10 Effective Ways To Stop Stress Eating

Written by Danielle Foster

Stress eating refers to the tendency to eat more and crave unhealthy foods in response to stressful situations. It is an extremely common coping mechanism - in fact, over 40% of people increase their food intake when feeling tense or pressured. The good news is that with increased awareness and the right coping strategies, you can manage and eliminate this habit. But before doing that we will have to gather some very important information about stress eating.

So, in this article, we will look at all 10 effective ways to stop stress eating.

Stress eating, what is it?

Stress eating or emotional eating disorder refers to the tendency to consume excessive quantities of food in response to challenging emotional situations.

Manage Stress Eating

When feeling overwhelmed or anxious, people often compulsively overeat unhealthy comfort foods. They do this to cope with unpleasant thoughts and feelings in the moment. This habit which is also termed an emotional eating disorder, can lead to weight gain over time if not kept in check.

How does stress affect your appetite?

During stressful times, the body produces higher levels of the hormone cortisol, which increases appetite and fat storage in preparation for fight-or-flight. Chronic stress also impairs the part of the brain that controls rational decisions, making it harder to resist the urge to overeat.

This combination frequently leads people to crave and binge on calorie-dense foods high in fat and sugar when tension persists.

How Can You Manage Stress Eating: 10 ways to stop stress eating

1. Identify your stress-eating triggers

We often engage in emotional eating without even realizing why. Thoroughly monitor your actions to identify situations, thoughts, or emotions that usually precede instances of stress eating. Common triggers include fatigue, anxiety, sadness, irritability, procrastination, and boredom.

2. Learn to manage stress more effectively

As stress serves as the root cause of binge eating, acquiring healthy coping mechanisms for life's pressures can significantly impact and make a positive difference.

Effective strategies include exercising, meditating, talking to a friend, practicing gratitude, and getting enough sleep. How does stress affect your appetite? Reducing stress overload in the first place will lower those intense urges to eat.

3. Be prepared when cravings hit

Even if you successfully lower everyday stress levels, difficult emotions, and situations will still arise occasionally. Have go-to distraction activities ready so you do not automatically reach for the nearest junk food when feeling stressed.

For example, call a supportive friend, take a relaxing bath, or immerse yourself in a distracting activity like reading, painting, or playing games.

4. Increase the availability of healthy snacks

You are much more likely to stress and eat unhealthy options if they are readily available. Do some strategic food prep like washing berries, chopping veggies, and portioning nuts into bags. Store them front and center in your pantry, fridge, purse, or desk drawer. When the urge to nibble hits, you can easily grab something nutritious instead.

5. Slow down and check in with yourself

Often we shovel food into our mouths without even tasting or enjoying it when in a state of chronic stress. Before taking that first compulsive bite, pause and ask yourself: Why do you stress eat? Am I actually physically hungry right now? Or am I just anxious, tired, or bored? Simply checking in can help activate more mindful eating. It can also be one of the 10 effective ways to stop stress eating.

6. Avoid eating while distracted

Experts think constantly eating on the go while working, watching TV, or scrolling feeds can impair the body’s ability to register fullness properly. The result? Overeating. Counteract this effect by sitting down at a table, turning off all devices, and zeroing in on your plate.

Eat slowly, paying close attention to flavor and how your body feels as you get full.

7. Address emotional issues behind the urge

For some people, the desire to stress eat stems from buried emotional triggers like loneliness or lack of fulfillment. Reflect on what feelings bubble up in moments when you reach for food. Identifying and dealing with root issues through journaling, therapy, or support groups may help diminish this unhealthy coping reflex.

8. Get high-quality sleep

Not getting enough shuteye substantially disrupts what is it? appetite and impulse control hormones, making it much easier to stress eat. Make getting 7-9 hours a priority and practice good sleep hygiene like sticking to a consistent routine, limiting electronics before bed, and keeping your room cool and dark. Proper rest will leave you feeling more stable and less prone to cravings.

9. Keep healthier substitutes on hand

When an intense urge to nosh hits, having access to more nutritious alternatives makes it easier to resist junk. Stock your kitchen, office drawer, or purse with cut vegetables, nuts, Greek yogurt, protein bars, or other convenient mini meals and snacks. Even if they are not as tempting as cookies or chips, they will fill you up without regret.

10. Get professional help if needed

For some individuals, emotional eating becomes an unmanageable addiction that leads to obesity and health decline. Other underlying issues like depression or binge eating disorder may also fuel stress eating. If you still struggle to control this habit despite diligently trying to help yourself, do not hesitate to seek guidance from a doctor, registered dietitian, or mental health professional. With expert support, you can find relief.


In conclusion, stress eating and using food as comfort is an extremely common habit that can be difficult to overcome solo. Even implementing helpful techniques to manage general stress may not fully prevent periodic episodes of stress eating when intense emotions arise. However, utilizing the 10 practical tips above can help gain control and significantly minimize this unhealthy reflex.

The most critical first steps are identifying automatic stress-eating triggers and preparing go-to alternatives to help resist the temptation at the moment cravings hit. As these urgings decrease over time with mindfulness techniques, you can tackle root psychological and lifestyle issues. It will also stop you from excessive stress and undesirable eating patterns.

Learning to properly nourish your body in positive ways and deal with problems through direct coping strategies instead of food distraction will promote better health.

Occasional regression in times of high pressure is normal though. Be patient and forgiving with yourself. Creating long-term change requires diligence and time as you retrain natural impulses. With consistent effort stress eating tendencies can dissipate for good. You may find that the feelings prompting food binges transform into catalysts for self-care and clarity instead.

How can you manage stress eating for yourself going forward? What obstacles do you think might come up along the way?

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Danielle Foster is a dedicated Sports Nutrition & Weight Management Dietitian with a passion for promoting a healthy and active lifestyle. With a solid educational background and a wealth of research and publications, Danielle brings a wealth of expertise to her clients and readers. Her writing not only reflects her extensive academic training but also her practical experience working with athletes and individuals striving to achieve their fitness and weight management goals. Danielle's approachable and informative style makes her a trusted source for those seeking expert guidance in the realms of sports nutrition and weight management.

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