Stress Eating: What It Is & How to Stop It

stress eating

We react to stress differently. Some prefer to talk to a therapist and binge-watch movies; others get lost in their imaginary worlds. Then, there are us who prefer eating anything and everything we find in the fridge.

While binge eating might seem like a better stress coping strategy than hard drugs, it is still harmful to your body. After all, it could make you overweight. In this article, I will discuss stress eating in detail, including what it is and how you can stop it.

What is Stress Eating?

Stress eating is eating food to suppress or soothe negative feelings such as sadness, loneliness, anger, fear, or boredom. Many life events can trigger negative emotions. The most common triggers include:

  • Relationship conflicts: Love is beautiful, but sometimes it can lead to a lot of pain, especially when people break up. As a result, some people find themselves binge eating.
  • Fatigue: It is easy to eat mindlessly when tired, especially if you are working a job you don’t like. At such moments, food might seem like the only comfort.
  • Shame: If you feel guilty or shameful about something you did, you might find yourself eating a little more than you should console yourself.
  • School life: School life can be fun, but sometimes it comes with many responsibilities, especially in college. It is the first time you are getting freedom, and you don’t know how to use it, the anxiety of the new surroundings, and not forgetting the school work itself. You might find yourself eating too much as a result.
  • Fear of missing out (FOMO): With the rise of social media, many teenagers and young adults find themselves stressed over many things, some things they don’t even have control over.
  • Social influences: When people are together, they will likely encourage each other to eat junk foods. You might eat the foods even if you are trying to quit.

Some people eat less when faced with overwhelming emotions, but others binge eat even if they are not enjoying the food. Some of our emotions are so attached to the eating habits that we automatically reach out to food whenever we feel pain.

How to Stop Stress Eating

No matter what feelings prompt you to eat excessively, the final result is the same. The effect is fleeting, the feelings will eventually return, and you will have to deal with the additional stress of feeling guilty about falling short of your weight-loss target. This can also lead to an unhealthy loop in which your emotions make you overeat; you then beat yourself up for straying off track with your weight loss plan, which makes you feel horrible, which then triggers you to overeat again.

It becomes a never-ending cycle of doing the same thing over and over again. I don’t want to live like that, you don’t want to live like that, and no one wants to. Luckily, there is a way you can stop stress eating.

Check on Yourself

When I find myself overeating, I identify the reason I am eating too much in the first place. If you find yourself overeating a bit too much, relax a little and ask yourself why you are eating too much. If you eat because you are hungry, that’s okay.

However, if there is another reason, that’s a problem. Pay attention to what you are feeling. Are you feeling anxious, bored, or stressed? You can always tell the type of feeling that makes you want to overeat. When you identify it, you can prevent it in the future.

Still, doing it alone can be quite difficult, so you may need professional help, especially if you do it because of emotional pain and then experience guilt and shame afterward.

stress eating for women

Deal with the Temptation

If you have junk foods in your fridge, it will be easier for you to run to them for comfort. I usually ensure that it is as difficult to get the junk food as possible. If you already have junk food in the fridge, you can give it to someone to keep and only ask for it when you need it. If that’s too much trouble, you can keep the foods you want to avoid out of sight.

I don’t mean it is wrong to enjoy a good treat occasionally. You work so hard, and you deserve to appreciate yourself. However, do it in moderation for your physical and mental health.

Maintain a Healthy Meal Schedule

Suppose you are accustomed to eating three meals daily; attempt to maintain that routine even if you work from home. The same holds if you merely consume one meal and a snack daily.

If you’re extremely disoriented and find yourself continually snacking, try creating a schedule with solid meals each day and sticking to it until you feel your eating habits have become comfortable and stable.

Don’t Restrict

You shouldn’t restrict your body food because you are trying to lose weight. Restricting your body food will leave you feeling weak and make it difficult to function. It is bad to deprive your body of food when stressed out. It could leave you feeling more stressed.

Cook Your Food

If you can, cook your food. Cooking your food makes you less likely to order junk food and reduces your likelihood of getting overweight. When you cook at home, you will likely eat the right foods and avoid eating sugary foods that make you add weight. I often cook my food, even if it is just during the weekends.

Stay Hydrated

Experts recommend taking at least eight glasses daily to stay hydrated, but most do not even take half of that. Staying hydrated reduces the risk of getting obese and can even make your skin glow. If you don’t like taking plain water, you can always boost its flavor but don’t add too much sugar as it will add calories to your body.

While working, you could put a bottle of water on top of your desk, and you are likely to take a sip every time you see the bottle. That way, you are likely to drink more water throughout the day.

Get Moving

If you work in the office, take the car back home, and then relax as you enjoy your favorite movies, you could eat more food than you should. Exercising helps reduce stress as it releases endorphins. When the stress is relieved, you will not need to keep on eating to combat the stress. You can exercise on your own at home, or you can join the gym. Just find time in your busy schedule for exercising.

Prevent Boredom

When you have a significant amount of additional time on your hands, it is easy to succumb to feelings of boredom. You can avoid boredom by making productive use of your leisure time. Learning a new skill, tackling a home repair project, organizing your living spaces, enrolling in a new educational course, or beginning a new hobby are all wonderful ideas for avoiding boredom. These things will make you more productive and confident about yourself. If you have a few genuine friends, you can find time to hang out with them.

healthy food for stress eating

Stock Nutritious Foods

Stocking your kitchen with nutrient-dense foods and putting them on display could encourage you to cook them. You can also stock the fridge with healthier foods instead of stocking it up with candy, soda, chips, and other foods full of calories.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

There is nothing wrong with taking a glass of wine or a tasty cocktail to relax in the evening. However, remember that alcohol lowers your inhibitions and increases your appetite. As a result, you may find yourself overeating. Furthermore, you don’t want to get dependent on alcohol. To be on the safe side, drink at least only one or two drinks per day.

Learn from Setbacks

If you are engaging in emotional eating, don’t beat yourself up. Forgive yourself and start the next day with a clean slate. Learn from the occurrence, and come up with a strategy of how you might avoid such situations in the future. If you make any noticeable changes, be happy and congratulate yourself on a special treat.

Keep Your Overall Health in Mind

It is crucial to consider your overall health during times of stress. Eating healthy foods is only one component of maintaining your health and happiness. The essential thing is to practice self-compassion and do your best based on your current circumstances.

When you are stressed is not the time to limit, overexercise, experiment with fad diets, or dwell on your flaws. Use this time to cultivate a new, good relationship with your body and mind if you battle insecurity, body image concerns, or anxiety.

Emotional eating is a typical occurrence that is rarely accompanied by physical hunger. Some individuals succumb to it infrequently, while for others, it can significantly impact their lives and even harm their physical and mental health. If you are struggling with the issue of overeating and can’t deal with it on your own, I recommend you talk to the doctor.