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Stress Eating and how to manage it. - Group Talk - Week Commencing 6th February 2023

Do you find yourself reaching for snacks and food when stressed, you are not alone, as stress eating is common amongst the Worlds Population, but fortunately it is something we can learn to manage.

Today we are going to learn what causes stress eating i.e. the biological link between stress and eating, and how to create new healthier habits that we can continue and make us feel better about ourselves and the situation.

Stress eating is the ingestion of food in reaction to our emotions, - stress, worry, nerves. Quite often when we stress eat we reach for foods of higher calorific value, using food as a technique to manage our feelings to feel better, as these foods tend to stimulate our brains reward centre... however this can lead to more stress as a result, such as guilt, shame and despair.

'The Emotional Eating Cycle.'

You feel guilt and powerless

over food.

You eat more than you Something happens

know you should that up sets you

You feel an over

whelming urge to eat

The principal reason people stress eat is biological, however we can decondition, this habit, by understanding the science perspective of mindful eating to pursue greater perception encompassing our habits.

Stress - Eating; The Biological Link.

When we are stressed our body generates increased amounts of Cortisol, which is proven to increase our appetite, which causes yearnings for more calorific foods i.e. high fat, high sugar.

When we eat high-energy foods (Sugar) our brain then releases the feel-good chemicals chiefly Dopamine, a neurotransmitter that helps us to learn patterns and behaviours, this then encourages us to repeat these behaviours in reaction to being stressed. In history when we experienced high stress i.e. A wild animal chasing us, we would activate our 'flight or fight' mode and our body would release Cortisol and Adrenaline, Adrenaline would help us cope with the 'flight or fight' reaction and Cortisol to encourage cravings to feed the Adrenaline. When the threat passed the body would relax and stop producing the hormones. Our Stresses now are more likely to be deadlines, uncomfortable conversations, payment dates... Our brain may identify these threats to be ongoing danger/chronic stress and our bodies continue to produce high-levels of Cortisol, we can stop noticing that we are on 'high alert' and even though we are out of danger/stress, continue the behaviour.

Working long hours, juggling careers with family life, meeting financial demands and all other life responsibilities our biggest aggravator to stress is sleep deprivation, which triggers the hormone's making the emotional eating cycle limitless.

So how can we learn to manage stress eating, handle our emotions and generate new habits to help you feel good.

What is causing me to stress eat?

We know stress eating is a habit; which is a repeated behaviour that our brain has learned over time, lets break down the habit;

  • Why - Why are we triggered to reach for food?

  • What - What food did we reach for?

  • How - How did we eat the food?

The more we repeat behaviours the embedded the habit has become.

We have been hardwired since children by our parents, when we fell and hurt ourselves we were given treats, normally sweets, when we had tough days at school we were taken for Ice Cream to cheer ourselves up.

This pattern continues in adulthood and is self-perpetuating. With will power we can rewire our brain using options like the acronym HALT - question yourself are you?


Angry and on answering these questions

Lonely do you need food.


Mindfulness is paying attention to the present moment with no judgement having increased awareness in the moment we are in, allows us to experience; physical sensations, thought and emotion. Its through this awareness that enlightens us to discover the cause and effect to our habits.

To fully discover the benefits of Mindfulness I recommend Rachael Kabel and 'The Mindful Kind' Podcast and the Book.

But be patient with yourself as it takes time to rewire your brain and form new habits, as you make these changes you will feel lighter on your feet as the scale will also show results and you will feel more connected to your body as your behaviours change, breaking 'The Emotional Eating Cycle'.


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