Stress-eating is a common issue for many of us, but a lot of people still don’t know much about it. Here’s all you need to know about this bad habit, its effects, as well as tips on how to stop doing it.
What is stress-eating?
Stress-eating (or emotional eating) is defined by Very Well as “consuming food in response to your feelings, especially when you are not hungry”. This kind of eating happens when your emotions (instead of your body) decide what, when and how much you eat. This can lead to overindulging in unhealthy foods, as well as using foods to deal with difficult emotions such as stress or sadness.
What are its effects?
Stress-eating is an unhealthy relationship to have with food, and it can develop into an addiction where you’re craving more and more (generally unhealthy) foods in order to comfort yourself. This can lead to mental, emotional and even physical issues (such as excessive weight gain).
Furthermore, eating too much of the wrong foods can effect your mood, your skin, general health and even your ability to concentrate- which, especially if you’re studying for exams, can make you feel even worse!
How do I know if I’m stress-eating?
Having a snack now and then is normal, and you shouldn’t feel bad about that. However, stress-eating happens when you start to become dependent on snacks and food to make you feel better. This eventually develops into a habit, at which point you’re no longer in control of your eating and may not even realise you’re over-indulging until your body feels sick or stuffed. If you’re worried you may be stress-eating, see if you answer yes to any of these questions:
Do you eat more when you’re stressed (eg. during exams)?
Do you eat to feel better?
Do you feel out of control around food?
Do you ever eat without realising you're doing it?
Do you often feel guilty or ashamed after eating?
Do you crave specific foods when you're upset (eg. potato chips when you’re stressed)?
Does eating distract you from your worries?
If any of these sound familiar to you, we suggest thinking about whether you’re stress-eating or not. Remember that you know yourself and your body best, so trust your intuition if you feel like something is wrong.
How can I curb the habit?
If you think you may be struggling with stress or emotional eating, here are a few ways you can re-gain control over your eating habits for good.
Find healthier food alternatives
Health-wise, having healthier snacks on hand such as fruits and nuts will prevent you from binging on unhealthy foods.
Find better ways to deal with your emotions
Because stress-eating isn’t just about the food, it’s important for you to find healthier ways to deal with your negative emotions. Whether you’re eating because you feel sad, stressed, lonely or bored, there are better ways to deal with these feelings. Find a fun hobby such as scrapbooking, drawing or gaming. Spend more time with friends and family to give your mood a boost. You could even take up a sport or daily exercise routine- this will help you deal with stress and feel healthier too!
Deal with your source of stress
If your stress-eating is triggered by a certain thing in your life such as relationship problems, family issues or exams, dealing with that source of stress is important if you want to stop stress-eating. You can take steps to do this by identifying the issue, and taking small steps to improve the situation.
Share your feelings
Share how you’re feeling with a trusted friend or family member. It’s good to let them know you’re trying to stop stress-eating, and that you’d like them to help you by reminding you of your goals and checking in with you now and then.
Food is necessary for us to survive, and we’re lucky that its so easily found and tastes great nowadays! However, it’s always good to remember why we eat, and not let it become an unhealthy habit. We hope you’ve found this info helpful- remember that if you’re struggling with stress-eating, you can overcome it and live a healthier life. Good luck!