START A PETITION 27,000,000 members: the world's largest community for good

Step Away From the Donut: The Perils of Emotional Eating

  • 1 of 4
Step Away From the Donut: The Perils of Emotional Eating

By Carol Bradley Bursack, editor

As far back as breast or formula feeding, most of us learned that a sweet taste meant care and comfort. As we grew into more grown up foods, we generally learn to equate certain goods with comfort. Our parents picked up on these foods and would offer them as treats. Ice cream, anyone?

Somewhere deep in our subconscious most of us learn to connect food – at least certain types of food – with nurturing, comfort and solace. Caregivers, stressed to the max from trying to stay ahead of the needs of elders or others who depend on their care, often turn to food to comfort themselves or to relax. There tends to be a “I deserve this” mentality, and caregivers do, indeed, deserve to be pampered somehow. It’s human and actually very good to want to comfort ourselves when we are stressed or even bored.

Cabin Fever and Stress Eating

Picture this: a middle aged woman at home caring for her elderly mother who has stage three Alzheimer’s. The daughter who is the primary caregiver knows she is fortunate to have a husband who earns a good living, enabling her to care for her mother at home, full time. However, day after day goes by and the daughter doesn’t have any time for herself. She doesn’t have any “me” time when she isn’t on call because of her mother’s needs. This can lead to resentment, even if it’s subconscious.

While the caregiver’s mother may not need active attention every minute of the day and night, the mother does need supervision. The daughter eventually becomes stressed from feeling cooped up without the option to leave the house. She is bored, as her mother’s communication is limited and repetitive. The caregiving daughter has little interaction with the outside world.

Stop Self-Destructive Behavior: Binging, Abuse or Over-indulging
How to Stop Being So Hard On Yourself
10 Ways to Stop Procrastinating

Step Away From the Donut: The Perils of Emotional Eating originally appeared on

  • 1 of 4

Read more: Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health, Stress, , , , , , , , ,

have you shared this story yet?

go ahead, give it a little love connects family caregivers and provides support, resources, expert advice and senior housing options for people caring for their elderly parents. is a trusted resource that visitors rely on every day to find inspiration, make informed decisions, and ease the stress of caregiving.


+ add your own
1:46AM PDT on Aug 3, 2011

I adore donuts://

11:24PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Thanks for the article

10:28PM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

This is such a problem for me. I use food, books, and films to escape my aggravations all too often. Great timing, as I want to make changes. Thank you.

9:02PM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Well, that photo ff those donuts made me crave donuts really bad :o(.

12:47AM PDT on Jul 14, 2011

Mental and physical stress can elicit an increase in epinephrine and cortisol levels, which in turn, results in increased blood sugar levels.
Whether we like it or not, stress is already part of daily life in this modern world.

Symptoms of stress manifest themselves in a variety of ways.
Sometimes, we are not aware that these signs are stress-related and we tend to ignore them.

I guess we just have to learn to cope with stress. One thing a person can do is change his/her attitude.
Learn to relax. Engage in physical activity such as a brisk walk or yoga.
One thing I learned, is not to worry about things that are beyond my control.

8:11PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Don't have those photos of donuts..

2:56PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

I can't remember the last time I ate a donut. Not that they are not tempting. It is all about willpower.

1:29PM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Great article. Thanks.

8:55AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

Trying to change 'firmwired' responses like physical preference for sweet and salt foods is difficult for most people. A donut might be replaced with an orange or pear; ice cream with a healthier banana or papaya. Gobbling down salty meat based snacks might get replaced with raw cabbage or lettuce, or carrots and cauliflower. Mushrooms would make better snacks than cookies and potato crisps.

Eventually a strong person might move to rewarding him/herself with a book, a bit of time on a ski, rowing, or bicycle exerciser, or a cinema on DVD. It will depend on the person - and on the condition of the deteriorating elder. Other caregivers may not be able to get past the idea that a mango or orange is better than icecream or a donut, but still get minimum benefit by eating something with actual nutrition in it.

5:30AM PDT on Jul 13, 2011

As children the easiest, fastest reward is candy. The habit starts early and breaking it is akin to quitting heroin with one small exception, you have to eat, you don't have to take heroin. Changing the brain's thoughts and habits is a really tough job.

add your comment

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

people are talking

Well I guess there are other compelling reasons to not eat fast food other than it really is nothing…

Thanks for posting.

Cannot stop catalogs, I tried- recycle them.

This sounds just a bit too new agey for me, sorry.

All good. Thank you.


Select names from your address book   |   Help

We hate spam. We do not sell or share the email addresses you provide.

site feedback


Problem on this page? Briefly let us know what isn't working for you and we'll try to make it right!