Stop Stress Eating

I mentioned earlier this week that I’m under considerable amounts of stress.  No where else is this more evident than in my eating patterns.  I’ve been a Snacky McSnackerson literally to the point of feeling ill many times this week.  I want it to stop. Not only is it causing weight gain (I was down 5lbs on my new leaf challenge.  I don’t want to ruin that), but it’s just not healthy (physically or mentally).

There are some people who don’t eat when they’re stressed.  I wish I could be one of them.  I’m the exact opposite.  I can’t stop.  I’m not talking about an extra cookie here or there.  I’m talking about a lot of extra eating when I’m not even hungry.

Honestly, this is a little embarrassing for me to write, since so many people I know in person read this, but I keep reminding myself that I write this blog for myself, not for anyone else.  Lately, I haven’t been posting healthy recipes I like, because I simply haven’t made any.  I want that to change.

I was reading a few articles on stress eating and a lot of the problems/solutions don’t really apply to me.  I don’t keep junk food in the house.  Whole wheat toast, almond butter, peanut butter, cheese, fruit, granola bars, beans and green monsters aren’t unhealthy, but too much of anything is not good.  Sure, I have junk food occasionally but for the most part, I eat very healthy foods.  After reviewing many suggestions for reducing stress eating and finding solutions that don’t really meet my needs, I’ve decided to devise my own.

Here are a few problems and solutions I have in mind for how to stop stress eating:

  • Exercise: One common recommendation to reduce stress is to exercise.  Working out isn’t an issue for me.  I exercise 5-6 days a week, but I’m still stressed (and still stress eat).  I’m going to keep exercising but when I’m feeling very stressed, I’m going to try to do some yoga.  I’ve never gotten into yoga as it’s been terribly boring each time I’ve tried it but on Netflix watch instantly there are a few yoga DVDs.  Worth a try right?
  • Balanced Meals: A lot of people recommend eating 3 meals and 2 snacks throughout the day.  I think every person is different.  For some, 3 meals works best but not for others.  Recently, my snacking problem has been after lunch.  I come home and have a snack simply out of habit, even if I’m not necessarily hungry.  This results in me snacking the entire night and never actually eating a balanced dinner (today was a perfect example of that).  Instead I’m going to try to eat 3 meals a day and only have a snack if I’m really hungry.  Expect to see more healthy recipes I try!
  • Schedule: Being in grad school means I have a very irregular schedule.  While I start class everyday at the same time, there after, each day is different.  This makes it difficult to get in the rhythm of a schedule.  I need to have regular exercise, study, eating and relaxing times.  I want to re-form all the healthy habits that I used to have.  I’m working on devising a daily schedule for myself, which I can share if anyone is interested.
  • Obsession:  I admit it.  I’m obsessed with the scale.  This is just my personality.  I’m not very good at half assing things (except maybe math…).  Am I okay with it?  No.  Am I trying to fix it?  Yes.  I started counting calories again in January, as I had successfully done before.  This time it backfired.  The more stressed I got, the more I ate and the more guilty I felt.  I would eat very few calories one day (around 1200-1300) then I’d be ravenous the next day only to overeat!  The following day, I’d try to make up for it by eating very few calories again… see the cycle?  I lost weight but was terribly unhappy.  I still think calorie counting is an effective tool for weight loss, but obsession is not.  I need to check myself and reassess the deeper issue: stress.  So for now, I’m concentrating on eating 3 healthy, balanced meals a day while avoiding mindless snacking.  I’ll worry about weight loss and calories once I’ve gotten this one down.
  • Finding Alternatives: I’ve realized that a lot of times I eat to put off work.  Instead of eating, I need to find healthy substitutes.  I mentioned yoga above, but another one I’m going to try is cleaning.  Every time I feel like eating something when I’m not hungry, I’ll clean/organize something.  If I really want it by the time I’m done cleaning, I’ll have it.  Cleaning should be a good enough break 🙂

I’m writing this because I want to be healthy.  Not just physically healthy but mentally healthy.  I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who don’t struggle with this and simply don’t understand, some may even think this is flat out stupid.  But I also know there are a ton of people out there who face the same issues I do. I’m not going to let a stage of my life control my happiness. I’m going to take control, overcome it and succeed!

Do you have any other suggestions to put an end to stress eating or to manage stress?

I’ll keep you all posted on my progress.  Have a great, relaxing night!


12 thoughts on “Stop Stress Eating

  1. Lauren says:

    Karla, I love the honesty here. It is something that all professional women struggle with and no one wants to admit!

    The factors that you haven’t considered is cortisol, or stress hormone, sleep patterns, and ovarian hormones. Cortisol is from the adrenal glands and it is high under stress. It makes you pack on pounds, feel bloated moon-faced, and increases abdominal girth. Sleep deprivation….nuf said. Premenstrual/Progesterone dominant cycle eating is huge! KERF wrote a great article about it…Let me find it. I totally agree.

    The bad news: You may not get relief until you are done with your studies.


