Dr Susan Baxter
What You Can Do to Reduce Stress Eating
Updated: Feb 27
Stress eating is a common problem for many, which involves the consumption of food as a coping mechanism to deal with stress. Although it may seem like an easy fix, too much of this type of behavior can lead to weight gain and other health problems. If you're interested in building healthy eating habits without being miserable, check this out.
The Myth About Stress Eating
This myth or misconception that "stress eating is something to be ashamed of" can often keep people from reaching out for help.
Maybe it's time to rethink the idea of stress eating?
Stress eating can have benefits if done in moderation and coupled with healthy eating habits (and regular exercise, don't forget about that!). For most people, this is not the case.
How to tell if you're stress eating
You always feel like you need a little something more to eat after a meal, even if you're not hungry.
You may have trouble finishing your meals because you feel full too quickly.
You often eat when you're not hungry.
When you do eat, you tend to eat very quickly and not taste your meal.
You often binge on one food (e.g., sweets, carbs).
After eating a big meal, you feel tired or sleepy instead of satisfied.
You hide food so no one else will eat it (and you end up eating it later).
You feel guilty after eating, but then do it again anyway.
You can't remember the last time you didn't eat something to relieve stress.
Why You Stress Eat
There are many reasons why people may turn to stress eating.
For some, it is simply an unhealthy habit that needs to be broken.
Others may use this as a coping mechanism for stress.
It could be a way to wind down after a long day or to relieve anxiety.
Some, however, may show that they are eating more when feeling stressed because of outside pressures such as body image issues and self-esteem.
Some may show this because of underlying mental health problems.
It could also be a result of underlying physical health problems.
There are many other problems that can come about with too much stress eating.
Whatever the case may be, stress eating is a problem that can turn into a vicious cycle and the symptoms of unwanted weight gain can make you even more stressed!
Now, here is why it is a problem.
Stress eating can lead to higher calorie intake, weight gain, and obesity. It may also increase blood pressure levels which are all risk factors for heart disease. Also, many foods that are stress-eater's guilty pleasures are high in fat and sugar, which have been shown to increase stress hormones.
The worse thing about stress eating is that it may start a vicious cycle. When the weight starts coming on, people often feel less confident about themselves and more stressed. This can lead to more stress eating, which leads to more weight gain... you get the picture.
What can you do to reduce stress eating?
There are strategies that people use to cope with stress without the consumption of food, such as deep breathing exercises or trying meditation.
It's important for anyone who is stressed about their eating patterns to recognize what is triggering these behaviors and find new ways to cope with them.
Know your triggers
To reduce the frequency of stress eating it is important to be aware of what is causing you to eat.
What are your triggers?
Are there certain people, places, or emotions that cause you to want to reach out for food?
Once you know this, try listing them in order from most frequently triggering events on one side down to the least triggering.
Your strategy lists
Then, try writing out different coping strategies for each side of your list. These may include more healthy options like reaching out to friends or family, taking a walk outside, or finding some time to meditate/relax. Then cross off anything on your list that is not helpful at all (like stress-eating). Repeat this every day until you have found better, more helpful coping mechanisms that don't include stress eating.
Have a plan
Set up a plan and stick to it, despite the stress you may be feeling. This might include eating regular meals or healthy snacks throughout the day and exercising regularly. By doing these things, you're not only helping your emotional well-being but your physical well-being as well!
Identify other methods
Also, identify other methods of coping with stress that you could put into action instead of eating. This can include deep breathing, practicing mindfulness, or going for a walk. The more positive strategies you have in place, the less likely you are to resort to unhealthy behaviors such as stress-eating.
Eating in moderation
If you feel stressed and know that it's difficult for you to control your feelings around food, it's okay to eat. Just do it in moderation, at regular times, and make sure the food you're eating is healthy; not junk food that will negatively affect you physically or mentally. For example, instead of fried chicken at 2 am, go for a run or walk around the block (and don’t store junk food in your larder).
Be open to other techniques
People can also benefit from learning about different techniques to control their stress, which can help in self-soothing and dealing with negative emotions in a healthy way. They might also benefit from connecting with other people who they feel comfortable confiding in; whether it's family or friends or a counsellor.
The solution is not as simple as you might think
Unfortunately, the solution is not as simple as avoiding stress altogether or learning to deal with it in healthier ways. This often leads people to feel like they are never doing enough and can sometimes leave them feeling guilty when they do turn to stress-eating.
But there is no one "right" way to deal with stress and everyone's experiences are different. If this sounds like you, it's important to realize that your emotions are valid, and nobody should be telling you how to feel or what you should do about them. It's okay if it takes time for you to find ways
Are You Struggling With Stress Eating?
Let me help you break through those emotional barriers and finally lose weight. The process will be challenging, but I am here every step of the way!
I am a qualified health and fitness professional who has helped over 100 clients overcome their struggles with stress eating. You can be next! Let's chat about your experience.
If you have any additional suggestions for healthy habits that have worked for you, please leave them in the comments!
Send me a message if you need assistance with any of the obstacles that are keeping you from practicing these habits:) You can also contact us via Facebook or Instagram.