Emotional Eating: How to Recognize and Stop Stress Eating

Why so many diets fail? Because we not always eat to satisfy hunger. Food not only gives us energy, necessary for life, but also is a pleasure source. Many of us also turn to food to reduce stress or to cope with unpleasant emotions, such as grief, loneliness or boredom. Psychologists call this Stress Eating or Emotional Eating.  As rule after Emotional Eating, we feel even worse.  We suggest you to understand the nature of Stress Eating and how to cope with it.


What is Stress Eating?

“Stress eating usually happens when we want to disconnect from the moment. It’s like changing the channel in our brain to try to change how we feel. Here’s why food is such a salve for Stress,”  – explains  Minh-Hai Alex, a registered dietitian and founder of Mindful Nutrition in Seattle –  “Stress activates your adrenal glands to release cortisol, increasing your appetite”.

eating habits

When you’re under stress, you often feel out of control and overwhelmed — and that can leak into your eating habits, so it’s no surprise that you go after junk food, rather than keeping up your normally healthy habits. Unfortunately, that anxiety-induced hunger can have long-term consequences for your waistline.

Stress hunger can’t be filled with food. Eating may feel good in the moment, but the problem that triggered the eating are still there. And you often feel worse than you did before because of the unnecessary calories you’ve just consumed.

You don’t crave celery sticks and carrots during crazed moments. Cupcake, cookies and ice cream increase the brain’s feel-good dopamine response, psychologies explain. Next time you get into a bind, you’ll hear the siren song of chocolate cake to expect the rewarding hit of dopamine — and knows where to find it. You feel better on a sugar high. Over time, your brain may start to rely on these foods to simmer down.

No matter how powerless you feel overeating and your feelings, it is possible to make a positive change. You can find healthier ways to deal with your emotions, learn to eat mindfully instead of mindlessly, regain control of your weight, and finally put a stop to stress eating.

How to  Stop Stress Eating ?

1. First of all you must learn to understand the difference between  Stress Hunger and Physical Hunger:

  • Stress Hunger comes on suddenly.
  • Stress Hunger craves specific comfort foods – craves junk food or sugary snacks that provide an instant rush.
  • Stress Hunger isn’t satisfied once you’re full.
  • As rule, Stress Hunger often leads to regret, guilt, or shame.

2.  It is important to understand what hides behind Emotional Hunger and why do you do it ? What situations, places, or feelings make you reach for the comfort of food?

Common causes:

  • Stress – Ever notice how stress makes you hungry? When you are under stress, your body produces hormone, cortisol. Cortisol triggers cravings for salty, sweet, and fried foods—foods that give you a burst of energy and pleasure, emotional relief.
  • Negative emotions – Eating can be a way to temporarily silence or “stuff down” uncomfortable emotions, including anger, fear, sadness, anxiety, loneliness, resentment, and shame.
  • Boredom or feelings of emptiness – when you feel unfulfilled and empty, and food is a way to occupy your mouth and your time. In the moment, it fills you up and distracts you from underlying feelings of purposelessness and dissatisfaction with your life.
  • Childhood habits – Did your parents reward good behavior with ice cream or sweets when you got a good report card, or baked chokolate cake when you were feeling sad? These habits can often carry over into adulthood.
  • Social influences – Getting together with other people for a meal is a great way to relieve stress, but It’s easy to overindulge simply because the food is there or because everyone else is eating.

3. Focus on the real issue and think long-term. Take a minute to focus on the future, for example, how awesome you want to look on vacation next month, before you give in to stress eating. It can help get you out of the moment so you make healthier food choices instead of succumbing to the lure of a tasty treat.

healthy eating

4. Get Mindful Eating. Mindful eating is a practice that develops your awareness of eating habits and allows you to pause between your triggers and your actions. When the urge to eat hits, you feel an almost unbearable tension that demands to be fed, right now. Because you’ve tried to resist in the past and failed, you believe that your willpower just isn’t up to snuff. But the truth is that you have more power over your cravings than you think.

  • Count to 10. Emotional eating as rule are automatic and mindless. Before you even realize what you’re doing, you’ve reached for a tub of ice cream and polished off half of it. But if you can take a pause, you give yourself the opportunity to make a right decision.
  • Bring all your senses to the meal. When you’re cooking, serving, and eating your food, be attentive to aroma, color, texture, and even the sounds different foods make as you prepare them.
  • Try to eat slowly. The stomach needs about 20 minutes to transmit to a brain a signal of saturation. Give yourself time to chew all your food slowly and carefully.
  • And learn to accept your feelings—even the bad ones. 


Psychology Tests & Quizzes:  Are you a Stress Eater?