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Stress Eating: What Is It and How Can You Stop It?

Updated on February 11, 2014
Before you go for that next bite, read these tips to stop stress eating.
Before you go for that next bite, read these tips to stop stress eating. | Source

I have a confession to make: sometimes I eat, not because I'm hungry, but because I'm stressed. The worst part is that stress-eat I end up eating more than if I were actually hungry. Also, I must confess that when I'm stressed I end up eating so mindlessly that it takes a while for my brain to realize that I'm putting food in my mouth, and when it finally comes to that realization I've already inhaled a whole bag of chips. The sad part is that even though my brain may not notice the excess food, my waist certainly notices it.

If you have problems akin to the one mentioned above, follow me
to the road to redemption.

Why do we overeat when we feel stressed?

When we feel tense or stressed we automatically look for the quick
path to happiness. And what's the quickest way to get there? A
quick rush of serotonin! Serotonin is one of the "happiness
hormones" our brain releases, and it feels great! Serotonin makes
us feel at ease and relaxed.

And the quickest way to get a serotonin rush is by eating a load of
simple carbohydrates. In other words, we start looking for a whole
bunch of bad food, such as chocolate, candy, chips, ice cream, etc...

This load of simple carbohydrates triggers a quick release of
serotonin, and we may feel better momentarily. Emphasis on
MOMENTARILY...Yes, that quick happiness doesn't last long, and
anyone who is a stress eater can attest to that.

How many times have you felt super guilty after you inhaled that
box of cookies, or that family-size potato chip bag? I know I feel
bad immediately after I have done the bad deed, and then I start
feeling stressed and tense all over again.

It's all a vicious, downward spiral...

Stop and look at what you are planning to eat. Balance the cost and think: Is it worth it?
Stop and look at what you are planning to eat. Balance the cost and think: Is it worth it? | Source

How can you stop stress eating?

Let's go through some simple tips that will keep you away from
eating when you're not hungry.

Break the cycle of stress eating

The more you stress eat, the more your body will get used to eating that way, which makes it all the more important to break this vicious cycle as soon as possible.

Your body can quickly become conditioned to wanting those quick serotonin boosters. When you become "addicted" your body becomes very vulnerable when you're in the vicinity of cookies, ice cream, or whatever your favorite junk food may be.

To break the cycle, follow the tips listed in this hub. And when you feel like you just can't stop yourself, breathe deeply at least 10 times to reduce your cortisol/stress levels, and cut down your junk food portions gradually.

Wait it out

This may seem like an overly simplistic piece of advice, but it
works! Here's what you do:

  • As soon as you feel the urge to stress-eat, Wait!
  • Think: Do I really need this? How will I feel right after I have eaten it?
  • If you must have something, go get something that will not go straight to your thighs, like tea or lemon water.
  • Go for a walk, knit, paint your toenails or do anything else that will keep your mind away from food.


Mint is great for getting those cravings out of your mouth. It makes
your mouth feel clean, therefore signaling your brain that eating
time is over. So, as soon as you feel the urge to eat, you can

  • Brush your teeth
  • Chew super minty gum
  • Rinse your mouth with mouthwash

Keep hydrated

Sometimes, when you're stressed out, your brain may trick you into
thinking that you really are hungry, even though you just ate.
And you really may be feeling hungry, but it's not for lack of food,
it's for lack of water.

Satisfy your appetite with complex carbohydrates

If you definitely must eat when you're stressed, then instead of reaching for that ice
cream or those chips, grab something that will give your body
complex carbs. Complex carbohydrates are slowly digested and
maintain your sugar levels stable without blowing up your thighs or
hips. You can find complex carbs in most fruits and vegetables as
well as grains such as quinoa and oatmeal.

Healthy crunchy foods help satisfy your stress eating habits.
Healthy crunchy foods help satisfy your stress eating habits. | Source

Yummy complex carbohydrates

When I feel like I need to eat something that at least feels junky, I toast a piece of Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain bread by Food for Life Baking company, add a little peanut butter and top it off with a few pieces of apple.

