What Is Stress Eating Disorder And How To Combat Overeating? Know Here!

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Published on: 24-Feb-2024

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Anushka Tripathi

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What Is Stress Eating Disorder And How To Combat Overeating? Know Here!

What Is Stress Eating Disorder And How To Combat Overeating? Know Here!

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Do you ever find yourself reaching for the cookie jar after a stressful day, only to realise you've devoured half the box? Or maybe you polish off a bag of chips while mindlessly scrolling through social media, feeling empty even after the last crumb. If these scenarios ring a bell, you're not alone. The silent struggle with stress eating is more common than you might think, and it can have a significant impact on your physical and mental well-being. 


Almost every human is stressed; the cause of stress may vary, but it plagues almost every individual, coming up at seemingly the worst times and affecting your daily life.


But in India, people with any type of mental illness often turn to temples and shrines and not towards medical health and care! Do you know that eating an excess amount is also a mental disorder? You may be surprised to know the stats that adjoin this statement. Eating disorders affect around 9% of the total population, with around 8.60% being females


Also, there are many ways or treatments available to deal with stress, which is the root cause of stress eating disorders. Starting from support groups to hobbies and even just hanging out with your loved ones. Some of the effects of stress may lead individuals to turn to food for comfort. Let’s explore the intricacies of stress eating disorder and also the importance of finding alternative ways of coping with life struggles with this blog. 

Table Of Contents

1. What Is Stress Eating Disorder?

2. Is Food OCD A Thing?

3. What Is Orthorexia?

4. How To Reduce Stress Eating Disorder?

5. The Final Say

6. FAQs

7. References 

What Is Stress Eating Disorder?

While the COVID-19 pandemic has passed, our daily routines still witness new challenges, causing stress and anxiety for many individuals. The practice of eating to manage stress is common and relatable. For instance, many of you will reach for the occasional sugary snack when you feel tired or anxious or use eating as a distraction when facing an overwhelming task. But how do your mind and body link stress with food? And how is stress eating related to having or developing an eating disorder?


To start, many people have formed habits and beliefs that link eating with the experience of comfort. The idea of using food to ease distress and improve morale is widespread in society and often introduced to us from an early age.


Stress eating disorder is often characterised by the tendency or the urge to eat in large quantities due to chronic stress or negative emotions. As per the American Psychological Association, around 27% of individuals eat to overcome stress, and around 34% of people believe that it has become their habit. Foods with high sugar content and fat can help boost your brain’s reward sensors, but this boost is usually short-lived. 


Also Read: 4 Major Types Of Eating Disorder Symptoms That You Should Be Aware About 

Is Food OCD A Thing?

Healthy eating is important for overall wellness. But some people hyperfocus on clean or super-healthy foods. This may develop Orthorexia Nervosa (ON), a condition that is based on anxiety-provoking, restrictive eating patterns. Though the emerging condition has not been formally recognised by the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA’s) official disorders manual, it has recently gotten more attention in research studies. These discoveries have revealed links between orthorexia and other closely related disorders, such as anorexia nervosa (AN) and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


What Is Orthorexia?

Orthorexia Nervosa (ON) is a condition centred on healthy eating where individuals feel excessive emotional distress from food choices perceived as unhealthy. This distress may lead to restrictive eating that causes unintended weight loss, malnourishment, and problems with relationships. While orthorexia is not a recognised eating disorder, clinicians have observed and studied the condition for several years.

What Are the Five Warning Signs of Orthorexia?

Researchers and clinical experts have proposed diagnostic criteria, including several key signs and symptoms of orthorexia.


  • Individuals are preoccupied with rigid beliefs about a healthy diet, resulting in compulsive, restrictive eating behaviours.

  • Restrictions increase over time, potentially eliminating entire food groups. Fasting and cleansing sessions may become more frequent.

  • Not following strict rules results in shame, poor self-worth, feeling impure, and exaggerated fears about personal health.

  • Psychological distress interferes with major life activities, such as relationships, careers, school, and daily functioning.

  • Medical Complications: Severe or unintended weight loss, malnutrition, or other consequences occur because of a restricted diet.

How To Reduce Stress Eating Disorder?


Here are some ways you can incorporate to reduce stress eating:

1. Check In With Yourself 

Before eating, pay attention to how you are feeling and find out why your hunger is. It could be your stress, loneliness, or even anxiety. Simply pausing and evaluating the situation may help you understand what compels you to overeat, which will also help prevent overeating in the future. 

2. Maintain A Healthy Eating Schedule 

If you are used to having three meals a day, try to maintain that routine while working from home. The same goes for those who consume only two meals and a snack. It is important to maintain consistency when it comes to eating. 


You may find yourself adjusting your eating pattern to fit your new schedule, and that's okay. Just stick to a regular eating routine based on your needs and preferred eating times. 


Also Read: How To Practice Mindful Eating Habits? Know Here!

3. Don’t Restrict 

One of the most important rules to follow in order to prevent overeating is to not deprive your body of food. Being overly restrictive with food intake or consuming too few calories may lead to bingeing on high-calorie foods and overeating.


It is never a positive idea to follow a highly restrictive diet or deprive yourself of food, especially when you are stressed.

4. Stay Hydrated  

Research has found a link between chronic dehydration and an elevated risk of obesity. You must know that being dehydrated may lead you to quick alterations in mood, attention, and energy levels, which affects your eating habits.


To reduce dehydration, you can add a few slices of fresh fruit to your water to boost its flavour. This will help you consume more water even without adding a significant amount of sugar or number of calories to your diet.

5. Stay Active

If you are at home, it is easy to become less active, which can lead to boredom, stress, and increased snacking. To prevent this, try to make time for daily physical activity. 


If your favourite gym or workout studio is closed, don't worry. You can try something new, like a home workout on YouTube, hike in nature, or simply walk or jog around your neighbourhood. 


Also Read: How Can Fitness Increase Your Life Span?



Regular physical activity like aerobic exercise such as cycling, walking, or swimming improves your mood and reduces stress, which may help you avoid stress eating.

The Final Say

After reading this blog, you must understand that stress eating is not a positive practice, even if you are not in this situation. Eating in response to stress only creates more difficulties,  which leads to further problems that may worsen your stressors. 


In order to reduce anxiety or stress, it may be helpful to practice healthy eating habits. Additionally, reaching out to your local eating disorder network can also be beneficial. You may seek help from mental health professionals to prevent the development of eating disorders. 

FAQs

1. What is the relationship between eating disorders and stress?

Stress may cause the desire to overeat, leading to stress eating disorder. This happens as many individuals use food to deal with tension and other emotions they want to turn off. This includes emotions like anger, sadness, and boredom.


2. When does an eating disorder caused by stress typically start?

Stress eating disorder usually begins in early adult life. This happens due to the academic and social stress of college life that triggers the onset of an eating disorder in an individual. 


3. What is a compulsive eating disorder?

Compulsive eating refers to eating large amounts of food even if you are not that hungry. This is then termed to be a stress-eating disorder afterwards.


4. Is stress eating a disorder?

Stress eating may lead to developing an eating disorder. If you are uncomfortable with your eating, seek help. A diagnosed eating disorder is not required.


5. What are the stress eating disorder treatments?

Treatments for stress anxiety eating disorder include:

  • Nutritional counselling

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy

  • Medication

  • Psychotherapy

  • Family therapy


6. Why do I eat when I'm stressed?

When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone, cortisol, that helps your body protect itself. If the levels of cortisol are elevated for a prolonged period, this may lead to increased food consumption.

References

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