5 Best Ways to Manage Stress Eating

Do you engage in stress eating? Do you do anything about it? (Image via Freepik/ Wayhomestudio)
Do you engage in stress eating? Do you do anything about it? (Image via Freepik/ Wayhomestudio)

We all fall prey to stress eating once in a while. Stress eating refers to eating for causes other than hunger, such as boredom, anger, despair, or guilt related to loss or other situations. It's not about overeating or becoming hungry, as the food is delicious, but there're a variety of problems with people who overeat.

People who binge or overeat may not even have a problem, as they allow themselves to get overly hungry, which is a completely separate problem than stress eating.

It's a type of eating to improve mood, or to make oneself feel safe and at ease. Some stressors originate from within, such as the pressure to be perfect or the nervousness you get when you want to ask for a raise or contact a friend about a problem you're experiencing.

The responsibilities of your career, health problems, duties to your family, and peer pressure are examples of external stressors. You can control certain pressures, but you can't control others.


How to Manage Stress Eating

Our culture frequently links eating to soothing people in times of stress, and people may maintain that belief into adulthood.

They risk becoming trapped in a never-ending cycle of stress eating if they don't develop alternative coping skills that are at least as effective. You can reduce stress by eating using the following five coping techniques and tools:

1) Learn Intuitive Eating

Stress eating may lead to health problems. (Image via Freepik/Freepik)
Stress eating may lead to health problems. (Image via Freepik/Freepik)

Intuitive eating involves paying closer attention to the internal signals the body naturally sends to the brain when you're hungry or full.

You can use these signals to decide when, what, and how much to eat. It also involves believing those messages. Unless you have dietary limitations, you can allow yourself to indulge in a yearning.

Unless you have dietary limitations, you can give yourself permission to eat a chocolate cake and indulge in a yearning. You will have a gut feeling on when to say, "Enough! Your choice is based on hunger as well as the appeal of particular foods at particular times, not on how anxious or emotional you are feeling right now." Learning this art can help you combat stress eating.

2) Exercise to Reduce Stress


Physical fitness increases your resistance to the negative consequences of stress. Unfortunately, stress itself might hinder some people from adopting behaviors, like exercising, that could improve their mental and physical health.

Exercise generates chemical changes in the brain that lower stress. Try to increase the amount of walking, gardening, cleaning, and other milder forms of movement and exercise you typically do throughout the day if it's difficult for you to get to the gym or undertake formal exercises at home. It can also actively distract you from stress eating.

3) Choose Nutritious Foods


To manage stress eating, you don't have to restrict yourself from eating food.Stocking your kitchen with nutrient-rich, satisfying foods can not only make you feel better overall but can also help you avoid stress eating.

Stocking your refrigerator and pantry with healthy items rather than things high in empty calories like sweets, chips, and soda is a wise way to reduce the likelihood of indulging in unhealthy options.

Foods rich in protein, fiber, and good fats are considered to be filling. Nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, and eggs are a few examples of wholesome, filling foods that might aid in satiety and help you avoid overeating.

4) Identify Stressors

Identify your stressors to lead a healthier life. (Image via Freepik/Freepik)
Identify your stressors to lead a healthier life. (Image via Freepik/Freepik)

Understanding why stress eating is occurring is the primary step in addressing it. By removing the stressor, you can keep it under control by determining the fundamental cause. Once you're aware of what's causing your stress in the first place, you may look to eliminate it.

If you can't get rid of the stressor — which is probably the case, particularly if it's your job, school, or a close friend or family member. You can at least identify the source of your stress, and be ready to deal with it in a way other than through food.

5) Peel a Citrus Fruit


Peeling a citrus fruit is a mini-meditation — you have to stop what you are doing to use both hands.

Citrus scents have been proven to promote tranquility, which can help you resist the temptation to overindulge the free doughnuts provided at work. Slowly peel the fruit in a spiral motion while taking a few deep breaths to enjoy the aroma for maximum relaxation. Once you've finished peeling, take a moment to enjoy each piece of fruit as you consume it one segment at a time.

In the absence of a fruit, a quick breathing exercise can be helpful too. You can try doing at least six repetitions of breathing for five seconds, holding for seven, and expelling for eight. It only takes two minutes but can be useful to reduce stress eating.


Stress eating is a common occurrence and is typically not accompanied by actual hunger. Some people occasionally succumb to it, while others may experience adverse effects and even risk their physical and emotional well-being.

Beyond the aforementioned suggestions, ask for medical assistance if you require to deal with stress eating. With a comprehensive therapy plan, a doctor can assist you in overcoming stress, despair, rage, or any other negative emotions.

Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.

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Edited by Bhargav
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