It can start with a harsh email from your boss. Or, perhaps a work project with a looming deadline that you just can’t figure out. Whatever the stress – it’s a cue for lots of people to reach for the snack box.

But this combination of stress and junk food is making us unhealthy. A new study published by Mintel revealed that 33% of us reach for food when we’re stressed. And we Britons are a nation of workaholics, with 28% of us admitting our career comes before anything else. 

However, young people seem to have got it right: While almost half of 16–24 year olds turn to exercise to manage their stress, 39% of 35-44s were likely to comfort eat.


Stress eating, or ‘emotional eating’ is eating food in response to feelings rather than hunger. Stress causes our cortisol levels to surge, which trigger cravings for salty, sweet and high-fat foods. When we are stressed  - particularly with work – all we care about is feeling better, or rewarding ourselves for our hard work. And that’s exactly what that doughnut seems to do!


Whether or not we end up jumping on the junk food train of regret is down to how we manage our stress.

From daily mindfulness to lunchtime exercise, there are many practical ways to manage stress and prevent it controlling our eating:

Go self-employed. Some research suggests self-employed workers report lower stress levels than office employees. As many as half of those surveyed by Mintel said they do not suffer workplace stress.

Work Outdoors. 41% of people whose work is based outdoors claim that they did not suffer from work stress. This may not be a practical solution for everyone, but a change of scene, especially outdoors, can work wonders for stress levels.

Exercise more. Regular exercise is a powerful stress remover. Focus on your body instead of any racing thoughts. Adding this mindfulness element can help your nervous system ‘unstick’ any tricky feelings.

Mindful Eating. The opposite of emotional eating, mindful eating allows you to pause between your triggers (stress) and actions (eating). By increasing awareness while you eat you can start to break your  negative eating habits.

Relax. If you’re a boss, you know that a stressed employee doesn’t benefit anyone. Learn how more about workplace health by visiting  Better Health at Work Alliance.


The Author

Kath Webb

Kath is a contributing writer for PayasUgym. Football, running, weight training, yoga and walking are her forte, along with cooking tasty, nutritious food - with a regular batch of cake chucked in.


Sarah L.
13 May 2016

Sarah L.

I am lucky enough to be self-employed, and the article is spot on. I get on very well with the boss (grin) and so am not stuffing my face to prevent myself saying something I might regret.

Mike D.
12 May 2016

Mike D.

I definitely eat more when I'm stressed. But my partner loses her appetite when she's stressed. So it's a character thing too/

craig t.
12 May 2016

craig t.

Exercise is my number one stress reducer, nothing beats it. WIsh I could go self-employed though!

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