Tips to help with stress eating

By April 18, 2020 No Comments

Stress eating can be tough

Are you starting to worry about gaining the “quarantine 15”!  Stress causes an increase in cortisol (our stress hormone) and cortisol causes food cravings (and belly fat…..).  


When we’re stressed, it’s very easy to turn to food for comfort.  There’s a reason they call certain foods “comfort foods”, right?  But this often equates to extra calories, and usually foods that aren’t the healthiest (like ice cream, mac n’ cheese, chips…).  The truth is no one turns to broccoli and kale when they’re stressed out! 


Stress eating is emotional eating.  And it often makes the problem worse – you end up feeling guilty about the foods you just ate or the scale reading the next day.  And since hunger isn’t driving your desire for food, nothing you eat really makes you “full”.  Thats why you can end up eating the whole bag of cookies and still end up searching in the freezer for ice cream to top it off!


Here are some tips to help you avoid stress eating:


1.  Be mindful of why you are eating   

Do you eat when you sad or upset?  Do you eat when you are not hungry?  Do you reward yourself with food?  Being aware of your motivation to eat is an important first step. 


2.  Identify triggers

If you had a particularly hard day at work, do you turn to food when you get home?  Consider a food journal to help you identify your triggers and get a more accurate picture of what you are eating/drinking throughout the day.


3. Find distractions

When you’re craving the chocolate bar, instead try calling a close friend, making yourself a cup of herbal tea, going for a walk, or purposely diverting your mind to a new task or topic.  It’s possible 20-30 minutes later the food may be forgotten!


4.  Set yourself up for success 

Try to minimize unhealthy foods or snacks in your household.  Stock your  fridge and pantry with healthier items instead.


5. Balance stress

We all have stress in our lives.  Finding healthy ways of coping with stress is important.  Meditation, deep breathing, and exercise can all help to reduce stress and help you stay in control.


6.  Avoid rewarding yourself with food

Use food as medicine to support and heal your body, not as a reward.  Sometimes you deserve a reward!  Consider treating yourself to a movie, or a pedicure, or a mini shopping trip!


7.  Stay hydrated

OK, we’ll admit that a glass of water does not hold the same appeal as a hot fudge sundae when you’re stressed out.  But when you’re dehydrated, the messages sometimes get a bit mixed up and you can think you’re hungry.  Drinking more water through the day can help you have more control over your hunger and eating behaviors.  Try adding some lemon or lime to the water, or try different herbal teas if you’re tired of water.


8.  Ask yourself if you’re hungry

If you’re hungry, it’s ok to have something to eat.  If you aren’t really hungry, this is the time to use those distractions!


9.  Try intermittent fasting

Eat your meals within a 12 hour window (for example have breakfast at 8am and finish eating for the day by 8pm), then fast for 12 hours overnight.  This has some great health benefits, including helping with weight loss, but it also has some psychological benefits too! Most of us do our worst stress eating at night.   If the kitchen is “closed” after 8pm, it helps us avoid mindless snacking or searching through the pantry for a treat. 


10.  Be kind to yourself

Sometimes you are going to eat things that you know aren’t good for you.  Don’t beat yourself up.  Don’t allow that voice in your head to tell you that you’re a failure.  Think about what you would say if a good friend confided in you that they were having trouble with stress eating.  You would be understanding and supportive!  Make sure that voice in your head is treating you like a good friend.  If you’re having trouble with this, please reach out for help.  


Yours in health,


Dr Deb

If you’d like to learn more, here are some ways that I can help you:

  1.  You can find more information on our website www.signaturewellness.org
  2. You can sign up for our FREE online Stress Rescue Program here
  3. If you’d like to learn more about whether a hormone imbalance could be the cause of your symptoms, please read my book, This is NOT Normal! A Busy Woman’s Guide to Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance.  You can find a copy on Amazon, or you can get a free copy of my e-book at IsItYourHormones.com
  4. If you’d like more info about working with Signature Wellness, please call 704-752-9346 or you can schedule a free consultation with one of our Patient Coordinators here