Getting Control: Stress Eating and How to Avoid it

By Deirdre Carlson

Sometimes it happens after getting an angry email from your boss, or after you go through a break-up. Whatever the case may be, it starts with a handful of chips, then a few pieces of cheese, and next thing you know you have polished off a ½ pint of ice cream without even knowing what happened.

In honor of National Stress Awareness month, we’re taking a look at stress-eating, also known as emotional eating. Stress eating is the practice of consuming large quantities of food—usually “comfort” or junk foods—in response to feelings instead of hunger. Whatever emotions drive a person to overeat, the result is usually the same: once they realize what they have done, they beat themselves up, feel bad, and overeat again, resulting an unhealthy, never-ending cycle.

The good news is that if you are prone to falling into the trap of stress eating, you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits and get back on track with your health goals.

Here are 5 powerful tips for how to put an end to stress eating.

  1. Focus on the Real Issue

We all know that food can become a crutch when we are stressed and usually a symptom of unmet needs. As yourself, ‘How do I feel?’ or ‘What do I need?’ to figure out what is really getting under your skin.

  1. Think Long-Term

Take a minute to think about your future plans (like how awesome you want to look on an upcoming vacation) before giving into stress eating. This can help get you out of the moment so you make healthier food choices.

  1. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is the practice of being truly present (mind and body) to the current situation. So next time you are feeling the need to reach for that bag of chips or pint of ice cream, identify your feelings, accept the unpleasant ones, and focus on your breathing to all help combat the urge to reach for the snack.

  1. Fight Boredom

Instead of reaching for a snack when you are not hungry, distract yourself by substituting a healthier behavior. Take a walk, watch your favorite TV show, listen to music, read, or call a friend.

  1. Be Kind to Yourself

Make pleasure a priority in your life! Find other ways to experience feeling good, aside from eating. Many times emotional eating is just our body’s attempt at experiencing pleasure amidst a high stress moment.

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