How Emotional Eating Can Worsen Back Pain: What You Need to Know

How Emotional Eating Can Worsen Back Pain: What You Need to Know


Back pain affects many folks. It can be caused by physical and emotional factors. “Emotional eating” is an emotional cause of chronic back pain. This is when people use food to cope with stress or bad feelings. Unfortunately, this habit can make back pain harder to manage.

Here is what you need to know about how emotional eating impacts existing back pain and how to recognize if you are engaging in it:

Definition of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating, or stress-eating, is when food is used to cope with difficult emotions. Examples include stress, anxiety, sadness, and loneliness. This behavior can be risky, as it can lead to chronic back pain.

Let’s look at the definition of emotional eating and how it affects one’s back.

How Emotional Eating Can Lead to Back Pain

Emotional eating is a pattern where people eat due to intense emotions. It’s often triggered by negative emotions like sadness, anxiety or boredom. People who emotionally eat use food as a way to cope instead of facing the emotion. During an episode, people may be inclined to eat too much or make unhealthy choices. This type of eating can lead to physical, physiological and psychological changes in the body, resulting in long-term health issues such as back pain.

Physiological Effects
When people eat too much due to negative emotions, it can cause changes in digestion and metabolism. It can lead to fatigue and exhaustion, making it difficult for digestion to work properly. This can slow down the metabolic rate and cause strain on the digestive system, which can lead to back pain.

Psychological Effects
Emotional eating can create more stress on the body due to higher levels of cortisol, increased blood pressure, heart rate and anxiety. All these effects are physical responses caused by emotional states, which can worsen existing physical issues such as back pain.

Additional Dangers
Weight gain associated with emotional eating increases pressure on the joints and muscles of the lower back. It also heightens risk for other medical issues such as diabetes or stroke linked with obesity. All of this adds additional strain on the spine, resulting in increased levels of back pain.

Types of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating can be a challenge for certain people. It can make back pain worse. There are many types of emotional eating, depending on individual emotions and behaviors. This article discusses the various kinds of emotional eating and how it can cause back pain to get worse.

Stress Eating

Stress eating is an emotional behavior. People who do it struggle to control their habits and often overeat. It can harm your health, especially when it’s high-fat or processed food. Plus, sugary or salty snacks increase inflammation, which is linked to neck, chronic headaches, and back pain. People may use food as a distraction from their hectic lifestyle, which leads to overeating.

To avoid stress eating, try talking through your feelings or doing other activities like journaling or exercising. Pay attention to what you’re consuming, too. Avoid processed snacks with high sugar, since they can worsen back pain.

Boredom Eating

Boredom eating is an unhealthy response to feeling bored. It can have physical and mental health risks, like making back pain worse. It can also stop people from losing weight.

People with back pain should try to avoid things that might lead to boredom eating, like too much screen time. Instead, find something else to do, like:

  • Journaling
  • Going for a walk

Do something enjoyable, like:

  • Painting
  • Gardening

It will help reduce cravings and make you feel better. Taking a break from sitting also reduces stress and helps you focus.

Comfort Eating

Comfort eating, also known as “emotional” or “stress” eating, occurs when food is used to comfort oneself during times of distress. It can also be used to avoid work or school. Comfort eating usually involves high-calorie comfort foods like sweets, chips and fast food. Stress eating is often followed by guilt and feeling out of control.

It’s important to note that stress eating is not necessarily a sign of a larger problem, such as an eating disorder or mental health issue. But, it can still be harmful if not managed properly. Research shows that it may lead to weight gain, diabetes and other health issues. It can also worsen existing chronic back pain.

Those with issues with emotional eating should practice mindful eating – focus on the flavors and textures, not cravings – and take time for self-care. Find something physical or creative that you enjoy doing to allow your body and mind some relief from stress. Comfort Eating can be beneficial in moderation if done consciously and with mindfulness. Allowing yourself mindful indulgence instead of binging will help balance physical health with mental wellbeing, without developing bad habits.

The Physical Effects of Emotional Eating

Emotional eating is when you eat food because of feelings, not hunger. Studies reveal it can lead to health issues, such as back pain. Emotional eating might make you feel better in the moment, but it can make you more likely to get sick.

Let’s explore the physical effects of emotional eating further:

Weight Gain

People who emotionally eat are more likely to make unhealthy choices. This can lead to weight gain, which can worsen existing back pain or lead to chronic pain.

Extra weight puts stress on the spine muscles and joints. This can cause fatigue, and worsen pain. Weight can also increase inflammation, which can make other conditions worse.

Emotional eating may give comfort. But it is important to keep track of what you eat and why. If emotional eating is making it hard to manage or heal from chronic back pain, speak with a mental health specialist or nutritionist who specializes in treating mood disorders related to binge eating. Whether online or at an office near you.

