1. Stress eating.
I can be guilty of stress eating. Everyone can be guilty of stress eating. When you feel like dirt and food doesn’t taste like dirt, you’re going to want to eat what makes you feel better. You can blame Cortisol for that. It’s a stress-induced steroid in the body. I’ll elaborate more on this later. However, it can be attributed to stimulating an appetite for many of the foods you reach for when you’re stressed. They taste so fantastic that of course you’ll gain weight when you eat them. These choices are most likely delectably sugar-loaded sweetness. Food is a drug; when you’re feeling down, you want an upper; and Haagen-Dazs might just be it.
This concept is like smoking marijuana; the weed isn’t making you gain weight, it’s what you’re doing when you’re high that makes you gain weight. On the contrary,
2. Stress de-eating.
(Like Shakespeare, I like to make it up as I go along. Bear with me.)
When you stress, you may be so preoccupied with feeling crappy that you either forget to eat, or just never gain an appetite. On a scientific note, stress promotes Cortisol secretion, and in some individuals may cause them to feel a suppressed appetite. Or make them so active they just don’t eat. All the above is paraphrased. For more science jargon, check out this lovely article featuring three doctors at the University of New Mexico: http://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/stresscortisol.html
When I get upset, I accomplish things. Since I’m usually a happy-go-lucky kind of guy, this usually never happens and I hardly ever get anything accomplished. Which is also why I can eat so much. However, there are days I’ve been triggered and I swear I can get a week’s worth of work accomplished in a couple of hours… without eating. And when you don’t eat, you lose weight. As you may have noticed, stress isn’t the cause of weight loss, it’s the symptoms of stress that can promote weight loss. Speaking of causes and symptoms (and stress), you know what else you do when you’re stressed?
Smoke meth. And if you’ve ever seen a meth-head, you know they’re so busy being zippy that they don’t eat. They’d rather smoke meth.
All comedy aside,
Let’s assume humans didn’t need to eat food to survive, but everything else stayed the same. Being the complicated creatures we are, we like to commit self-harm when we’re stressed. Why? Because some of the things we “enjoy” are short-term bursts of pleasure. Depending on your vice, it could be “downers,” like marijuana, alcohol, or Nyquil, or “uppers,” like whistlin’ bungholes, spleen splitters, whisker biscuits, honkey lighters, hoosker doos, hoosker don’ts, cherry bombs, nipsy daisers (with or without the scooter stick), or whistlin’ kitty chasers.
Ingesting any of these things either promotes increased appetite or appetite suppression, or may contain excess calories. As a result of stress, you’ve done what makes you feel better, but also encouraged behavior that isn’t conducive to your goals.
Mental health is extremely important in influencing your behavior. However, it’s not the actual event of “depression” or “stress” that caused the physical changed in your body, it’s the behavior promotion that these mental-health issues have caused. The next time you're in an altered state of normalcy (stress or depression), keep in mind what behavior has become habitual, and if that behavior is constructive toward your goals. Of course not everything can be handled without seeking professional help. Keep in mind that you have control over what you eat and what you don’t. In the meantime, try de-stressing by washing dishes and jamming to Bob Marley. It's impossible to stay upset this way. Trust me, it's science.