Stress and Emotional Eating

Learn how to identify the triggers that cause you to make poor food choices. Take the first step in controlling emotional eating!

Stress and anxiety are a common part of our daily lives.

Unfortunately, allowing stress to build up could hinder your quality of life and affect your weight loss goals. When you're experiencing a stressful event, your body will release cortisol, a hormone that helps regulate your response to stress. If cortisol levels are elevated for prolonged periods, it can lead to an increase in food consumption, fat storage, and weight gain.

But if you take the time to evaluate your stress, you can learn how to cope and recognize areas of focus to prevent stress from negatively affecting your healthy lifestyle.

The short-term and long-term effects of stress

Stress can affect you in many ways. Some short-term effects include disrupted sleep, headaches, irritability, and lack of or increased appetite, among others.

Long-term effects can include increased belly fat, weight gain, decreased muscle mass, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, and an increased risk of major health problems.

How to avoid emotional eating triggers

Learning to identify the triggers that cause you to make poor food choices is the first step in controlling emotional eating.

When you feel triggered by stress and tempted to binge on unhealthy foods, try one or more of these coping mechanisms:

  • Breathe! Deep breathing can help reduce stress and spike energy.
  • Count to 10, or 100 if you need to, before reacting.
  • Drink water or a hot cup of tea.
  • Call someone for support.
  • Take a quick walk, even up or down stairs — anything to get blood flowing!

What can you do to alleviate everyday stress?

Here are simple things you can do to limit unhealthy stress in your life:

  • Spend time alone: It's important to practice self-care and do something just for you.
    Read a book, get a massage, see a movie – whatever you enjoy.
  • Sit quietly: Spend a few minutes each day without your phone or computer.
  • Avoid stressful triggers: Although avoiding all stressors is impossible, try
    to avoid the areas that trigger emotions leading to increased stress.
  • Get enough sleep: Create a relaxing bedtime ritual so you can get quality sleep.
  • Focus on what you can control: Whether it's waking up earlier or committing to a gym class,
    focusing on the areas you can control will empower you to stick to your goals.
  • Stay active: Try to get out for a brisk walk each day or engage in other physical activities that
    can alleviate stress. In addition to feeling better, your body will start to tone up and get stronger.
  • Choose to see the good: Many things today are negative and cause increased stress and worry.
    Try not to let the news, a bad day at work, or a traffic jam ruin your positive attitude.
  • Remove tempting food so you won't turn to it during stressful times.

Remember to go easy on yourself in times of stress

If you have an episode of emotional eating, forgive yourself and start fresh the next day. Try to learn from the experience and make a plan for how you can prevent it in the future.