Depression is a normal human emotion, and it is experienced by just about everyone. You feel upset or dejected because of some event or situation, or you are despondent because of something you perceive as negative in your life, possibly caused by your own behaviors.
Depression can exist for several reasons, and with most people, it is usually short-lived. We find a way to move past our negative feelings, we experience joy and other positive feelings, and the depression cloud is lifted.
What happens when you are depressed and go on an unhealthy eating binge?
Is that emotional eating episode a sign that you are depressed, or a cause of the depression? Are the two related at all? Is there a causal relationship, or is this just a coincidence?
Your emotional state when you are eating to improve your mood or celebrate a joyful feeling is not the healthiest. After you have finished gorging on unhealthy food, you may experience frustration, self-hatred, and even depression. You can't believe that once again you ate so much comfort food, and you are angry with yourself. This self-doubt as to why you can't control your eating can blossom into full-blown depression.
Depression also may develop as a state of emotions that leads to mood-based eating. You are depressed over your financial situation, a lack of control in your life, a failed relationship or some other perceived loss or failure.
Your brain remembers that when you ate certain comfort foods and junk foods in the past, the chemicals in those foods caused a release of "feel good" hormones. Your brain sends out an immediate hunger signal, begging you to locate and consume the unhealthy comfort foods which unfortunately lead to such a positive, short-term emotional feeling. In this way, your emotional eating was caused by your depressed mental state.
Psychologists and nutritionists have noticed this relationship between depression and eating for emotional reasons. Sometimes depression causes stress eating, and many times, the feelings which accompany this unhealthy eating habit can lead to depression. However, the two are not always connected.
Emotional eating sometimes occurs when you are overjoyed. You turn to comfort foods to reinforce a wonderful event in your life that has caused positive emotions. When you eat this way most of the time, celebrating positive feelings by overeating unhealthy comfort and junk food, you can still do your body a lot of damage. However, this behavior is triggered by "up" emotions, and not the "down" emotional state of depression.
The next time you are feeling blue, address your feelings. Think about why you are so down and depressed and be aware that this mental state could cause an unhealthy eating reaction. When you realize you are eating in response to an emotion, don't beat yourself up about it. This could lead to a full-blown bout of depression, further damaging your emotional health along with your physical well-being.