Blog post title graphic with modern white and red flowers on a beige background that says, 5 powerful ways to stop mindless stress eating for good,

Mindless stress eating may seem like nothing more than relief from a stressful moment in life.

It’s like tasting something delicious will take the bitterness out of life.

But, when it happens repeatedly and you feel guilty about it, it’s a recipe for shame and regret.

We all have basic needs, like a roof over our heads, money, and, of course, at the most basic level, fuel for our bodies in the form of food.

Our more personally specific needs like love, companionship, a sense of purpose and belonging, feeling calm and at peace, or knowing how to manage your emotions are just a few. Identifying how much you need and when quickly is more complex – they’re more specific to the flexible.

Sometimes, a need bubbles to the surface slowly over time.

At another time, your impulses are strong and fully capture your attention, convincing you that changing the direction you’re headed in is a waste of time and energy.

Reaching for the candy dish while thinking about a stressful client meeting relieves the unpleasant feelings of frustration. But the stressful meeting is still there waiting for you to fix it, regardless of the sweet candy distraction.

Mindless stress eating can be a way to get your attention and be present so you can make conscious choices that lead you where you want to be.

What makes the most significant difference in stress eating? Give yourself space to pay attention to what matters so you can make choices that matter in your life.

Five unmet needs that lead to mindless stress eating and ideas to help.

1. Connection – be around people who are a positive influence

Creating this type of community, if you don’t already have it, is one of the most important ways to stop mindless stress eating.

Changing your mindset and habits and learning to regulate your emotions so you work well with them is easier when you’re around people who are also on a personal growth path.

It’s energizing to have a conversation with another person who shares your interests, is open to learning and looks toward the future with hope.

How does this help stress eating when it doesn’t seem to have anything to do with food?

Maybe you’re into taking a photography class, joining a quilting guild, taking a painting course, going antiquing with a friend, joining a sailing club, taking a meditation course, or anything else you might be interested in that is creative, positive and growth-enhancing lowers overall stress and shift your focus.

Creating new connections and being around forward-thinking people supports a growth mindset. Your brain needs something to do, or it will default to doing what uses the least energy – like going back to old ways of thinking. Giving your brain something to do that interests you creates new neural pathways that help you shift your thinking to what you want.

2. Kindness and self-compassion

When mindless stress eating takes hold, the usual response is to criticize, find fault and withhold self-compassion. For high-achieving women, there’s a bias toward being tough and not giving in. Since you’re already disappointed or frustrated with yourself, it can lead to even more stress eating.

The antidote is kindness and self-compassion. They both allow you to gain perspective and assess what worked and didn’t so you can adjust and move forward with more helpful self-knowledge.

Kindness and self-compassion give you the perspective you need to make the changes that lead to less stress.

3. Take a break from being busy

Everyone needs a break sometimes. This doesn’t mean you must wait until vacation to get the space you need. Our attention is pulled in so many directions that choosing what you want is often difficult.

Sometimes unplugging helps to allow some breathing space so you can see challenges as they are and avoid mindless stress eating altogether.

Slow down and consider what you need. Give yourself the gift of time to figure out what you need. It’s an opportunity and you might be surprised at what you find.

4. Accept where you are while keeping your focus on your future.

Acceptance does not mean giving up on your goals. Acceptance means being right where you are now while remaining thoughtful about your future. Thoughtfulness is one of the most effective ways to prevent mindless stress eating.

Acknowledge your work and be aware of your need for rest. Allow yourself time to integrate the changes you’re making.

When you’re present, you’ll have the energy to focus and rebuild your enthusiasm for your next goal.

5. Transform your relationship with food.

Nourishment, how you eat to sustain your energy and satisfaction, is the key ingredient to stop mindless stress eating permanently – it’s not what, but how.

A change in mindset can give you the calm you need to stop being led by impulse. It also stops the feelings of self-betrayal, body shame, overwhelm, and just plain not feeling good.


You can enjoy food, maintain healthful goals, feel good about what and how you eat, feel good about your body, respect your need for movement, honor physical activity, and grow your self-esteem. These are big promises and they are also entirely achievable results. You can live the life you desire with less stress and a lot more calm, clarity and connection – the key ingredients to stop mindless stress eating.