Why do I Crave Junk Food When I’m Stressed Out?

Care for Mom Mental Health Self-Care

This post probably contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.

You don’t have to be a dietician to know that emotional eating is a common side-effect of stress.

All you need is a high-pressure, stress-inducing situation, and BAM!, there you have it. And in today’s society, where we’re expected to do more in less time and be successful at everything we do, well, stress is not that hard to come by.

Hi, my name is Jillian, and I eat junk food when I’m stressed. It’s called emotional eating and goes a little something like this…

Deadlines are approaching at work, your house is a wreck, and the kids are fighting again. You’re doing all you can do to keep it together, but you’re just tired. You find yourself raiding the cabinets, the fridge, that “secret stash,” searching for that something special to satisfy the craving and provide a quick boost of energy.

Before you know it, you have eaten through an entire bag of potato chips, a bucket of cookies ‘n cream ice cream, and only you know what else. (Because you hid the evidence in shame.) And after all that, you’re still not satisfied. You’re miserable and even more unhappy with yourself.

We know how unhealthy junk food is, and we know that bad eating habits contribute to poor nutrition.

So why do we keep going back to this same routine even when we know how it always ends?

If you’re tired of beating yourself up and always trying to justify your junk food cravings, it’s time you know the science behind stress eating.

Stress Eating – A Coping Technique

When you think about food, what thoughts come to mind?

For me, I think about my favorite foods and happy memories associated with them. Like, sharing my Grandma’s famous bread pudding recipe with family at Christmas time.

There’s no doubt food has a way of making us feel good. It’s calming, relaxing and comforting. It takes your mind off the current stressor and puts the focus on something more satisfying.

Junk food is instant gratification at it’s best.

Resisting the Urge Is Hard

When we’re stressed, overwhelmed and anxious, we often feel sluggish and find it hard to focus. This is because when you’re stressed, you think about the stressor (the problem) often, possibly non-stop. It eats at you until you find a way to solve or overcome the issue. It mentally and physically wears you down.

Cue the junk food cravings!

When your body is tired and you lack physical energy, it sends signals to let you know to refuel. Glucocorticoids, a type of hormones that balance stress and energy levels, are increased in the blood stream. These hormones trigger sugar cravings to help the body restore energy lost from stress.

These simple carbohydrates (sugary snacks) also have an anti-depressant effect. They give us a quick boost of energy and feeling of euphoria. So, when coupled with those driving hormones, it’s a recipe for…well, unhealthy sugars and fats.

No wonder it’s so hard nearly impossible to resist the urge. Your brain craves junk food.

Final Thoughts about Junk Food Cravings…

From a Victim of Stress & Emotional Eating

Stress eating is real. It’s a way for our mind and body to cope with difficult situations. It’s only a quick fix, but sometimes we need that so our bodies can relax and recuperate.

I’m not condoning binge eating boxed chocolates and donuts. But, I am saying that sometimes it’s okay to let yourself indulge in some sweet treats to free your mind from turmoil.

However, if things get to the point that you’re eating mindlessly, and it’s consistent, you need to get to the root of the problem. Evaluate your situation and talk to a professional if needed.

“Life’s like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forrest Gump

You don't have to be a dietician to know that emotional eating is a common side-effect of stress. If you're tired of beating yourself up and always trying to justify your junk food cravings, it's time you know the science behind stress eating.



    • Jillian

Leave a Reply