  2. Lauren says:

    For myself, I still “stress-eat” when I am tired (after working 100+ hours) and when I feel trapped or angry, like I find myself in a situation that I cannot change. Last week, on my 85th hour of work, I just found out that my dad is going to Afganistan and I was angry and all I wanted to do was go home and drink a bottle of wine and eat crap. But, over all it does get better. I know now that I will never be one of those girls who “forgets to eat” when they are stressed. There are basically two types out there: those who eat and those who don’t. I will always be the former. Wishing I was the later, L

  3. simplyshaka says:

    Kudos for you for putting it out there. I find some bloggers think they have to be there for the masses when like you, I am believe the blog should be for yourself for expression and such.

    Personally, I’m an emotional eater but my co-workers know I am stressed when all I ear is french fries for lunch and east fast food. For me, I am a believer in “finding alternatives”….cleaning, walking, calling a friend, reading, playing with my dog, etc.

    I had some good days and then some bad however at the end of the day I can go to bed knowing that I am making a conscious effort to be healthy, both mentally and physically.

  4. Danielle says:

    First off, you should not feel embarrassed. This is SO common- I see it in girls all around me. I really admire you for sharing & wanting to fix it. I think you’re right about finding alternatives to relieve stress. Because honestly, does snacking relieve the stress or ultimately contribute to it?

    I used to be in an undereat/overeat pattern too and it was miserable. I wasn’t even enjoying food anymore 😕 But this is when I was also very conscious of calories. When I stopped caring about calories and weight gain, the drastic eating cycles stopped. And it didn’t make me gain weight either, but I was 1000x happier. One of these days, I’d like to share my complete, detailed story on the blog 🙂

  5. Jasmine @ Eat Move Write says:

    You’re definitely on the right track, and there’s no reason to feel bad about what’s happening. It really is very normal.

    One of the best things you can do is exercise. If you have time, first thing in the morning. It really changes the whole mood of your day.

    Note to self: take your own advice!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. Karin says:

    Karla, don’t be embarassed for your stress eating! We’re all human and all struggle with our own problems. I eat way too little when I’m stressed but that isn’t healthy either! Stress often makes us eat way too much or too little so you’re not alone with your struggles.
    I think that taking time to sit back and relax for 5 minutes helps me a lot even though that even trying to do so is quite difficult sometimes. It might be helpful for you though if you just take a few minutes and reflect your day/moods/eating habits of the day.
    Yoga can be super boring but there are so many styles that are extremely fun and insightful too! 🙂

  7. balancejoyanddelicias says:

    Karla I totally understand you… it happens to me sometimes too and it feels awful both physically and emotionally so a warning call to process the vicious cycle is great!
    I also prefer 3 big meals than snacking all day long, i hate when I over snacked and lose appetite for a meal.
    yes, obsession is dangerous, it can put you in a vicious cycle as you’re talking about. that’s why I don’t weight, I don’t count, this way you listen more to your body than to your mind.
    great substitute, i feel happy every time I have clean hour and de-clutter home… so I’ll do that too when I feel stressed out. 🙂

  8. Jill says:

    It sounds like you do okay in the exercise department–that’s great at lowering stress! I liked your idea of trying yoga ( very rewarding I find) and cleaning when you feel a snack attack coming on. I think doing other activities to put off the urge to snack would be having a hot bath, napping, writing, and reading. If after you put off snacking for awhile and then you STILL feel like eating–maybe you need it?
    I would try and eat my snacks slow and enjoy every bite. I believe that small healthy meals frequently is the way to go! Also if you really think you don’t need the snack, try having a cup of tea or a big glass of ice water, sometimes I find thirst is disguised as having the munchies.
    Or sometimes you are just HUNGRY 🙂

    I just heard crunching on things like pretzels reduces stress. I thought that was interesting.

  9. Anna says:

    You are SO not alone here. I am a major stress eater…when I’m stressed, I can eat my way through hundreds, probably thousands of extra calories and not even feel it. Thanks for posting it and putting this out there– I bet you’ll get an overwhelming response of people who handle stress the exact same way.

    In light of alternative, I find that cleaning IS great! I also like to call a friend or family member, and sometimes I take a bath.

  10. Heather says:

    Great tips! I think making sure you eat enough throughout the day is reallllly important. Plus, finding other things to do is a great tip! I usually find myself “hungry” when I’m sitting on the couch but once I get up I’m suddenly not hungry anymore..

  11. plamarie says:

    Sadly, I can relate all too well. I may not be of much help, as I too, am currently struggling since I didn’t work out for two weeks from my sore back. I know that keeping the exercise regular is one key aspect. The days I don’t work out, I want to just eat bad with no validation 😦 I think the yoga would help. I also read in a detox book that cravings and snack eating are sometimes caused when we eat too much sugar or are dehydrated. If you drink a full glass of water, you might find the craving to go away. The water thing actually works, as long as I do it, instead of grabbing a piece of chocolate 🙂

  12. kilax says:

    Thank you for these suggestions. I really need them right now becuase I have been doing the same thing. I think I need to eat bigger meals and work better on distracting myself when I feel snacky.

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