blog title graphic with red modern flowers on a beige background that says, the truth about stress eating: imperfection is part of the journey

There are only five things you need to do to stop stress eating.

It might sound too easy, but the five steps take time and patience – there are no shortcuts and perfectionism only slows your progress. If you can commit to the belief that life can be less stressful and even harmonious, you can learn the five steps and stop stress eating.

The hunger for love is much more difficult to remove than the hunger for bread.

Mother Teresa

When you get so tired of doing the same thing repeatedly that you can’t do it one more time, you’re in the perfect place to change the situation.

You know stress eating is more than calming anxiety. There’s something more – you need to live your life with peace, fulfillment and health.

If you take the steps below, you’ll be on your way to becoming a conscious eater. The time and energy you spend planning, eating, worrying about what you ate and regretting you gave into the habit again doesn’t happen, and that’s one of the best freedoms of all.

Paying attention to your body’s needs becomes a pathway for a better relationship with yourself. You learn more about your real needs and experiment with how best to meet them.

You get to know your limitations and the possibilities for caring for yourself in a way you feel good about. Most of all, you learn what you need to take better care of yourself.

When you take the steps below, you’ll be on your way to stop eating stress. 

1. Eat when you’re hungry

Courage is a kind of salvation. 


This sounds like an oversimplification, but how often do you deny yourself food?

It could be that you ignore your hunger, don’t allow yourself to eat certain foods, or both.

If your body needs energy, there is just no replacing food. You can distract yourself and delay eating for so long before hangry sets in.

Your hunger signals may go quiet for a while, but you can be sure they will return, and you won’t be able to ignore them!

Eat a balanced meal. It’s great if you’re craving a balanced meal or snack since you’re simultaneously taking care of both needs!

Which leads to…

Enjoy your food.

Choose what you eat wisely to get the physical nourishment your body needs and the satisfaction your mind and heart need. Take care of your whole person. Without enjoyment, there won’t be satisfaction, leading to stress eating later.

Sometimes, you will eat purely for fuel. We all lead busy lives and sometimes food is merely a means to an end — putting more fuel in the engine so you can keep going.
Food is also an essential way people experience pleasure. If what you eat isn’t pleasurable on some level, most of the time, you will be left wanting unsatisfied.

At least once a day, eat for fuel as well as for the experience of pleasure.

2. Be present

The point of power is always in the present moment.

Louise L. Hay

Do just one thing while eating.

When you’re driving, watching a show, working on the computer, playing a game on your phone, reading, etc., you’re unable to be aware of what you’re eating, if you enjoy it, if you’re hungry for food when you’ve had enough – there are a lot of decisions!

Distraction is one way of disconnecting from stress eating and the feelings of guilt or shame about what you’re eating, how you’re eating it and how you feel about your body and yourself.

Distracted eating is a statement about your relationship with yourself. You can fully commit to self-compassion, honoring your needs and desire for nourishment – this is when you stop eating stress.

Mindful eating is one tool you can use to pay attention to the taste, texture, aroma, colors, etc., of the food you’re currently eating.

When you eat mindfully, you can assess your relationship with food and how you respect your body.

3. Identify your feelings

The best way out is always through.

Robert Frost

Calm anxiety before eating, rather than eating to calm anxiety. Easier said than done, right?

This can be tricky since hunger makes anxiety worse. Anxiety can also be one of the early signs of hunger. It gets complicated very quickly!

Our ancestors needed to be on the lookout for food; they might have been a little edgy about it, so when it was available, they would find it and eat it. Although food is abundant, this early survival mechanism kicks in when hunger is ignored, and you may become a little edgy, too.

Help yourself to slow down. Do your best anxiety-reducing techniques, a few deep breaths, a little calming yoga, a short mindfulness meditation for 2–5 minutes, and then eat a balanced meal or snack. The food will wait.

Anxiety or worry is one of the most frequent feelings that leads to stress eating. Eating is something to do; it takes your mind off of the issue and depending on the food, your brain will be stimulated to release calming brain chemicals.

The way through this is to identify the feeling, pinpoint its cause as best you can and take one simple step toward your future free from stress eating.

Sometimes this means making an action plan and other times it means reassuring yourself and creating a peaceful environment when you’ve done all you can.

Increase your awareness of the feelings you experience most often. Emotional awareness is your guide to stopping eating stress and preventing it from happening.

Knowing what’s going on inside gives you options for better self-care.

Stress eating is no longer a distraction from what’s bothering you, you know and you have a choice in managing yourself.

4. Leave morality out of your food choices

Having a healthy relationship with food means you are not morally superior or inferior based on your eating choices.

Evelyn Tribole

Food is not sinful! How many foods are described as sinfully delicious?

How often have you heard, usually at dessert time, “We’re being so bad tonight?”

What if we accepted that our bodies enjoy pleasurable experiences like eating good food?

Acceptance in the total sense means honoring your desire for pleasurable experiences with food, non-judgmentally.

When you accept that you’re an eater who enjoys eating, you’ll also accept that you sometimes need fuel. You can accept when fuel is primary and enjoyment second since you can trust that there are times when you’ll eat purely for pleasure, too.

Eating for fuel only.

You have a big meeting at two o’clock and it’s essential to have a balanced lunch at noon, so you’re fueled, thinking clearly and on your game. Your priority is reviewing your notes and getting fuel. That’s okay some of the time.

I was eating just for pleasure.

Think about birthday cake or special foods you only have at holiday celebrations. These foods and the ritual of eating them symbolize the importance of the moment, your family traditions and culture.

Foods have different nutritional values, not different moral values. Eat well and enjoy.

5. Seek connection instead of stress eating

Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow. It’s a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them — we can only love others as much as we love ourselves.

Brene Brown

Stress eating can motivate reconnecting with someone, a memory, thought, or feeling.

If you’re craving a specific food, ask yourself, is it the memory or person you want to connect with? 

Is the food a way to make it happen, or would you get your needs met by a conversation, planning a visit, or making dinner plans with a friend or family member?

Stress eating is the pathway to the relationship you want to experience. The problem is that stress eating can’t help you connect how you want or need to communicate with others or yourself.

Increasing your awareness of stress eating and the feelings that led you there is the way to move toward what you need. Awareness can help you refocus from the food obsession to the relationship and you can get your needs met.

These five actions will move you further down the road to what you want so you can stop stress eating more than any diet ever could. You have the answers you need right inside you. I hope that the tools above will help you discover them!