While some say stress makes them lose their appetite, for many people diving head first into food is a real reaction to try to negate the uncomfortable feelings of being strung out.
While the temporary ‘fix’ you might get from diving into a bag of cookies may hold off the stress for a few moments, a new study has found that eating under those conditions actually makes your body gain more weight than it would if you were eating the same foods during a happy, calm moment.
The Australian study published in the scientific journal Cell Metabolism demonstrated that eating when stressed leads to more weight gain. The researchers discovered that when mice were fed a high-calorie diet in a stress environment, they gained more weight than those in the same diet caused in a stress-free environment.
The researchers pinpointed a pathway in the brain, controlled by insulin, which drives the additional weight gain.
"Our findings revealed a vicious cycle, where chronic, high insulin levels driven by stress and a high-calorie diet promoted more and more eating," explains study author Professor Herzog. "This really reinforced the idea that while it's bad to eat junk food, eating high-calorie foods under stress is a double whammy that drives obesity," said Kenny Chi Kin Ip, Ph.D., the lead author of the study.
The take home message: Try to find other non-food related things to do when you’re feeling stressed (such as journaling or calling a friend).