Help for the Stress Eater?

As someone who was overweight for many years, I found my biggest challenge was stress eating. You know what I mean, eating when you are not hungry. Whenever I was stressed to the max, I would literally eat my feelings.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about…

Imagine this….

It is the hectic holiday season and life has been crazy busy. On top of the financial stress and holiday shopping, you are working long days at a hectic job. After a very manic day, you decide to stop by the store and pick up something quick for dinner. While out shopping for something to make for dinner you see some cookies or cakes. And without even thinking about it, you buy the cookies. You may even open them up and eat them in the car before you make it all the way home.

This sort of scenario would happen to me all the time. And then once I would get home, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself from eating more of the cookies.

I would have thoughts going through my head like…“I deserve this!”

I would try to limit myself to a little bit. But it would always seem that it would be gone by the end of the night.

The next day I think to myself, “What is wrong with me?” 

I feel disgusted with myself.

Many people who struggle with their weight also struggle with stress eating. And often people eat just to eat. Have you ever wondered why this happens?

I think the reason why it happens to most of us is that we are looking to feel better. We are looking for a way to calm ourselves down. For some reason, eating is soothing and tends to make us feel better, until the next day when we feel like crap. I remember waking in the morning after a binge feeling awful. I would be all gassy and even have a headache. I would be full of lots of regret for what I ate the night before.

My weight and food obsession was a real problem for many years. When I turned 50 I was just under 200 pounds. I knew I needed to make a change.

And I did. But it took a lot of hard work. I had to totally change my relationship with food. And I had to admit to myself that I was a sugar addict.

Now I eat to nourish my body. And I feel so much better. I am no longer addicted to sugar and carbs like I was.  I don’t feel the need to pig out when I’ve had a bad day. I find other ways to feel good.

But getting to this point wasn’t easy. It was really difficult. I had to eliminate all of the processed foods that I was obsessed with.

By eliminating the sugar and carbs I also ended up losing over 60 pounds. But more importantly, I am healthy and probably added years to my life.

I also read lots of books that dealt with the issue of stress eating. I wanted to figure out what was going on in my head. I felt so out of control around food which stressed me out because I was so in control of every other aspect of my life.

image courtesy of amazon.comOne of the books I recommend reading is: Busy, Stressed, and Food Obsessed!: Calm Down, Ditch Your Inner-Critic Bitch, and Finally Figure Out What Your Body Needs to Thrive


This book helped me to realize that I wasn’t crazy at all. I learned that food isn’t meant to make me feel calm or happy. It isn’t meant to help me emotionally. Food is simply to feed my body. I learned other ways of dealing with many of the negative emotions that I felt in my life.

I also learned that when I give my body really nutritious food I feel amazing. I have energy and for some reason, I feel happy and healthy. On the other hand, when I eat food that raises my glucose I feel depressed and even sad.

So I will never go back to eating sugar again. Sugar is an addictive drug to me that I don’t want a part of.

What about you? Do you stress eat? And if so, how do you deal with it?

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25 thoughts on “Help for the Stress Eater?”

  1. Great post. and timely too. I know what you mean girl, I still struggle some days with using food as my reward. A long day on the road and I tell myself I earned some food, which, at the end of the day is just junk and will harm my body.

    I try to ask myself before I eat, “why are you going to eat, and is this your best option?”

    1. Josephine, That is a great tip. I think the hardest part of long term success with weight loss is adult learning and changing our relationship with food. Taking the time to stop and ask yourself why is important. Many of us often eat when we aren’t even hungry. We eat out of habit or to make ourselves feel better.

  2. Stress eating is something each one of us have gone through, I suppose. At first, I didn’t think much of it. Maybe I was just hungry. But then I realized I was eating my feelings, too.

    1. No, you certainly are not alone, Alan. I think most people eat at times to feel better on the inside only to end up kicking themselves in the butt later. It can be frustrating. But once we are aware of what we are doing, we can begin to make tiny changes and improve our relationship with food. I think being aware is the first step for someone to getting help for the stress eater.

    1. control and discipline are important, however, sometimes I don’t think we realize we are stress eating. Sometimes we just do it. The may be a full bag of cookies or chips on the table and the next thing you know it is empty and you realize that you ate the entire bag without even realizing you were doing it. It is a real problem for many. Being aware is important. Once aware, you can then take control by perhaps not having the treats on the table in the first place. So I agree with you totally. But unfortunately for those of us who have had problems with stress eating, it isn’t as simple as having control and discipline.

  3. I totally understand what you’re talking about, stress eating… I do it too, especially have a craving for chocolates! It had been the longest time that I didn’t have any chocolate at home, precisely to help control my craving. But just last week, someone gave a pack of chocolate to us as a gift, and oh gosh, how I ate them all up in a second! 

    Please don’t feel bad about yourself, emotional eating is very difficult to control. You are proactive, reading up and always trying to improve yourself, even writing it all on your blog so that you hold yourself accountable. It takes someone with great strength to do this. You have my admiration.

