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6 surefire ways to stop stress eating

For many people, food is a form of comfort—a way to deal with stress or distract themselves from problems they’re facing. Unfortunately, eating under such circumstances usually means reaching for high-calorie sweets or fatty foods and consuming too much. Why? When you eat foods that please your palate, like chocolate, your body produces hormones that can boost your mood, so you may naturally crave such foods to feel better.

But you can learn to overcome dietary disasters by taking a few simple steps:

  1. Know true hunger. If your stomach’s growling, you’re probably hungry. But if you ate just an hour or two ago, it’s probably a craving. Let it pass.
  2. Learn your triggers. Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat it and how hungry you are when you take a nibble. Your notes can help reveal whether your eating follows a pattern or whether something is triggering your hunger.
  3. Occupy yourself. If you’re craving a bag of chips, take a walk, knit or read a book instead.
  4. Skip unhealthy snacks. Instead, keep a bowl of fruit on your table or precut veggies in your refrigerator. Don’t go grocery shopping when you’re feeling hungry, stressed or sad, so fatty snacks won’t find their way into your cart.
  5. Keep things balanced. Eat at regularly scheduled times, don’t skip any meals and make sure that you’re loading up on whole grains, veggies, fruits, low-fat dairy and lean protein when you eat.
  6. Get your exercise and rest. Staying active can boost your mood and keep your weight under control. But use common sense: If you’re not feeling well physically, rest up. So, what if you still find yourself binging? Don’t beat yourself up. Make a mental note of where you went wrong and start the next day anew or talk with your healthcare provider or a counselor about ways to regain control.