Depression, Stress, & Eating

Over the years one of my biggest challenges has been boredom eating. When I don’t have any plans or want to procrastinate on doing homework I opt into eating to pass time. Most importantly, during these times of eating they’re typically high-calorie or fat meals – nothing to be proud of. This summer I lived with my two friends back in Chicago, since my sister took over my room. I never realized that my friend Edgar had diabetes until I saw him take his insulin shots. It would always freak me out when he had to inject himself with insulin – I hate needles. I’ve been trying to lose weight over the past two years, but could never stay consistent on my exercising or dieting plans. Although he has Type 1 diabetes he taught me a lot about taking care of my body and not putting myself at risk of Type 2 diabetes. I became scared of gaining more weight and started biking to work every day – even bought a bike in Boston.

Type 1 diabetes deals with the body not having enough insulin, while Type 2 deals with the failure of the cells responding to the insulin (Sapolsky, 2004). That being said, they both respond to chronic stress differently. For Type 1 diabetes, insulin might not initially work well for the body, leading the individual to inject more. Consequently, this leads the cells to become more resistant to the insulin. When stress goes down it’s not clear how the insulin dose goes down since each body part has different insulin sensitivity rates – causing your system to be unbalanced (Sapolsky, 2004). On the other hand, for Type 2 diabetes chronic stress simply just tells your cells that it’s great to be insulin resistant (Sapolsky, 2004).

While reading Magnan, Fennell, and Brady (2017) I realized that I was using the dual-process model over the summer. By seeing my friend Edgar inject insulin in himself, I became motivated to create better health choices – like riding my bike to work every day. Unfortunately, I constantly use the anticipated affect model described in Magnan, Fennell, and Brady (2017), but end up just feeling down on myself. I always tell myself that when I’m in Boston if I lose weight then I’m going to feel good and happy once I get to Chicago, but that seems to never happen and I just end up feeling disappointed with how I look at the beach.

While much of the time I feel stressed I try to sleep it off – trying to escape the reality of my stressors. It’s interesting on how stress-induced eating may make you feel better at the moment, but is much damaging long term. In Finch and Tomiyama (2014) they discuss how the consumption of palatable foods can reduce anxiety and depressive behaviors for both acute and chronic psychosocial stressors. However, we also know that being highly stressed is associated with high-fat diets (Finch & Tomiyama, 2014). While this may develop stress-induced, emotional eating, and comfort eating, it also makes you more vulnerable to Type 2 diabetes. Specifically, Kiecolt-Glaser et al. (2015) emphasized that greater numbers of “prior day stressors” in their study was associated with decreased post-meal energy expenditure – which could potentially lead to 11 pounds of weight increase across a year.

The story that these authors and researchers were trying to tell is that depression and stress promote obesity (Kiecolt-Glaser et al., 2015) because during stressful events we consume high fat/calorie/sugar meals with low protein to reduce stress (Finch & Tomiyama, 2014). By constantly having acute or chronic stressful events that induce eating will lead to Type 2 diabetes and increase your risks of cardiovascular disease (Sapolsky, 2004). Although you might be depressed, stressed, and eating, Magnan et al. (2017) wants you to know that there are models designed to improve health behaviors, create health-protective interventions, and to understand how you perceive health threat information.

However, after reading all of this I’ve became even more curious in understanding the effects of boredom eating. How does it effect your chances of diabetes? Does it create risks of cardiovascular disease? Is it as common as stress-induced eating?

One thought on “Depression, Stress, & Eating

  1. This is a very interesting observation. I find that I may also boredom eat, though eating “out of boredom” for me is more like autopilot eating – if I’ve been at the lab all day and it’s been go-go-go, I find that I have a difficult time breaking that pattern once I get home. So, it’s go-go-go on throwing cheese puffs in my mouth. Do you think there’s a distinction between this sort of eating stereotypy and eating out of boredom? If so, how do you think treatment options and tactics to reduce these behaviors would differ? It seems like replacing the eating with some other behavior (e.g. fidget spinner, crossword puzzle, etc.) might work…maybe?

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