Stress, Subordination, and Cravings

May 17, 2008 | Byron J. Richards, Board Certified Clinical Nutritionist

Send to a friend

* Required fields

  or  Cancel

 Stress, Subordination, and Cravings
Research on female monkeys shows that those in a subservient role and under chronic stress ate significantly more food1 resulting in weight gain, compared to the female monkeys in the dominating role. The monkeys studied maintain their social structure through harassment and threat of aggression, subjecting those low on the totem pole to chronic stress. Feeding in the experiment was scientifically controlled, helping to sort out the complex variables that can exist between eating and the environment.

I have consistently observed that humans who feel the most out-of-control or trapped by their stress eat more – unless they get too inflamed at which point they lose their appetite. Even under a similar set of stressful circumstances those who maintain the feeling that they are in control and are implementing steps towards a solution tend to not eat in response to the stress they are under.

New research on humans does show that women with poor stress management skills2 will keep eating after they are full simply to make negative emotional feelings go away (which leads to increased guilt afterwards). I'm sure such research applies to men as well.

Having stress management skills that point you in the direction of a solution to your problems, as opposed to feeling victimized or overwhelmed, is an important lifestyle skill for maintaining your weight and sticking with a healthy eating plan in the face of life challenges you will most certainly encounter. It is important to recognize that this does not mean all problems have to be fully solved – it simply means you must feel you are headed in a constructive direction even if the final solution is down the road. Maintaining a “take charge” attitude will help keep your food intake under control.

Dietary supplements are wonderful tools to boost your energy and stress tolerance level, helping you to maintain a positive mood and manage stress more effectively. Consult our health topic page on Stress and Mood for more information.

Referenced Studies

  1. ^ Psychological Subordination and Food Intake  Physiology & Behavior   Mark E. Wilson, Jeff Fishera, Andrew Fischerb, Vanessa Leea, Ruth B. Harrisb, and Timothy J. Bartness.
  2. ^ Eating for Emotional Comfort  Physiology & Behavior  Jordan L. LeBela, , , Ji Lub and Laurette Dubé

Search thousands of health news articles!