You are what you stress eat

08 April 2021

Frankly it’s far too easy to open up Uber Eats and have some piping hot fast food delivered to your front door. It’s quick, low-effort, and can be done without impact to whatever else it is you’re up to at the time. So, is it any wonder stress eating is an issue for time-poor students? Counselling Coordinator Gillian Dixon thinks it is only to be expected.

“When you feel stressed, your body will naturally go for comfort food. Chronic stress may cause people to overeat only comfort food, food high in sugar, salt and fat, which isn’t the healthiest choice,” Gillian says.

Most people will be able to recall a time of stress in which they binged out on food they knew wasn’t good for them. Whether it be a late-night kebab, a midday family pack of chips, or a Bridget Jones-esque wallowing in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s, stress eating has become a crutch for many people.

A 2013 study found that stress eating affects 83 per cent of people who struggle with their weight. More recently, studies undertaken during the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted a significant link between the stress of lockdown and isolation and the increasingly poor dietary choices of many Australians.

Crucially, research shows that we make over 200 food related decisions on a daily basis, but less than 20 of these decisions are made consciously, a dangerous precedent to set ourselves when constantly surrounded by the trappings of lollies, chocolate, fast food and other less-than-healthy treats.

Changing these habits must then become a focus for anyone who values their health. Which is not to say it is easy. Making lifestyle adjustments like this can take time, and often requires the assistance of a professional to guide the process and ensure it stays on track and healthy.

“The issue with stress eating is that it comes in cycles,” Gillian says. “People eat for comfort when upset or stressed. They often temporarily feel relief but this will unfortunately often turn to guilt. People then struggle with low mood, fatigue and irritability, which stops their enthusiasm for the gym or exercising. Lack of exercise leads to poor sleep quality and poor body image, which all leads back again to more comfort eating.

“When you have this cycle, we begin looking at all the places we can break the cycle. Lowering stress, setting up good habits. Making sure people know they aren’t alone, they aren’t the only ones going through this is important. By doing group therapy people can connect, encourage each other and get through it together.”

If you or someone you know have been struggling with maintaining a healthy diet during times of stress, head to the counselling page on the Notre Dame website or get in touch with counselling directly using the relevant Campus details below.


(08) 9433 0580 or


(02) 8204 4220 or

Media Contact: Breyon Gibbs : +61 8 9433 0569 |