Hey friend. First of all let’s say that you’re not alone; stress eating is all-too-common. Some people turn it into a joke, and others do it privately out of shame. Either way, this is a very common battle. I’ve read a lot about this subject and work with many who struggle with it, and my goal in this post is to offer up some alternative solutions to deal with stress eating. Practical ones that you can start today.
Yes, you need to lessen your stress, but let’s face it: sometimes doing yoga in the office, going on a technology fast, or doing a detox cleanse just doesn’t work for everyday life. Counseling is a great option, too, but there are many reasons you might not be able to do that right now. I want to present some ways to tackle this problem with a practical game plan. I’d love to know what has worked for you and what hasn’t in the comments!
Stress eating is something you can conquer, friend. These tips will help you get a handle on it. You don’t have to be controlled by food, chemicals, hormones, or emotions. These tips will help you stay in control!
1. Have A Game Plan
Your game plan is what you do either before you feel the stress eating coming on or when you find yourself scrounging in someone else’s purse for a few coins to get those cheetos out of the vending machine. Doesn’t this bring out the best in us? Your stress eating game plan will buy you some time, help you lessen the damage, and (gasp!) even empower you to say no.
- Sneak away for 1-5 minutes.
- Take a deep breath.
- Inhale some calming essential oils or ones that fight cravings.
- Pretend you need to go to the bathroom and just do nothing for an entire 60 seconds.
- Read that note you wrote yourself just for this situation.
- Pretend to zone out for 10 seconds while you’re giving yourself the pep talk of a life time and reminding yourself “this is fine, it’s all going to be fine, and you are in control.” The person you were talking with can always repeat himself and you always have the excuse that you were brainstorming a solution to the problem you were discussing ;)
- If you’re religious, tap into that higher power. Quote scripture over yourself. Be bold and declare your victory. Pray and ask for help.
Phone a Friend
- When I say “phone a friend,” I really mean text a friend for all you introverts out there ;)
- Call in the reinforcements- get a pep talk, reach out to your accountability partner
- They can remind you of your why, threaten to post those embarrassing photos of you on social media, remind you of those pants you love but are cutting off your circulation, etc
- They can remind you to breathe, and that you are in control and this food is not going to make anything better- it will actually cause regret later which will increase your stress!
- We all need some sense talked into us at one time or another!
Log Your Food
- Log it all. Every bite of every stress-filled indulgence.
- Make a pact to work it all off. Every calorie. (See my Fall Treats blog for a realistic idea of what that means- chances are you’ll just say no!)
- Make your log public. Other people seeing you ate an entire package of oreos can often be a deterrent.
Big Problem, Small Problem?
We recently stayed with my amazing cousin and her family. They have the spunkiest 4 year old who is learning how to deal with her big emotions (aren’t we all?). Every time she gets upset, she is told her take a deep breath and assess: is this a big problem or a small problem? Sometimes our brains can help us walk through our stress responses, and believe it or not, being rational can help us simmer down before diving into a dozen krispy kremes!
2. Set Stress Eating Food Boundaries
If stress eating is your struggle, some of these food rules or boundaries might help you navigate those times without blowing your goals. Choose one or several that might help you!
- Any indulgence must be homemade, and it must be health-ified
- this means the damage is lessened, and sometimes you’ll skip it altogether because you don’t want to cook/bake/create something
- this means you have to wait for it, which can help break the addiction to stress eating
- you put yourself back in control- you can even plan ahead for stressful days with healthier, homemade treats
- Other options might be a chocolate protein shake or fruit to help you satisfy your sweet tooth without ruining your diet (or blood sugar profiles….eeek!)
- If you must give in, start small, then take a break. I know when we’re stressed we want to devour something, but start with a set portion, and then tell yourself you must wait X amount of minutes before finishing it.
- Drinking enough water can help relieve anxiety, help you feel full, and help with cravings. Make this a priority every day so you’re not setting yourself up for stress eating. Bonus: you will certainly have to pee, which makes sneaking away much easier!
- It can be unhealthy to consume a lot of carbs or sugar without having protein, too. Set a boundary that any indulgence needs to include protein (and don’t forget to set limits so this doesn’t equal having a burger with your salty fries!)
- Set limits ahead of time. Write them down. Tell your friend. Enact accountability and consequences if you know this will be an issue!
- Hunger scale 1-10. If you’re at a 6 or below, set some food boundaries like 1 piece of dark chocolate, a cup of coffee or tea, a piece of fruit, or veggies and hummus. If you’re at a 7 or above, allow for a more substantial snack or splurge.
- Side note: if you’re that hungry you might want to take my nutrition course and learn how much/when to eat to prevent feeling so ravenous!
- Be prepared: bring snacks to consume throughout the day to help keep blood sugar in check, which can help with any anxiety the day brings!
