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Stress Eating And Pregnancy

Written by: Gianluca Tognon, Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


As a pregnant woman, you might have found yourself in situations where you are not hungry but eating regardless. The consequences of this practice over time can be annoying such as bloating and weight gain, two common yet undesirable situations that occur during pregnancy and that make it harder to deal with them.

A friend of mine once told me that pregnancy is like a snowflake, a beautiful but challenging journey. Although much less poetic, stress eating is one of the biggest challenges pregnant women have to face. Stress in pregnant women stems from several factors. One of the leading causes is hormonal imbalance, which makes you eat too little or too much. Certain hormones, predominantly estrogen and progesterone, are produced in amounts greater than usual. Consequently, high levels of these hormones are linked to cravings for sweet/salty food and emotional triggers. Such emotional triggers can lead pregnant women to develop “stress eating.” Let’s discuss stress eating during pregnancy more in detail and explore clever ways to deal with it.

What is stress eating?

Stress eating is when you eat because you are stressed. It is a complex phenomenon to explain since it differs across individuals. Specific “triggers” are responsible for initiating a bout of stress eating, including sadness, anger, anxiety, fear, or panic. Stress eating is a coping mechanism to deal with these uncomfortable feelings, which primarily arise in pregnant women throughout their journey.

Stress eating often involves eating large portions of junk food in one sitting, such as giant bags of chips and boxes full of chocolates. Still, it also refers to unhealthy choices concerning their diet, such as choosing a dessert instead of fruit.

To eat unhealthily is not a desirable option for a pregnant woman whose body and baby need all the nutrients one can get from food.

Stress eating and pregnancy ‒ what is the connection?

Stress eating is usually an outcome of underlying mental distress, which is not necessarily exclusive to pregnancy. However, stress eating during pregnancy is pretty common.

As it usually happens in lifestyle therapy, there is no one-fits-all solution for this problem, and what works for others might not work for you. And that is entirely normal!

Controlling stress eating during pregnancy

Stress eating can quickly become a painful extra burden during pregnancy since it can make you feel sick, guilty, or unproductive. If the solutions you have tried did not work for you, do not worry! There are many strategies to combat stress eating. Here is a list of ideas to set some smart goals:

1. Incorporating pregnancy-friendly workout plans into your daily routine

There are a lot of myths surrounding pregnant women and workouts. A good, pregnancy-safe workout plan will help you keep your life on track while checking your nutrition and mealtimes. Talk to a personal trainer to adapt a workout plan to your situation.

2. Talk your emotions out and try therapy

Sometimes, all you need is a foreign perspective on problems that seem too complicated but, in reality, are not. Talking about underlying problems triggering your stress eating with your therapist is a great idea and may help solve the issue faster.

3. Get regular appointments with a nutritionist

Having a qualified nutritionist track down your pregnancy meal plans and diet is one of the most important things you can do to ensure good health and avoid stress eating and the associated problems. Following a nutritious and healthy diet plan will help you not indulge in unhealthy eating habits. Many pregnant women crave food just because they eat too little to limit weight gain, but they consequently feel hungry and therefore end up eating more than necessary.

4. Go to support groups

Talking and interacting with other soon-to-be mothers usually provides a lot of help. Coming together and sharing your pregnancy experiences may teach you many valuable tricks that might work for you. Moreover, stress eating from feelings of isolation or self-doubt might also improve when you hang around people going through the same thing as you. If you can’t find a local group where you live, you can either start a new group or check online. I would suggest,” where all the new moms and moms-to-be can connect and have a support system.

5. Take your mind off of it!

Try to divert your mind when it starts craving tubs of ice cream and indulge instead in relaxing activities such as painting, writing, interior decorating, or sewing. Embracing the latter activities will allow you to expand your hobbies, and you won’t be stressing much over petty things, which is most likely to happen when you’re having mood swings while being pregnant.

Does emotional eating cause post-delivery weight gain?

Post-delivery weight gain can also occur, and many women are afraid of this. Besides unhealthy eating habits, this phenomenon occurs because of the stress associated with dealing with a young baby, for instance, due to many sleepiness nights. Some women also develop low thyroid function during pregnancy, making it harder to lose weight after the delivery, even in the case of breastfeeding, which should contribute to returning to healthy body weight.

Moreover, stress hormones also contribute to weight gain, which may lead to excessive eating and calorie intake, contributing to a lot more weight gain. The trouble is that shedding weight, you gain post-pregnancy is not always easy. Many of my female clients mention that they still carry the extra weight they gained during (and after) pregnancy. That is why it is crucial to have a healthy diet and lifestyle during pregnancy and control weight gain through proper nutrition plans and pregnancy workouts. Mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety should also be dealt with professionally to ensure the safety and betterment of a soon-to-be-born child.

The Final Cut

As a nutritionist, I encounter a majority of women struggling with dietary issues that also play a role in their pregnancy journeys and labor. Eradication or control of stress eating habits should occur before they start hurting the health and the damage becomes harder to repair.

Follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn, and visit my website for more info!


Gianluca Tognon, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Gianluca Tognon is an associate professor in public health at the University of Skövde (Sweden) and the founder of the consulting company “The Food Scientist.” He is an expert in public health, nutrition, and food science. As a trained biologist with a Ph.D. in nutrition, Gianluca spent more than 15 years researching public health and nutritional epidemiology to understand the problems connected to unhealthy diets. He has also worked with the Choices Programme, which has set criteria for reformulating food products to better impact consumers’ health. He is now primarily focused on helping companies in the food and health industry improve their products, brand, and presence. Gianluca has consulted private companies, schools, organizations, and hundreds of private individuals who needed help with diet and health. He has presented at several conferences and events in Europe and the USA. More information about Gianluca is available on his website.



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