You can take all these ingredients to work and make yourself a delicious batch of complex carbohydrates when your boss or co-workers start stressing you out.

*The Ezekiel 4:9 break can be bought at most health food stores and some Ralph's stores.

Eat something crunchy

No, I don't mean chips or even veggie chips. I mean healthy
crunchy. Sometimes our anxieties or our urge to eat can be calmed
down simply by eating something crunchy. Our jaws will get the
work they need to release all tension, and your brain will get the
sensation of eating something yummy. So reach out for those celery
sticks, apples, baby carrots or cucumber slices.
*My favorite crunch healthy food is snap peas! Have you tried them?
They're super yummy!

Be mindful

When we stress eat, we eat mindlessly, without really noticing what we are putting in our mouths. We chew and swallow rapidly, desperate to get to the next bite. Stop! Be mindful about what you put in your mouth. If you will indulge and decide to have a piece of that delicious donut, take a bite and savor it. Close your eyes and enjoy the explosion of flavors in your mouth. By doing this you will reduce the amount of calories you consume and you will actually enjoy the eating experience.

Have a yummy, complex carbohydrates snack!
Have a yummy, complex carbohydrates snack! | Source


When we are stressed, we want what we can't have. For that same reason, don't think about junk food as food you can't have. Think of junk food as food you choose not to have. You may choose to eat a little bit of junk food here and there, but please, measure your portions. Never have more than your guilt can handle, and definitely never have more than your daily activity will allow.

Always remember, your body is not a trash can. Don't dump all your negative feelings in it. Treat it with care and feed it right.

Happy living!


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    • naturopharmacy profile image

      Vajza Rodjak 3 years ago from Vinh Vietnam

      For me, I drink a cup of hot chocolate... Yummy....

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Just that photo of the doughnuts made me hungry. But a cup of coffee does kill the appetite...

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hey Naturopharmacy:

      Thanks for the tip!

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi grand old lady:

      Yes, I should have added coffee to the list. Coffee without sugar can actually calm down your appetite and increase your metabolism. Thank you for the tip and for commenting!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 3 years ago from Australia

      Dear Silver Q,

      I make sure I sit down when I eat - that way I can't stand eating with the fridge door open. Thanks for the article

    • ravenrage07 profile image

      John Fox 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I used to stress eat and problem drink but my brother decided he wanted to go to the gym and become a bodybuilder. Im nowhere near bodybuilding level and im doing it to lose fat but since ive started working out my stress levels have plummited. Now i have a positive goal to work toward even though its physically painful but pain = gain so. Im still 300 pounds but more muscle than fat and i love to work out!

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Thanks for commenting Anne Harrison!

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hey ravenrage07:

      Yes, exercise is definitely a way to stop stress eating, and it is also super healthy. Thank you for sharing this tip and for reading!

    • ravenrage07 profile image

      John Fox 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      Also fat burners don't do anything if you don't work out. I don't see them as being worth the extra money when you can buy natural supplements. All of the "fad diets" and other things of that nature do not work. I don't care what anyone says or what celebrity endorses them. The only way you can get in shape is to get a caloric deficit (burn more then you eat), work out with weights (So the fat burning goes on for days instead of an hour on the treadmill) and stay positive.

      Stress can make you gain weight even without the food so exert it in a positive matter. It's just another habit people need to break, you know? I don't mean you have to go 5 days a week to the gym and kill yourself working out. Just go up there and find out what your maximum is, cut that in half and work out with that until you are stress free and comfortable. I know some people like to go punch a heavy bag at the gym to get out frustration which is better than eating ice cream!

      Also I know a lot of people are anxious about other people who are already in shape at the gym judging them. The reality is that is not true at all, people at the gym are just as self conscious. That's why they are there. I've met some of the most supportive people at the gym that were in my situation at one point and are ready and willing to help me get to the state I want to be in. So, I am not saying starve yourself, or run 10 miles a day. But 10-20 minutes on an elliptical or something else plus some light exercise will defeat stress eating regardless of your body type.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I like your statement about your body not being a trash can. How true!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 years ago from USA

      I like your statement about your body not being a trash can. How true!

