loss even more difficult.
Ghrelin drops down after meal however in people under stress the levels are maintained for longer
duration causing them to eat more even when there is no actual requirement to the body.
Using food as a coping strategy doesn’t alleviate stress completely and will likely cause weight gain.
Mayo Clinic Women’s Health Source offers these suggestions to understand and overcome emotional
• Learn to recognize true hunger: A craving for chips or cookies soon after a meal is more likely to
be emotional hunger, not real hunger.
• Identify the food triggers: Keeping a journal can help identify patterns in emotional eating,
including emotions and feelings when eating; what and how much was eaten; and feelings after
• Look elsewhere for comfort: Instead of grabbing a candy bar, take a walk, call a friend, listen to
music, read or treat yourself to a movie or a spa.
• Manage stress in a healthy way: The goal is to lower stress with healthy strategies, including
regular exercise, adequate rest and support from friends and family.
• Practice mindful eating: Mindfulness is a way of paying focused attention without judgment.
Applied to eating, this technique can help increase awareness of the sensations, feelings and
thoughts connected with food and eating.
• Toss out the unhealthy foods: Avoid stocking the cupboard or refrigerator with high-calorie
comfort foods. Consider more healthful comfort foods: a bowl of tomato soup or a cup of tea.
• Eat a balanced diet and healthy snacks: Between meals, opt for low-fat, low- calorie snacks such
as fresh fruit and unbuttered popcorn.
Emotional eating also stems back to the way we were

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