How To Stop Stress Eating the Right Way

Weight loss, workout routines, diets, and practically anything health-related involve a lot of planning and dedication. Unfortunately, no matter how dedicated you may be towards your health goals, there will be a lot of distractions, and it is easy to get off track. This is especially true when it comes to stress eating. 

Emotional eating comes hand in hand with stress eating. Your eating habits can be driven by emotions like guilt, shame, sadness, and loneliness. Even if you are dealing with negative emotions and stress simultaneously, there are ways you can control your hunger and cravings — we got you. 

Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain, or you’re just trying to eat healthier, a good diet will play a huge part throughout your routine. As you begin your journey, you will notice a lot of factors that will try and throw you off. 

Rest assured, Able can help you stay on top of your nutrition and help put a stop to stress eating once and for all.

Let's learn more about stress eating and what you can do to get your appetite in check.


How Are Stress and Eating Connected?

Of course, one of the main culprits is unhealthy eating, particularly during times of unmanageable stress. It is well known that stress, in general, can cause many health issues, mentally and physically. 

During extreme stress, you might be tempted to lay down or watch a show instead of getting exercise, or you may feel hungry even though you just ate. You might be tempted to distract yourself instead of focusing on the task at hand. Most commonly, you might be tempted to binge eat. 

Even if you aren’t on a weight loss or workout routine right now, these stress-induced temptations are bad for anyone’s health. The urge to eat junk during times of stress can cause many problems for your overall health. 


What Causes Stress?

Stress can come in many different forms. As for where it comes from, that completely depends on the person. You can work out every day, eat the healthiest you can possibly eat, and still experience extreme stress. Why? Well, as we said, it all depends. 

A big job interview. Finals week. Moving to a new house, city, state, or country. Family or relationship trouble. 

It can be good or bad. Massive or minuscule. Any scenario that might impact your life is likely to cause some form of stress. 

The unfortunate reality is that stress is unavoidable. The most important thing is understanding how to manage and control stress before it can negatively affect your health. 

Don’t let stress ruin the excitement of activities you enjoy, and don’t let it make a bad situation worse. 

Stress eating can be one of the worst outcomes of stress itself. To understand how we can avoid the desire to eat while enduring stress, let’s discuss what it is and where it comes from.


What Is Stress Eating?

A great way to control your stress levels is to avoid eating unhealthy foods. Foods high in fat and sugar will only make you feel worse. Fatigue, anxiety, and overall stress levels are actually more likely to increase if you eat unhealthy while being stressed. 

There isn’t currently a lot of research on why we stress eat, and most theories haven’t gone through enough testing to be proven true. All we know is that when you’re stressed, it isn’t uncommon for you to crave a cheeseburger and milkshake. It happens to everyone, so don’t feel guilty if you get the urge. 

Avoiding unhealthy foods when you’re stressed out is easier said than done. You might feel a short moment of bliss and tranquility as you indulge in something like fast food, pizza, and junk food like chips and candy during a stressful time. 

There will be times at the beginning of your journey when you feel like you can't avoid junk food, and you might find yourself saying, “one little break won’t hurt.” If you’re working towards becoming healthier, a few indulgences will likely lead to future lapses down the road that can completely derail the progress you’ve made. 

Let’s dive into determining if stress eating is something you currently face.


Do I Stress Eat?

Before we get into the best methods to avoid stress eating, you might be attempting to recall a moment in your life where you’ve indulged in junk food while under pressure. If you can’t think of any, that’s because “stress eating” is an umbrella term, meaning there are a lot of forms it can take that are all different from each other in how they look and what might cause them. 

Boredom is a huge culprit when it comes to stress eating. As humans, we are always attempting to do something that stimulates our brains. If we can’t, our natural instinct is to search for an activity that will. While most people don’t consider boredom stressful, your brain is under constant pressure to find something to stimulate it when you aren’t doing anything. 

Boredom can often lead to snacking simply because we can’t think of anything else better to do. This instinct will often bring us to a bag of chips, a candy bar, or anything quick and easy that can fulfill the void created in your brain due to the lack of stimulation. 

In addition to boredom, fatigue is another massive cause of stress eating. If you’re extremely tired and have a lot of work to do, you might find yourself procrastinating by eating to avoid productivity. We’ve all faced procrastination at some point in our lives, and procrasti-eating isn’t a problem you’re facing alone. 

When we’re that tired, we want something quick and easy, like a frozen pizza or fast food. In other words, you might not feel like cooking or ordering anything healthy if you’re fatigued. Although you may default to unhealthy food when you are feeling tired, stressed, or emotional—there are ways to avoid stress eating.


How To Avoid Stress Eating 

Now that we know about the connection between stress and eating, it’s time to learn some helpful tips and strategies that can help you avoid unhealthy eating. This won’t completely stop your cravings, but it can help you control and manage stress eating habits. 


Exercise

Exercise is by far the most important and beneficial strategy for stress management and eating. Stress, boredom, and fatigue can all be countered with exercise. 

If you’re angry, go release your stress on a punching bag or lift some weights at the gym. When you’re bored, go for a long walk with some headphones in and enjoy being outside. Feeling fatigued? Try getting up and going for a run after a healthy meal to boost your energy levels. 

If you have a weight loss plan or workout routine, then you are on the right track! If not, it’s never too late to start a routine, even if you start small. Even a simple walk up and down a few blocks will help you avoid stress eating. 


Meal Prepping

Meal prepping has grown in popularity in the past several years thanks to Gen-Z and Millennials. It’s a fun, simple, and time-efficient way to eat and get on track with your nutrition. 

Start at the beginning of the week and plan out what healthy meals and snacks you want to eat day by day. This will help ensure you don’t end up eating junk food when you’re stressed out. Holding yourself accountable for the foods you eat can pay off later on.

A healthy diet should include protein, healthy fat like avocados, fiber, and complex carbs. If you are not sure how to create a meal plan that includes balanced meals, talk to a nutritionist or registered dietitian to help you get started. Meal prepping can help keep your hunger hormones and calories in check while giving you a set plan to stick to.


Don’t Have Junk Food in Your Home 

Many people live with roommates, family, or a significant other, which can sometimes lead to an array of unhealthy foods being in the pantry against their will. We understand that eating healthy can be difficult if your favorite junky snack is just a few steps away.

If this is the case, you can always try the “out of sight out of mind” method. Instead of reaching for comfort food like a bag of chips, try keeping a healthy snack like protein bites, fresh fruit, or Greek yogurt within closer reach than the junk food other people are buying. There are plenty of to-go-sized health foods like single-serve trail mix, granola bars, and fruit cups that you can keep within reach in your office or bedroom to help you resist the urge to sneak to the pantry. 

This might take some self-restraint and discipline, but it can help you eat healthier if you stay consistent. 


How Can I Keep Track of What I Do and Don’t Eat?

As you begin your new healthier lifestyle and learn how to cope with the stress that may come with it, it’s always good to have someone (or something) that has your back. 

Able is here to help you create a plan that’s right for you. We’re with you every step of the way to help you stick with your routine and achieve your goals. 

With Able, you can personalize, record, and track your progress throughout your journey towards a happier and healthier you. Are you stressed out? No worries, Able can help encourage you to be your best self and avoid anything that would set you back. 

Begin managing your stress eating, workout, or weight loss routine, and start feeling like yourself again. 


Sources: 

How to Manage Stress | Mind

Perceived stress, unhealthy eating behaviors, and severe obesity in low-income women | PMC 

Why stress causes people to overeat | Harvard Health Publishing