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi ravenrage07:

      That is very sensible advice. I agree that a lot of people dread going to the gym or exercising because they feel they must exercise to death. However, if we all follow what you commented, to exercise little by little, we will see much change in our lives. Thanks for such good tips!

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi flourishanyway:

      Thank you! I guess we have all been guilty at one point or another of treating our bodies like a trashcan: putting stuff in there that doesn't belong or that we feel bad about throwing away. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • Toytasting profile image

      Toy Tasting 3 years ago from Mumbai

      Thanks for sharing these tips. I have started stress eating a lot these days, hope these would be of help. :)

    • profile image

      Wee Cat Creations 3 years ago

      Thank you for the suggestions. It is too easy to want to "fix" stress with a handful of cookies instead of trying to figure out how to cope or solve the stressor.

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi toytasting:

      You're welcome. I hope these tips prove to be of help.

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi Wee Cat Creations:

      Yes, you're right. It's super easy to just grab the first handful of junk food we can find, but just as you said, it is better to take the time to find out what is causing our stress and how we can learn to deal with it.

      Thank you for commenting!

    • ravenrage07 profile image

      John Fox 3 years ago from Richmond, VA

      I do actually exercise myself to death but that's just me. I'm trying to get results really fast, and get the most out of my workouts more than just stress relief. Plus the gym is a long way away from my home so I work out much harder when I go. I'm following you now!

    • manasi1828 profile image

      manasi1828 3 years ago

      Hello, Studies shown that, people who have prolonged exposure to stress can have big detrimental effect on their psychological and physical health. And prolonged exposures to stress tend to have shortened lifespan. So, it is very necessary to prevent or STOP stress as soon as possible. And the best way to treat stress is Prevention. As we say Prevention is better than Cure. So, let’s have look on how we can avoid stress and prevent it. To know more about Tips to Prevent Stress . Visit :

    • dearabbysmom profile image

      dearabbysmom 3 years ago from Indiana

      Great tips, especially the one about staying hydrated. Such a simple thing that affects so many areas of health! And true! So easy to not even realize the munching is happening.

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Thank you, dearabbysmom!

      Yes, little, negative things can eventually bunch up in our lives and make us feel soooo bad! And like you said, sometimes just staying hydrated can help us fight off perceived hunger, tiredness and even stress. Thank you for reading and commenting!

    • profile image

      Dave36 3 years ago

      I'd say that first of all if we can eliminate what's stressing us out, then we won't need to find escapes, like smoking, drinking, drugs, comfort eating etc....So we should monitor what thoughts come to us, & especially the negative one's....I write down all my repeating negative thoughts, & anything i'm laying in bed at night thinking negatively about...Then slowly but surely i start trying to solve them, so i have a lot less stress now....Also i didn't see anything on this, but if you we're to eat something every day that you didn't like for 30 days, you would end up liking it....The same goes for things like butter/greasy food, if you stop having them for 30 days, your'l find you won't want them anymore....It requires a lot of effort, & i know myself it isn't easy. :-)

    • raymondphilippe profile image

      Raymond Philippe 3 years ago from The Netherlands

      Sound tips. I usually set a cup of tea when the stress creeps in. The proces needed to set the tea and the drink itself helps to cope with stress. At least most of the time.

    • kerlund74 profile image

      kerlund74 3 years ago from Sweden

      I behave that way in the evenings when I wan't to calm down. To the kitchen and back, several times. I think your hub gives some really useful advice for me to try, thank you:)

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi kerlund74:

      I'm happy you found this useful!

    • Silver Q profile image

      Silver Q 3 years ago

      Hi raymondphilippe:

      You're right. Sometimes just the process of doing something can calm us down. Thank you for the tip and for commenting!

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