Emotional eating: Stress, boredom are biggest causes

By on February 14, 2007

Sitting on a less-than-plush futon and shoveling handful after handful of Doritos in between the peanut M&Ms could only be one of two things. Either you are famished because your roommate decided to take the longest detour ever before meeting back at your room for lunch or you’re answering a food craving sparked from haywire emotions, causing you to want sweet and salty foods, even though your stomach hasn’t growled in want of food.

Hannah Rinehart, a freshman from Williamstown, Mass., recalls succumbing to the powers of emotional eating last semester but already this semester, she has a better handle on what she eats and her actions when she is feeling a particular way.

“I think this semester I’ve done a better job directing my stress into doing something positive, like going to the gym,” Rinehart said. He is one step ahead of the game because she notices that she sometimes eats comfort foods to feed her emotions. “I have a huge sweet tooth,” Rinehart said.

Doctors attribute overeating and emotional eating as trying to maintain a feeling. And depending on what the person chowing down wants to feel, will decide what they consume.

According to an article in American Demographics, ice cream is first on the comfort food list. After the frozen treat, comfort foods are divided by sex. For women, their list rounds out with chocolate and cookies, which explains Rinehart’s chocolate cravings, while men prefer pizza and steak.

While some may find themselves overindulging in sweets and salty foods, others may not eat when their emotions are on overload.

Dee Mastronardi, a senior from Cranston, R.I., has to remember when she has a lot to do to maintain a balanced diet. “Usually I don’t eat [be]cause I have so much other stuff on my mind. When I stress out, I usually will concentrate on other things that I have to do and forget that I am hungry,” Mastronardi said.

Most people eat for emotional reasons at one time or another, but when your eating habits are based on emotions rather than hunger, then a problem arises.

To overcome your emotion based eating habits, recognition of the problem, which is indulging on foods when you are bored, stressed, anxious or worried and then are stored in your body as unnecessary calories, is one way to beat the cravings.

Another way to fight back against your haywire emotions is to do an activity other than eating. For instance, doing laundry, walking, cleaning or even taking a nap can help put your emotions at bay. “To help myself when I am stressed out I usually go to the gym so I can just run and listen to music,” Mastronardi said.

Rinehart also goes to the gym, even if it is for a minimal amount of time. “I’m lucky to have discovered that going to the gym, for even a few minutes when you’re stressed, can sort of re-set your clock, so to speak, and get your mind back on track,” she said.

Still, gaining control of your eating habits and eating in moderation are key to any balanced, healthy diet.


About Jennifer Rosenbaum