It’s 2 a.m. and you’re rushing towards your refrigerator to find something to munch on. Sounds familiar? Yes, cause we’ve all been caught tiptoeing towards the fridge whenever we feel low. And, there’s no denying that the added stress and anxiety due to the pandemic, might have made you eat your emotions. Stress eating is basically stress-based eating, which can be caused either by work pressure, post-breakup traumas, financial burdens or anything that can cause a negative impact on your mind.
It affects both the sexes but is more common in women than in men. “It’s a trending habit these days. All thanks to the erupting stress in people’s life. Stress eating provides a boost of ‘feel good hormones’ that makes you feel positive for that moment”, says Shivani Verma, Senior Dietician and Nutritionist, Sahara Hospital, Lucknow.
The exact reason for you gulping down a whole box of brownies is explained by the biological conditioning and physiological functioning. “Just like infants cry when they’re hungry, it’s a method of your body to seek nutrition during stress”, adds Shivani. Scientists explain that the positive feeling after emotional eating is not just limited to the food itself. The anticipation of food, certain memories related to it and the smell or sight can produce endorphins, the same hormones which are released when you see a loved one, thereby making you feel good.
Before you start celebrating your late-night munching habits, it would be wise to understand that emotional eating does more harm than good. According to a study published in Journal of Applied Psychology, stress eating could affect your workplace performance and behaviour while healthier eating can make you perform better. Dr.Prem Samuel, Gastroenterologist at Mayo Hospital in Sitapur explains the reason behind this, “We tend to eat more during stress or emotional eating (binge eating). Most of the items we consume are junk and the time slot is usually during night. At night, our body is unable to break down these food items as the body is resting, and the next day its repercussions are seen through the induced sluggishness and tiredness of mind and body.” Not only this, it could lead to liver perforations, obesity, high cholesterol levels and heart ailments, if done on a regular basis.
However, it is not suggestive to completely live the life of a monk. You can still eat your favourite cupcakes, pizzas and whatever you love; but there’s a slight modification to it. “If you try to resist or stop yourself from eating you’ll end up eating more. This can make you feel guilty and the cycle will start again”, adds Dr. Samuel. “Try to introduce your favourite items in your regular diet but in a limited quantity. You can pack a cupcake in your lunchbox. This way you’ll have a track of what you eat.” And if you think you’re affected by emotional eating , then try including Omega-3-fatty acids, magnesium, carbohydrates and Vitamin C in your diet. These foods will make you feel good and help you cut down on stress eating.