Stress Eating Triggers

We all have great intentions when it comes to taking care of ourselves. We know we should exercise regularly. We know what kinds of food we should be eating, and what kinds of foods we should minimize. But because of all these stress eating triggers, we don’t do it.

Most of the nutrition programs out there focus on WHAT you should be eating. And that’s fine, education never hurts (as long as it’s correct!).

But we already know what we should be doing.

So today I want to talk about WHY we eat.

Why do we gobble up food that we KNOW is bad for us?

You are the Hero of this story.

You want to take good care of your body, for yourself and for your family.

You want to have energy, and feel good about your body.

You want to feel confident and in control of your life.

You want to stop feeling embarrassed about your weight and how you look.

So what’s keeping you from doing the things that you know you will get you all that?

Here’s one of the reasons we sabotage ourselves:

Stress Eating Triggers #1 – DISTRACTION

Life is stressful (especially now!) and gives us plenty of opportunities to experience a pile of uncomfortable emotions — sadness, fear, loneliness, anxiety, anger, depression, hopelessness — the list goes on.

Eating gives us a momentary distraction from all those bad feelings.

Feeling overwhelmed and stressed out?

Those cookies will give your brain something else to think about for a minute or two.

So in the above case, what you really want is peacefulness or reassurance.

The cookies won’t give you that.

So next time you’re tempted to reach for sugar when you’re feeling bad, pause for a moment to recognize that what you’re really seeking is a distraction fro those bad feelings.

So pick a distraction that’s healthier for you!

Read, take a walk, talk with a friend, design or create something, play with the dog, plan your food for tomorrow — anything that gives your brain something to think about besides food.


Two parts to this:

  1. The behavior of people around you, and
  2. What’s in front of you.

There’s an interesting theory about personal development and behavior that says you’re the average of the five people with whom you spend the most time.

So what does YOUR average look like? Are you surrounded by people who place great value on eating wholesome, nutritious, energizing foods? Or do you find that the people around you tend to opt for fast food, processed products, and desserts?

We as humans are definitely tribal people. We want to belong. So when I am working with a client, it is pretty common for us to have to examine the “culture” of their home and work surroundings.

Very often you have to break out of the unhealthy herd mentality in order to succeed.

Part 2 of the environment cues is what you SEE:

Ever hear of being on the seafood diet? “I see food, I eat it.”

There’s actually more reality than joke in that bit.

We react strongly to visual cues. If you have a cookie jar on the kitchen counter, or a candy bowl in the office break room, literally every time you see it you have to make a “yes” or “no” decision.

The easiest way to stay out of IMPULSE TROUBLE is to make sure that you don’t subject yourself to those visual cues.

Don’t keep junk food in the house.

Make unhealthy food hard to get, so that if you REALLY want ice cream, you have to get up and go to the store to get some.

(Take it from me, it tastes way better when you do it that way too!)

How can you ask your starving brain to pick spinach instead of potato chips if they’re both staring at you when you get home after a long day?

Keep healthy food ready to go, so it’s QUICK, EASY, and OBVIOUS.

Keep junk food out of sight and out of reach so you don’t have to willpower your way through hard decisions.

stress eating

Stress Eating Triggers #3 – STRESS EATING

We’ve all done it. But some of us do it all the time, and that creates problems!

If you’re a stress eater (very often the Stress Ball type of sugar addict, from Beating Sugar Addiction For Dummies), you probably turn to food for comfort.

But does food actually comfort you?

Sure, we get a physiological response from carbs and sugar that feels good – for a bit – but is that really comfort? Does a temporary sugar high really help you become less stressed in the long run?

Of course not. But we don’t make logical decisions until we learn other ways to deal with our uncomfortable emotions.

So here are some simple (but life-changing!) techniques for you to make those changes:

Stress Eating vs Mindless Eating

Stress eating is a version of MINDLESS EATING, which simply means eating without being intentional about it.

We mindlessly eat for various reasons:

1) Simple Habits.

This is eating a certain way just because it’s become a habit.
Finishing everything on your plate, whether you want it or not.
Snacking while you watch TV, whether you’re hungry or not.

If you find yourself doing some habitual eating, take inventory next time that situation arises. Give yourself a reality check on whether you’re actually hungry or not.

2) External Cues.

Instead of making conscious decisions around food, we often take cues that dictate our eating.
As long as there are still fries in the bag, we keep eating them
Someone offers us dessert, or seconds, and we accept even though we don’t really want it
Snack on pretzels during movie time until the pretzels are all gone or the movie’s over
Walking by a candy dish = eat candy

A great book that dissects a lot of these external cues is Mindless Eating by Brian Wansink.

3) Reactive Stress Eating.

This is the BIGGEST problem for most people, by far. There are many triggers and underlying beliefs attached to stress eating:

  • Food as a substitute for some emotion you really want
  • All-Or-Nothing mentality when “falling off the wagon”
  • Using food as a distraction from uncomfortable emotions

==> If you’d like a free call to help you with any of these stress eating triggers, just contact us and ask!