Stress and Obesity—What’s the Connection?

Learn healthy ways to overcome emotional eating and get your life back on track.

Stress and Obesity—What’s the Connection?

Janet Jackson talks about how she’s used food to soothe tension. In an interview with the Telegraph she once said: “Food has always brought me comfort and the bingeing is triggered when I'm in a space that is not positive...When I'm feeling down on myself or not feeling good about who I am, or maybe something happened and I'm feeling depressed, I eat to fill that void."

That wouldn’t surprise the U.K. researchers who published a study in the journal Obesity. They explored how economic hardship, personal adversity and daily stress trigger emotional overeating and obesity. Folks with financial woes and limited opportunities are most likely to overeat to soothe themselves and develop obesity, but as JJ shows us, any kind of undealt-with-stress can lead to overeating and weight gain. She’s gained and lost 70 pounds more than once.

What does this mean for you and the 168 million obese and overweight folks in the U.S.? You want to ease away from emotional eating and use alternative ways to comfort yourself when the going gets tough.

Our recommendations: Make connections through support groups, get a workout buddy, talk with a therapist or volunteer to help others. Practice meditation and deep-breathing routines, even when you do not feel stressed. And keep a diary, in which you can let it all out. You’ll gain deep comfort from these techniques, far greater than you can get from a bowl of Chunky Monkey (290 calories per serving, and who eats just one serving?).

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

More On Obesity

4 Things Overweight People Are Tired of Hearing

slideshow

4 Things Overweight People Are Tired of Hearing
Don't make someone feel small just because they're a bit bigger. Discussions about weight can be touchy. And certain comments, even made with the best...
Can the Chronic Health Issues Seen in Children Be Attributed to Bad Diet?

video

Can the Chronic Health Issues Seen in Children Be Attributed to Bad Diet?
High cholesterol, weight gain and type 2 diabetes are all related to poor eating habits, says HealthMaker Catherine Shanahan, MD, a family physician. ...
How Our Western Diet Is Making Us Fat

video

How Our Western Diet Is Making Us Fat
How fat have Americans gotten? Compared to people in other countries, quite fat. In this video, HealthMakers Peter Menzel and Faith D'Aluisio, authors...
Can the Obesity Pandemic Be Reversed?

video

Can the Obesity Pandemic Be Reversed?
The obesity pandemic will probably require global assistance from all variety of experts in order to be reversed. In this video, HealthMaker Deborah G...