  4. You have realized the first and most important step in stopping binge eating. Recognize that you are behaving in ways that do not benefit you.Being aware of the problem is the first step to change. I relate to your description of shopping and buying cookies. In my case I had a compulsion to always have a full fridge,so I would buy more than what I needed for the week.Unfortunately I would also buy junk food that was not on my shopping list, especially ice cream and wine.The excuse was that I would buy these items just to have them in reserve.I finally realized that if I have these items at home I would eat them first.My solution was to buy online and have the food delivered. I avoid going to the supermarket since I know myself.It is working,I still have stress but I deal with it with exercising and meditation.

  5. 160 million American are estimated to be obese or overweight.

    Stress eating is not the only reason but one of the major reasons to add on weight.

    I was one time overweight. I believe because of my severe vitamin-D deficiency. Improving my level through healthy diet, sunlight and supplements, I lost 30 lbs over 2 to 2.5 years without dieting. Now I have the right wt with my body mass and height. More importantly,  I do not crave for sweets which are residing by me. 

    I occasionally slip from my diet and exercise but mostly on the health routine. It is absolutely a great feeling.

    I will read your recommended book. 

    Nothing is important in life than being healthy and should be taken seriously.

    Thank you for sharing your personal experience. It will impact many.

    1. Good for you! I was also very vitamin d deficient, especially in the winter months. I find that the extra vitamin d also helps me with my overall mindset. I call it my happy pill. It really does make a difference. Thanks for bringing up this valuable point. You are right. Nothing is more important than one’s health!

  6. I found your site very interesting as someone who has digestive issues. I learned several things I wasn’t aware of.  I am not so much a stress eater as a boredom eater, which is just as harmful, I eat when I am not busy. I try to avoid this as much as possible but sometimes you just need to chill out and when I do, I eat.  I found you post interest because you pointed place to go to learn about digestive issues. Thank you for all the good info.

    1. I wish you all the best with your digestive issues, Carolyn. And as far as the boredom eating, you are not alone. Many people who challenge with weight issues have the same problem. Many others, like myself, would find myself mindlessly eating. Meaning that we eat without even being aware of it. It all comes down to being mindful and making small little changes with our relationship with food. 

  7. I love this article and it really hits home. As an adult is good to be mindful of what we eat and not to eat like children. If an adult is not eating to nourish the body, that simply means he is eating carelessly and eating carelessly could attract diseases and illness when the immunity is very low. Time will fail me to talk much on your article. I like it.

    1. You got it, Kenechi. It is all about giving our body good nutrition and it will take care of itself. Sometimes though we don’t eat the right things, especially when we are stressed out. Do you experience this?

  8. Um so I had to immediately book mark your website as I am such an emotional eater!  I have been my whole life, after overcoming addictions I think I kind of replaced it with food.  

    Before my addictions my whole family for as early as I can remember love to eat, when were happy, celebrating anything…we are big eaters and love food.

    This is a very hard thing for me to combat but I now live a keto lifestyle, I have fallen many times but I am now strong at it and hoping to change my life drastically for the summer and forever.

    It is hard to learn to eat to live not live to eat.

    1. Thank you so much for leaving this comment, Amanda as I think others will benefit. Often we feel like we are the only ones who struggle with stress eating. It is nice to know you are not alone. I will tell you since I have been doing low carb for the last 4 years I have gotten much better. Meaning I no longer want to turn to food when I’m stressed out. Have you noticed the same thing?

  9. Hi Wendy,

    Great post, I found it very interesting on your site as someone who has chef problem. I knew less about Stress Eater, but after reading this article I got clear ideas on many topics. We want to change brain channels because we try to change the stress. To know how to deal with stress, why do people turn to food and how to deal with it? In cases of low levels of calorie and fat in women, at the time of stress, their insulin response is much higher after eating high-fat fatty foods. Because fries, cookies and ice cream contain high levels of carbohydrate and fat, you feel better to increase the dopamine response in the brain, then you get stuck in it, you then feel a strong desire for chocolate chips because the reward for your brain dopamine comes and knows where to find it.

     Thank you for sharing this great article is really quite useful. I will share this article with  my family and friends.

  10. stress eating is a very big challenge, I know alot of people who engage in this act and don’t know what to do whenever this happens all they do is just eat, eat and eat but apparently you’ve got the solution all figured out on this article. You’re right most people want to feel Better by stress eating we all have what we do to relax when we are stressed some even prefer cleaning, the point  is we all know what works for us. To avert gaining Lots of weight we need to evade stress eating. You really put a lot of writing time into this and the post couldn’t have been better. Very nice Post. Good Job 

  11. Thank you for sharing this article. 

    Seriously, the reason  most of us end up eating junk foods is that we are looking to feel better and satisfy our tongue, we want to fell better by all available means, in which some of those junks are harmful to our body.. We are looking for a way to calm ourselves down, you really nailed it. I cannot but agree with all you had written here. No matter the stress we under go, it is advisable we eat natural food!

  12. I know exactly what you mean.  When I am stressed out I always look for “comfort food”.  My favorite is cookies, ice cream, and potato chips.  All foods that make you feel good when they touch your mouth, but makes me feel like crap once I have binged too much.

    I did manage lately to control myself a little bit more, but I still have a long way to go.  You say you have found new ways to feel good, and it took a lot of hard work.  I am still trying to find my “new” way to feel good.  I know that the only way is not to buy any of those foods in the first place like you mention in your article.  Sometimes I give in, but not as often, so I am on my way.  I really liked your article, it made me realize that it is possible to stop being a “stress eater”. Thanks!

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