Stress-induced eating and the relaxation response as a potential antidote: A review and hypothesis

Appetite. 2017 Nov 1;118:136-143. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2017.08.005. Epub 2017 Aug 5.


There is an accumulating body of evidence to indicate that stress leads to the consumption of unhealthy, energy-dense, palatable food, potentially contributing to the alarming global prevalence of chronic diseases, including obesity. However, comparatively little research has been devoted to addressing how best to remedy this growing problem. We provide an overview of the influence of stress on dietary intake, and then explore the novel, yet simple, possibility that regular elicitation of the relaxation response may effectively reduce stress-induced eating via both physiological neuroendocrine and reward pathways and psychological pathways involving emotion regulation, and habitual coping. If shown to be effective, the regular practice of relaxation may provide a convenient, cost efficient, patient-centered therapeutic practice to assist in the prevention of unhealthy weight gain and other negative consequences of unhealthy food intake.

Keywords: Appetite; Eating; Relaxation; Stress.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Choice Behavior
  • Diet
  • Eating / psychology*
  • Food Preferences / psychology
  • Humans
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / psychology
  • Reward
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology*