60-Second Mind

Overeating Due to Stress?

If you over-eat or under-eat as a reaction to stress, don't worry, your body may compensate to balance you over time. Christie Nicholson reports

Stress can make some people (me included) lose our appetite. Other folks find comfort in food. But such behaviors may actually even out in the long term. Because researchers find that people who change eating patterns when stressed out may actually make up for those not-so-healthy impulses during easier times. So finds a study in the journal Psychological Science.

Volunteers for the study self-identified as either “munchers” or “skippers”. Each person had to interact with another person via video chat, with the intention of meeting them later. After each video interaction participants received a message either stating that their partner decided not to meet them, or that they were excited to meet them. As a control, some participants were told the study had just been canceled. Then the researchers offered ice cream to everyone—as much as they wanted.

The munchers who got rejected ate more ice cream than did those in the control group, and the skippers who were rejected ate less. All as you’d expect.

But here’s the twist: Among the participants who received positive feedback, the munchers actually ate less than the control group. And the skippers ate more.

So even stress eaters are sometimes less-eaters. Unless they’re always stressed out.

—Christie Nicholson

[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]

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