Stress Eating?Here are 5 strategies to conquer it.

Think about the last time you felt stressed and reached out for a bag of chips or chocolate. You may not even be aware of doing this.

Stress eating usually happens when you want to disconnect or escape from the moment. It’s like changing the channel in your brain to try to change how you feel.

Reaching out for something to eat when you are feeling stressed may be your default mechanism -you’re busy and food is an easy “go to” strategy.

The Overeating Trap

One of my clients noticed that it was happening all the time, she said: “Munching on something always makes me feel better, its an instant relief and I forget about all my problems and stress. But as soon as I swallow the last bite of food, the soothing effect disappears and I am filled with regret and guilt. The problem is that I am gaining weight. I hate weighing myself because the numbers keep on going up and I can’t comprehend why I continue this behaviour when it’s causing me so much distress.” 

Can you relate?

What is Emotional Eating?

Emotional eating is when you turn to food for stress relief, comfort, as a reward or to help you through an emotional upset. It helps you to ‘zone out’ and feel calmer, soothed or relieved in the moment.

If you’re an emotional eater, you may feel powerless over your food cravings and when the urge to eat hits, it’s all you can think about.

In my experience as a Food & Mood Coach I’ve learned that:

-At least 80% of women use food to soothe their stress emotions.

-For those women, “eating to zone out” usually escalates into something more serious.

What Is Stress Eating?

Stress eating is one of the main styles of emotional eating

It means simply that you’re busy and food is an easy “go to” strategy.

It’s usually caused by a multitude of things: a busy life, stress, and exhaustion, using food to fill in the voids or reward yourself, or eating for comfort.

Stress eating often happens because you feel too busy to plan meals or get the food that’s good for you – or you are simply too tired or busy to make the “right” choices.

-And the choices you make while you are busy living your life start to add up.

Stress Eating Characteristics:

Stress eating usually shows up as:Eating when you’re not hungry

-Using food as a source of comfort when you’re feeling sad, anxious, or bored

-Eating to cope with stress and frustration in areas of life that take time and effort to correct

-Eating to ease the tension, because you can’t just snap your fingers and “fix it”.

What this really means is that you use food to help you calm your ever-taut nerves and pump up your enthusiasm and energy.

Here are some of the typical triggers for stress eating that you may struggle with:

-Too much on your plate


-Low energy

-Overwhelm – not enough time in the day

-No time for self-care and fun

Your hidden trigger is feeling angry & resentful that everybody else gets to relax and have fun, while you are left with all the chores and responsibility.

Finding the cause of your stress eating and applying some ways to get OUT of that cycle will help you start eating with a sense of FREEDOM, self-confidence and empowerment.

Here are five strategies to help you do it, quickly and effectively.

Step 1 – Check in With Yourself.

When you start asking yourself questions you’ll get better at identifying where to focus your energy for best results. 

Check in with what you need and want at that moment.  

And it helps to go deep and find those feelings that you have been glazing over and stuffing down. 

If you are soothing your emotions with food the only way to resolve this is to address the underlying problems” 

Writing it down may help you make a connection you hadn’t noticed before 

-Noting your feelings when the craving strikes 

-Time of the day when it happens 

-The environment it happens in 

Step 2 – Sleep and Exercise.

When you feel good you cope better with anything that life throws at you.

Get Enough Sleep. 

-Poor sleep habits interfere with your body’s ability to rest, heal and recharge.

-If you want to improve your ability to handle stress get enough sleep nightly.

  -If you have trouble sleeping, seek out the causes and get some help addressing them!

Move your body.

It doesn’t matter how you move and what kind of exercise you do. What’s important is to be active and do something daily.

Regular physical exercise is:

– One of the best habits you can create to help you stay emotionally balanced.

– One of the best ways to clear away tension, stress and build energy.

– Very helpful in adopting a better life perspective and to feel more in control of your circumstances.

– Also, beneficial counteracting the negative effects of stress.

Step 3 – Rest and Downshift.

The problem is that most of us don’t take time to hit the pause button, because we think we can’t — or shouldn’t. 

But intentionally taking time to recuperate after a stressful day will lessen its effects. 

I suggest creating a nightly routine that helps you downshift; this guarantees that your body has a chance to escape fight-or-flight mode daily. 

Here are some other ideas to shift into a rest mode that you can try anytime:

– Breathe slowly and deeply for five minutes.

– Take a nap during then day.

– Spend 30 minutes a day in nature.

– Take a relaxing hot bath to experience precious moments of calm and inner peace

– Meditate, even for just 10 minutes to let go of mental worries

Step 4 – Get Curious.

You don’t have to turn to food every time you feel pressure. 

It’s possible to open and use the energy of stress to become more interested in what’s going on. I call this a “learner mindset.” When we’re faced with a situation we don’t know how to handle, we start asking questions.

Curiosity expands your problem-solving options — and often resolves issues more quickly and easily.

If you deliberately adopt a learner mindset, a challenging situation can become a chance to learn or experience something new.

Asking yourself these questions can help you shift into curiosity mode:

What’s really happening here?

What else might be going on that I’m not seeing?

What’s interesting about this situation?


Step 5 – Eat Right. 

Eating nutrient-poor foods that are high in sugar or filled with chemicals and unhealthy fats puts an unnecessary stress on your system, reducing your immunity, overloading your liver and forcing your body to work overtime just to maintain balance. 

Eating nourishing food, on the other hand, supports your body’s natural immune and healing systems, helping your body to cope successfully with other sources of stress.

To eliminate stressful foods from your diet, avoid these:

Sugar, in particular refined white sugar products.

Processed and packaged foods

Dairy and casein containing products

Gluten containing products

Take away and junk foods

Soft drinks and energy drinks

Caffeine (or keep to a minimum)


And lastly remember that hanging onto frustrations, focusing on the past and playing victim are not in your health’s best interest.

When you can, step back from the little struggles and look at the big picture. 

Now I would love to hear from you…

—What is the first step you can take to break your stress eating habit?

Irena Geller

Irena Geller is a Sydney-based health & wellness coach specialising in the 🍓food and 😃 mood connection. She loves helping professional women to find the motivation and energy to eat healthily and exercise regularly and be consistent with these habits.

Have you tried every diet you can think of and lost confidence in yourself that you can be successful?

If you’re ready to finally lose weight and feel more confident. Book a good-fit coaching session with me to see if we can work together.

Ever Wish you could stop emotional eating?

Take our Free quiz to find out how

We may collect, use and process your data according to our Privacy Policy.