- Set a goal to never have an empty pantry. I order groceries online to help prevent this!
- Make sure what you buy is healthy- and if you can’t handle having snacks in the house only buy things you’ll need to prepare- you know yourself and your struggles so adjust this advice accordingly ;)
- No stress eating unless you worked out that day.
3. Accountability To The Rescue!
I cannot say enough about accountability. There are so many noble reasons to exercise and back away from the cookies in the breakroom, but sometimes noble doesn’t cut it. Sometimes knowing you have to face someone after your indulgence, or send someone you dislike a $20 Starbucks card works way more than “for my health.” ;)
Accountability may make you stomp your foot and curse your friend’s name, but it will help you to only eat half of that donut, choose a side salad instead of fries, and do that strength training workout. Here’s how you can make it work for you:
First off, find an accountability partner. I do this for a living, so contact me if you’re not sure any of your friends would be good at this!
Ideas for Accountability
- Send them photos of your food, or even before and after pics of any indulgences to help keep you in check.
- Send the screenshots of your food log, since you committed earlier in this post to log every. single. calorie.
- Create a sticker chart and reward system! Your partner can help determine if/when you get stickers
- rewards: massage, pedicure, new workout shoes, can have a “cheat” when you get X amount of stickers, etc
- side note: perfect excuse to buy hello kitty stickers
- Set up consequences! Oh man. This works, friends.
- 100 burpees if your accountability partner believes your stress eating went overboard
- No amazon purchases for at least 3 days after you gave in to stress eating
- Send an anonymous gift card to someone you dislike (which should be a lot of people after talking politics on Facebook!)
- Broke your rules? Post an unflattering photo of yourself on instagram
- Every time you stress eat, buy a meal for someone who can’t afford food.
- Good news: I’m adding this to the fit tutor as we speak!
- Find something that wouldn’t kill if you if you had to face the consequence, but would certainly motivate you to stick to your goals!
- Important: If you suspect you have an eating disorder, please see my “final though” at the end of this post.
Set up your own boundaries, but let your accountability partner have a say. If you’re arguing to allow a box of thin mints on a super stressful day, maybe you need her input!
All of this is futile if you don’t commit. Don’t say, “oh, I’m going to try to do X” and then never tell anyone about it or quit after one slip up. Pick 1 (or 7) ideas, commit to them, and determine that you will do them before or during your stress eating attack!
Understand it’s a process, but committing (even if you fail a few times!) is crucial! Do it. Today. Comment below what you’re committing to, or text your accountability partner right now and start this conversation. Share this post on social media with what you commit to!
You Can Do It
In the meantime, find ways to destress. Things like working out, putting your phone down for 30 minutes, and being outside can do wonders for your stress levels. Counseling and other common ways to fight stress eating are awesome! If you never address the root of the problem, this could be a long battle. I’m just trying to shed light on some alternatives in the meantime ;)
And if you’re stressed because you’re trying to earn love, then this article is a must read for you.
You’re not alone. I’m here to help if you don’t have any loved ones equipped for this journey. Your mind is so incredibly brilliant, and you have what it takes mentally and physically to fight any food addictions you have, any emotional attachment to food, anything you’re afraid of so you hide behind food- whatever it it- you can do anything, friend! I really believe it, and I believe in you.
Start this journey today. Pick a suggestion that would work for you, contact someone, and get started. You’re not missing out on anything; by giving in to stress eating, you’re missing out on confidence, victory, and reaching your goals!
Friends, if you think your problem goes beyond the normal bounds of stress eating or occasional emotional eating, then prioritize seeking help. If you have an eating disorder then doing burpees after a binge won’t solve the problem. It could potentially make it worse. I know it’s hard to pay for and fit counseling into our lives (believe me, I know…) but fixing this problem is worth it. You are worth it. Your health is worth it. :)
Here are some other great articles on stress eating!
- Helpguide.org Emotional Eating vs. Mindful Eating
- Mayo Clinic: Weight Loss: Gain Control of Emotional Eating
- MindBodyGreen: Try These Powerful Tools to Stop Emotional Eating
- WebMD: How to Change Emotional Eating
- Reboot with Joe: What Do Your Food Cravings Really Mean
Sharing is caring, y’all, and don’t forget to comment below! What has worked for you? What will you implement today?
How do I convince my husband to stop bringing in sweets and junkfood? Also how can I make my husband a part of this program so we can do it together and learn how to eat healthier and be accountable to each other?
Hi Thelma! That’s a great question. Would he be willing to not bring it in the house if you explained your goals and your reasoning and that you need him on your team? I’ve had my husband hide things from me before ;) or also us make a deal where if we want something that’s junk food, I’ll make a healthier version. There are a lot of ways to make this work, and we can talk more about getting your husband on board via email! I sent you one earlier- hit reply and let’s chat about it more in depth! :)