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    How Does Stress Affect Our Eating Habits?

    How Does Stress Affect Our Eating Habits?

    How Does Stress Affect Our Eating Habits?

    How Does Stress Affect Our Eating Habits? 1024 683 Psycholog Seksuolog Warszawa - Poradnia "HARMONIA"

    Stress is, in a way, part of our lives, and because we are constantly exposed to it, it has a significant impact on various aspects of health, including our eating habits. There are many complex factors that determine how stress affects our diet, from the neurobiological mechanisms of appetite regulation to the psychosocial aspects related to our emotional responses. Understanding these relationships is key to effectively preventing and managing health problems caused by overeating and poor nutrition when exposed to severe stress.

    How does stress affect our appetite?

    Emotions can have a complex impact on our appetite, leading to a variety of body responses. There are several mechanisms by which stress affects our tendency to eat.

    1. We eat according to our emotions

    The emotions we feel at a given moment can influence our food choices. In the case of negative emotions, such as stress, we may lose our appetite, while in the case of positive emotions, we may feel a greater desire to eat.

    2. Food affects emotions

    Food can be a way to regulate our emotions. When we want to improve our mood, we reach for food that we associate with a feeling of pleasure. However, this effect is usually short-lived and can lead to overconsumption of food.

    It is important to understand these mechanisms in order to consciously manage our appetite and avoid negative health effects.

    Stress and unhealthy eating habits

    Stress can lead to unhealthy eating habits through a variety of mechanisms, especially:

    • excessive caloric intake,
    • eating unhealthy snacks,
    • consumption of stimulants (caffeine, alcohol),
    • irregular meals,
    • eating out of boredom,
    • lack of control over satiety,
    • eating in a hurry.

    Food as a way to deal with stress

    In some cases, stress can lead to increased appetite, which is often related to the body’s defense mechanism that seeks to meet energy needs in stressful situations. At such times, many people reach for high-calorie and easily digestible food products, which can lead to excessive caloric intake and weight gain.

    On the other hand, eating gives pleasure, so it can suppress the activity of the HPA axis by activating dopamine. Dopamine partially inhibits the release of CRH, leading to lower cortisol levels and thus reducing the feeling of stress and negative emotions.

    From an early age, food is often treated as comfort in difficult situations. Parents or grandparents give us treats when we are sad or having a bad day at school. As a result, stress eating can later become a habit.

    Sposoby radzenia sobie ze stresem bez uciekania się do jedzenia

    One of the causes of excessive eating under stress is the lack of ability to cope with it, or more precisely, the lack of ability to release emotions. Therefore, it is worth learning how to deal with crisis situations, focusing on rational action and solving the problem.

    Stress eating can be combated, but you must immediately assume that it will take time. First, you need to work on the correct interpretation of emotions, which are often confused with hunger. When we recognize emotions, especially negative ones, as hunger, we are more willing to reach for food and consume it in larger quantities. Once we learn to correctly interpret stress as emotions, the next step is to use appropriate methods to relieve it.

    What are the methods of dealing with stress?

    We present proven ways of dealing with stress that can be used to combat excessive emotional eating:

    1. Physical exercise – regular physical activity, such as walking, jogging, yoga or swimming, helps relieve tension and improves your well-being.
    2. Meditation – practicing meditation and mindfulness every day helps you focus on the present and stop worrying about problems.
    3. Deep breathing – Using deep breathing techniques can help reduce tension and relax.
    4. Finding a hobby – engaging in activities that give you pleasure allows you to break away from stressful situations.
    5. Social support – talking to loved ones, sharing problems and using emotional support can help you cope better in unusual situations.
    6. Creating a task list – better organization of daily duties and priorities also helps in managing stress.
    7. Listening to music – music can be relaxing and help you unwind.
    8. Spending free time creatively – painting, drawing or writing in a journal can be effective ways of expressing emotions.
    9. Adequate sleep – adequate and restful sleep is crucial for maintaining mental and physical health and for coping with stress.

    Where to look for help?

    Dealing with stress requires identifying its sources, being aware of your emotions, and using effective strategies. If compulsive overeating in stressful situations turns out to be a difficult problem to combat, taking into account the effects of poor nutrition, it is worth seeking help from a specialist. Stress coping therapy may be appropriate in this case, and can be offered by an in-office dietician or an online dietician.

    Let us remember that stress eating, eating more than required and frequent consumption of unhealthy products will have a negative impact on our health, so we must realize the seriousness of the problem and do everything in our power to combat it.


    1. Kłósek P., Zależności między stresem psychologicznym a powstawaniem otyłości, Via Medica, 2016.
    2. Kozłowska K., Śnieżek A., Winiarska-Mieczan A. i in., Wpływ czynników stresogennych na odżywianie, Probl Hig Epidemiol, 2017, 98(1): 57-62.
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