Women's Health South Africa
Stress Diet Eating Disorder Fat Eating Habit Image Credit: Women's Health South Africa
Stress Diet Eating Disorder Fat Eating Habit Image Credit: Women's Health South Africa

Stressed? - Cake Isn't The Answer

Bad day? Pizza it is. Fight with your partner? Nothing sharing a bag of Whispers can’t fix. As new research reveals what happens in your brain when you stress eat, WH checks over the science

Giselle Wainwright

Standing in the kitchen of the co-working space where I write for a living, I swirl a teaspoon around my third cup of coffee for the day. My mental to-do list runs through my head: three deadlines in the next 24 hours, 12 emails that need a reply now and the CV of a friend that I’ve promised to proofread before her job interview tomorrow. I’m still stirring when I feel the familiar low-key panic bubbling through my body. As if on autopilot, I push the mug to one side and my legs direct me towards the office treat table, where a box of still-warm doughnuts is perched. My fingers are dusty with sugar and strawberry jam coats my lips before it’s dawned on me what’s happened. My name is Giselle and I eat my feelings – specifically, the ones sponsored by cortisol. A row with a family member can send me wrist-deep into a “sharing" packet of chips and the mounting panic of having nothing to wear can drive me straight out of the changing room and under the Golden Arches of McDonald’s. Rational or not, conscious or otherwise, the decision’s been made. And I suspect I’m not the only one for whom a doughnut or two is the culinary equivalent of a stress ball.

A study published last year in the journal Obesity (can you see where this is going?) found that being exposed to high levels of cortisol over several months was associated with being... Kind? Funny? Quick-witted? Nope. Heavily overweight. The study was obs


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