Why Do We Eat Junk Food When We’re Anxious?

JacquieNutrition, Wellness


Do you turn to junk food when you’re stressed out? It is very common that a person will eat more when they are stressed. The people that are the most prone to stress eating are those that are restricting their food intake the rest of the time. This is because when times get tough and we stress out, we ease up on ourselves when it comes to diet and exercise, and usually the foods of choice are fats and carbohydrates.

This “stress eating” can be seen in a variety of species. For most animals, their primary source of stress is when running from a predator. This stress and sudden burst of energy associated with it stimulates their appetite to replenish depleted energy stores. However, humans tend to stimulate this stress response for psychological reasons, not just for physical reasons. This repeatedly puts the body into a restocking mode and therefore we “stress eat” more fats and carbohydrates. Stress increases the brains release of neurotransmitters that increase addictive properties and junk-food cravings. By eating fats and carbohydrates, the body’s hormonal stress response gets turned off.

Although the body turns on this stress response, there are many ways to help fight these cravings. Try replacing sugar cravings with a piece of fruit instead of turning to ice cream or a candy bar. Doing an activity or going for a walk can also help distract you from the cravings.