Why we eat when we are frustrated, and what we can do about it
Eat what? Food is something to be enjoyed! Funnily enough, however, carrots, cucumber and celery do not look very appetizing when hunger strikes in between meals. Instead, we reach for candy bars, chips and other munchies, especially when we’re stressed, angry or bored. Why is that? And what is behind the unbridled binge eating, commonly called frustration eating. Here are a few facts and misconceptions about this topic that are worth knowing:
Women Tend to be Frustration Eaters
Around 40 percent of all women in Germany reach for snacks like chocolate out of frustration. For men, the figure is only half of that. Psychologists explain that this occurs because women are more likely to find failure within themselves.
The result: we stuff ourselves with treats that make us feel good temporarily, and in turn set a cycle in motion. However, the problems and negative feelings we are facing don’t disappear, they often become heightened.
Men, on the other hand, react to stress in a more pragmatic and outward-looking way: They speed down the highway at 180, hit something or yell angrily. That’s silly, too – but it would do us women some good to release our frustration instead of literally eating it up.
Frustration Eating is Not Pleasure Eating
If you really enjoy eating something, you don’t stuff it down – period! “I just like to eat!” is usually just a lame excuse for not wanting to face the truth or the inability to restrain oneself. Or not being able to do otherwise?
Those who love food, on the other hand, put a lot of effort into the ingredients, the preparation and the magic of slow enjoyment. Fine taste explosions do not unfold when you gulp everything down in a hurry. Additional problem: Food is now, in contrast to earlier times, easily available everywhere. So, let’s be honest: Are we really hungry when we gorge again, or is it boredom, frustration or habit?
Can Frustration Eating Become Dangerous?
Indeed, because apart from weight gain, which attacks the heart and circulation and puts a strain on the joints, blood sugar levels can also be a problem. Glucose, or sugar, is the simplest of all carbohydrates, which provides energy and plays a particularly important role in brain performance. But be careful, because too much of it tends to make you sluggish and even depressed. The average German eats 35 kilos of sugar per year, which is definitely too much. Because the necessary ration is already contained in fruit, bread, pasta, etc. anyway. Fatty, salty chips are not the best snacking option because the saltiness can make you thirsty and crave a sugared drink.
So, it is best to eat certain foods in moderation and be aware of the consequences that may occur due to frustration eating.
Frustration Food as a Reward
Our genes and evolution are to blame. Even in the womb, we are accustomed to the sweet taste via amniotic fluid, which allows us to make sense of different tastes: sweetness means good and nutritious food, while bitterness can signal poison or unripe food. The Neanderthals already knew this and preferred to reach for ripe berries rather than wood bark. It continues with well-meaning parents or grandparents who teach us like Pavlovian dogs: If you’re good, you’ll get a piece of chocolate. If not, no treat for you!
Even in adulthood, you can “reprogram” yourself again. It happens faster than you think.
Get Out of The Frustration Trap
At the beginning, your coffee might taste undrinkable without the usual two tablespoons of sugar. But taste buds adapt after just a few weeks, even if it’s hard to imagine at first. If you don’t feel like cutting “cold turkey,” simply cut back slowly. Otherwise, simply stop buying candy bars and bags of potato chips!
Instead, go for some healthier snacks like carrots or apples, which also contain sugar, by the way. They also look pretty, and most of the time it’s just a matter of having something in your mouth. Drinking plenty of fluids also helps, as does distraction. So, meet friends, watch a movie, knit a scarf. It’s amazing how quickly the body and mind can adjust and how we can rewire our reward center.
Speaking of root vegetables! Above all else, we should get to the root of the problem regarding frustration-eating attacks. Whether it’s a fight with your partner, idle time at work or poor time management – do something about it! First of all, identify the trigger for gluttony, and in case of an emergency, get help from friends, family or professionals.
If you’re feeling trapped, it’s hard to get out on your own. So, don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are many people who feel the same way!
And very important: It is NOT about losing weight, but about an increase in your quality of life. Eating should never be associated with addiction, but with sensuality. For more happiness, health – and enjoyment!
Edited and translated by April Verite.