Poor Posture

Poor posture is a common physical result of stress-related emotional eating. This can raise your stress hormone levels, leading to shallow breathing. Shallow inhalation weakens muscles, causing you to slump instead of sit up straight. People may also forget about proper form and sit for long periods in a relaxed position. This can strain the muscles in shoulders, neck, and back, causing chronic pain. In addition, incorrect posture over time can also cause permanent changes in your skeletal frame, leading to lumbar pain and headaches.

To avoid these physical effects, focus on mindful eating habits. Do activities that reduce tension, such as yoga or Pilates. Practice deep breathing exercises before meals. This can help prepare body and mind for healthy eating decisions.

Muscle Weakness

Experiencing back pain is common. Physical causes are one thing, but emotional eating can contribute too. When we turn to food to cope with emotions, it can lead to weight gain and weak muscles, which worsen the pain.

The connection between emotional eating and back pain is real. Being overweight puts a strain on muscles and joints, which have to work harder. Repetitive movements without proper support can also weaken muscles.

Even if emotional eating doesn’t seem to be the cause, it’s important to address it when dealing with chronic pain. Taking action to improve mental health and posture is important. Eating healthy foods is better for physical health than emotionally eating. This won’t help heal chronic pain in the long-term.

Strategies to Manage Emotional Eating

Nowadays, emotional eating is a thing. Especially for those with chronic back pain and other issues. It’s a way to manage tough emotions. Eating too much unhealthy stuff in a short while is a result.

Here are techniques to handle emotional eating:

Identifying Triggers

Triggers can be anything that leads you to eat even when you’re not hungry, e.g. stress at work or being around certain people. Writing a list of triggers helps identify them when they occur.

Strategies to manage emotional eating include:

  • Avoiding tempting situations.
  • Recognizing hunger & fullness cues.
  • Distracting yourself.
  • Positive self-talk.
  • Seeking support.

Talking to a therapist or counselor can help learn healthy coping skills.

Creating a Healthy Eating Plan

Creating a healthy eating plan is essential. Aim to cut down on processed foods, sugars, fats, and carbs. You may not be able to eliminate them all, but there are ways to reduce emotional eating.

  • Plan your meals and have healthy options to replace unhealthy cravings.
  • Shop with a plan and make healthier choices.
  • Keeping a food diary can help you stay aware of what you eat and when.

Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and fish. Try to limit red meats, sugary drinks, and snacks. Add protein to each meal, it keeps your body fuller for longer and prevents overeating.

Remember portion control, everything should fit in one fist-sized bowl or plate.

Practicing Mindful Eating

Mindful eating is a helpful technique to beat emotional eating. It’s about being aware of what you eat, how your body reacts to it, and how it makes you feel emotionally. Before a meal or snack, take a few moments to appreciate it. Consider how the ingredients nourish you. Focus on the taste, texture, and satisfaction and use all five senses. If non-eating thoughts come up, acknowledge them and return to savoring the food. Pay attention if you feel overly full; this could mean an emotional need is driving you to eat.

Ultimately, stop when satisfied, not stuffed; this means you’ve taken care of physical and emotional hunger.


Back pain can be a normal part of life. But, did you know emotional eating can make it worse? It is important to address both the physical and emotional causes of back pain to achieve good health.

To break free from the cycle of emotional eating, try cognitive-behavioral therapy or mindfulness-based approaches. These can help change relationships with food and find other coping mechanisms. Taking time for self-care and healthy lifestyle choices, like proper nutrition and physical activity, can also help promote positive health.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is emotional eating?

Emotional eating is the act of consuming food in response to emotional triggers such as stress, sadness, or anxiety rather than physical hunger.

2. How does emotional eating worsen back pain?

Emotional eating can worsen back pain by causing weight gain, inflammation, and increased stress levels which can exacerbate back pain.

3. What are some common emotional eating triggers?

Some common emotional eating triggers include stress, boredom, loneliness, and depression.

4. How can I tell if I am emotionally eating?

You can tell if you are emotionally eating if you are consuming food in response to emotions rather than physical hunger. You may also feel guilty or ashamed after eating.

5. What are some healthier ways to cope with emotions without resorting to emotional eating?

Some healthier ways to cope with emotions include exercising, practicing mindfulness or meditation, talking to a friend or therapist, and engaging in a hobby you enjoy.

6. Can reducing emotional eating improve my back pain?

Reducing emotional eating can improve back pain by reducing inflammation, stress, and weight gain which are all contributing factors to back pain.

the back recovery program by alex larsson
Jane Smith is a natural health enthusiast on a mission to uncover effective methods for achieving pain-free living. Through her personal journey with chronic back pain, she has become well-versed in holistic approaches such as yoga, Pilates, and essential oils.

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