The Evolution of Stress Eating
For many of those who struggle with their weight, stress eating is a major contributor to that struggle. When food is used as a way to cope with stress it leads to overeating and also to eating unhealthy foods. This is called stress eating and it can lead to a whole host of problems if it is not identified and dealt with correctly. However, from an evolutionary perspective this habit makes a lot of sense. When a hunter found a source of high calories it meant that the hunter, the hunter’s family and the hunter’s tribe would survive, causing feelings of happiness and satisfaction. Eating food high in sugar, fat and salt activate this deep seated emotional reaction.
A Life of Stress Eating
In addition, many of us have been conditioned towards stress eating by having food serve as a soothing activity for a great part of our life. When babies cry, offering food is often parents’ first reactions. When children get older and are whining and complaining, food is often used to quiet their reactions, leading them to associate eating with calm. Finally, sugar, in its many forms is used as a reward for positive behavior. Whether it is a trip to the ice cream store for getting a good grade or getting a candy for behaving well in a supermarket, children are conditioned to associate food with positive behavior and this could lead to stress eating down the line.
Stress Eating Today
However, the simplest and most likely explanation that facilitates stress eating is that unhealthy food tastes good and gives us immediate pleasure when we are feeling stress. Stress eating is a habit that is hard to break but it is achievable. In our next post we will discuss the ways to stop stress eating and handle negative emotions in a healthier way.