Cleanse, crash, and repeat is an eating pattern that might hit close to home. And you’re not alone. When life is calm, it’s easier to eat well and make healthy decisions. But what happens when we get busy, distracted, or stressed out?
Some researchers at Oxford University looked at the relationship between mental stressors and food choices. They asked participants to memorize a series of numbers and midway through the experiment offered them two snack options: either fruit salad or chocolate cake. The cake was more emotionally rewarding but less cognitively stimulating and the fruit was the opposite. Participants who were under more acute stress (the ones who had more numbers to memorize) were more likely to eat the cake because they not only had less mental capacity to make a healthy choice, but it also felt more rewarding in the moment.