3 Ways to Curb Stress Eating

By: Mia Simonsen

Hand holding a cupcake
Share with your community

Is chocolate your best friend? Do you crave a bag of chips when you’re feeling stressed? You just might be an emotional eater – someone who habitually turns to food for comfort. Rather than eating in response to hunger, emotional eaters eat because of what’s happening around them, and inside them – like external circumstances (a big test, breakup, family fights or even an exciting event) and feelings (most commonly anger, boredom, depression, frustration, low self-esteem, and loneliness.) 

Emotional eating can also be influenced by family patterns in response to stress. Think of a mother soothing a crying toddler with a cookie, or a dad taking the kids out for an ice cream after the little league team lost a game, or celebrating an achievement with a special dinner at your favorite restaurant. Food is connection and solace – and reinforced by our culture.

Certain foods also give a physiological high. Researchers have found that after stress hormones flood the brain, eating pleasure-seeking foods loaded with sugar and fat can help ease anxiety. So your comfort-food cravings might be your body’s attempt to put the brake on chronic stress. But although it’s OK to reach for an occasional cheeseburger, candy bar, or ice cream (who doesn’t from time to time?), a constant diet of high-energy foods can make you feel sluggish and even lead to health problems such as diabetes and high-cholesterol.

The catch is you may not realize you are an emotional eater – until someone notices your eating patterns (eating a pint of ice cream at 2 a.m.), you’ve gained weight, or you realize you can’t cope unless you eat food immediately. You can become aware of emotional eating by tracking what you eat and knowing the feelings or stress cues that triggered you. It’s important to find other ways to cope with stress, such as relaxation skills, doing yoga or going for a walk, and getting support.

Mindful eating. A relatively recent approach to emotional eating and weight management is based on contemplative practices.  Emerging research suggests mindfulness skills such as breathing practices, yoga, and being kind to yourself using self-compassion skills can help to regulate metabolic processes (like blood sugar level).  It is thought that the ability to be aware of eating habits (environmental cues or distracted eating), awareness of the desire to eat, sensations of being hungry or satiated, help people engage in healthier eating.  

Photo by Charles Etoroma on Unsplash

This article is republished from Bodimojo’s website here with their permission.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Subscribe to our monthly newsletter on the latest industry updates, Rethink happenings, and resources galore. Simply follow the link to the footer and enter your email.

Related Resources

To prepare future generations for a diverse and inclusive workplace where employees feel they belong,...

Learn more about Rethink

Take care of your people with Whil’s evidenced-based solutions that support the well-being your entire employee base in all aspect of their lives - from personal to parenting, and professional

Build strong school communities and healthy, safe learning environments for all your students with RethinkEd’s evidence-based strategies and technology solutions across SEL, Special Ed, Behavioral & Training

Start, grow and manage your practice with Rethink’s workflow automation and evidenced-based clinical best practice tools that help you optimize outcomes and operations

Support your members and your provider networks with Rethink’s solutions that support autism care management across your network while offering unique value-added services to your members.

logo rethinkfirst white

Together We’re Powering Potential

Transforming the Behavioral Health landscape requires scalable platforms that address a broad range of mental, emotional, and wellness needs. At Rethink First we are proud to work across the continuum of care to help individuals and the people they care about live healthier, happier and more fulfilling lives.

The leading behavioral and mental health enterprise platform to support working parents, caregivers and their families.

Award-winning solutions empower districts and their educators to improve outcomes and wellness for all tiers of students and to build healthy and safe learning environments.

Fully integrated workflow automation and evidenced-based clinical tools help behavioral health organizations optimize outcomes and operations.

Patent-pending clinical solutions and member engagement services streamline autism care management processes and support outcomes for health plans, providers, and members.