By Heather Hamilton, PhD., LMHC, NCC, DCC | ©2022BreakThrough!
Triggers to Emotional Eating
Stressors lead to anxiety and emotional eating… In fact, stress is more prevalent in our highly complex and technologically advanced society than it’s ever been. That being said, perhaps one of the most important elements of maintaining healthy body weight is in understanding the impact of stress and anxiety on our body and how it contributes to weight gain. While some stress is actually good and necessary, unchecked excessive stress and anxiety lead to reactive, emotional eating. Even more alarming is that over time emotional eating can manifest into far more dangerous disorders such as binge eating disorder and bulimia.
Stress Increases Appetite
Keep in mind that those with chronic sleep disturbances, excessive irritability, restlessness, muscle tension, or anyone who becomes easily fatigued may be experiencing unhealthy levels of excessive stress or a host of other anxiety disorders. When stress becomes a problem it can have a direct impact on appetite. Taking it a step further, not only can stress increase appetite but it can also drive a person to seek out specific types of foods that are known to promote weight gain. Stress, anxiety, depression hijack our willingness and motivation to make healthy food choices.
Food Becomes a Drug
One of the unique aspects of how stress triggers the desire for certain types of foods is that it tends to entice people to specifically seek and eat high-calorie foods. These generally offer a comforting and satisfying taste. Research has shown that these foods suppress feelings of stress and anxiety. In the brain, foods high in fat and sugar act similar to opiate drugs. An individual can easily develop both an emotional and physical dependency. One of the most alarming aspects of this eating cycle or pattern is that it’s very difficult to break cycles and habit patterns. As individuals develop metabolic disorders their desire for quantities of unhealthy foods increases.
Anxiety-Induced Excessive Weight Gain
As a person gains excessive weight, social anxiety typically surfaces as well. This unfortunately tends to exacerbate the problem making anxiety and compulsive eating feel even more uncontrollable. In addition, weight discrimination and the effects of low self-esteem can cause serious psychological problems. The good news for those suffering from stress and anxiety-induced weight gain is that there is help! The BreakThrough! psychological program comprehensively addresses common causes for emotional eating and teaches participants coping skills that help end unhealthy behaviors.