A Simple 3 Step Strategy to Break Your Stress Eating Habits Today

how to stop stress eating

In my last post, I described the many ways that stress can sabotage your weight loss goals— including:

  • hormone imbalances that stress can trigger
  • psychological effects of stress that can heavily influence your food cravings, and
  • the vicious cycle that both of the above create.

You’ve learned all about the vicious cycle of weight gain and emotional dysfunction that stress-eating can trigger.

Now it’s time to take action and break the cycle.  

3 simple life hacks

I’m painfully aware of what it’s like to struggle with stress and emotional eating. It’s not uncommon for the busy woman — the entrepreneur, the go-getter, the millennial up and comer — you’re stressed out a lot of the time.  You’re under a ton of pressure either from others or yourself and sometimes it’s just easier to grab that junk food or that donut in the break room because you didn’t have time to make a healthy breakfast.

If you want to quit stress-eating, it’s important to shift your mindset from the get-go to understand that food is not the solution to your anxiety problems. The solution lies in the choices that you make.

With that in mind, here are three actionable ways to break your stress eating habits.

BreakStressEating- Blog Graphics- (3)

1) Plan ahead

There is no shortage of unhealthy food, and that’s not going to change anytime soon! Especially if you work in an office or an environment where there’s always candy, there’s always snacks— chocolate, donuts, pizza— whatever it is. But just because something is in front of you, doesn’t mean you have to eat it. What you eat, what you put in your body is 100% under your control.

Just think about that.

You are 100% in control of what you consume.

If you can understand that and create an emotional detachment from those foods, and plan ahead. In the book of Daniel, the Hebrews had been taken captive in Babylon. If you’re at all familiar with Bible stories, you may know that the Hebrews followed a lot of dietary rules and were not permitted to eat certain foods. When the Hebrews were captured and taken to Babylon, there were four particular young men who had to undergo training to work in this foreign kingdom. When it came down to mealtime, they purposed in their hearts that they would not partake of the king’s meat, which was forbidden according to the Hebrew law.

When these guys went into the king’s banquet hall, they knew there was gonna be a spread. Do you think they showed up and said “uhhhh well I guess I’ll kind of decide in the moment and hope that I’ll be able to make a rational decision when I’m hungry and under pressure”

No. They committed to the plan before the temptation arose. 

Take this lesson to heart—decide ahead of time that you are going to make the choice to be good to your body instead of having food control you.

Now, you might be thinking, How the heck do I plan ahead?”

I’m so glad you asked!

There’s one simple trick that works for me every time.

Meal prep.

2

I think I was a senior in university the first time I got into meal prepping. I was always the girl that would just grab the coffee and bagel before class. I didn’t really have great breakfasts, I ate out a lot and spent a lot of money on food when I didn’t really need to. When I started meal prepping, it changed my life!

I started off small— cutting up some fruit and packaging it up nicely into little containers every few days. I would just grab one and throw it in my bag on my way to class ensuring that I had something healthy to eat even if I didn’t have a full breakfast that morning. I also worked part time on campus so if there were donuts or other decadent unhealthy treats in the office, I was prepared with an alternative to keep me on track. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with having a treat once in awhile, but there is a definite distinction between knowing when you are allowing yourself to do that and when that impulse is controlling you.

If you’re reaching for that deep-fried goodie or slice of cake in an attempt to numb a feeling or soothe something that’s not right within you, get honest with yourself. Decide that you will not be at the mercy of your emotions, but you will make the choice to do what’s right for your body.

2) Identify your triggers

If you’ve recognized that certain situations cause a ton of anxiety and you know that you’re going to want to stuff your face to alleviate those feelings, make sure you have a plan in place before those situations arise. Make sure you know what those triggers are so that you can be mentally prepared to respond in a way that doesn’t involve consuming unhealthy food.

Identifying your triggers can help provide insight into the root of the problem. For example, if you’re about to give a presentation in a meeting at work and it’s stressing you out, take a few seconds to think about why you’re feeling that way in the first place. Are you afraid that people are going to think you are ignorant? Do you think that no one will care about what you have to say? Are you worried that you will forget your points? Once you start to address those individual fears, you’ll notice that you will have greater courage – which is not the absence of fear, but feeling the fear and choosing to push through that, recognizing the value of doing it anyway.

The breakthroughs you experience through practicing this exercise will make your stress cravings start to disappear because your new found confidence will remove your compulsion to rely on food as a shield. When you have that stress craving, write it down in your journal, record a video, text your coach. Whatever you need to do to verbalize that, do it so you can work through it!

Whatever you need to do to verbalize that, do it so you can work through it!

3) Create an If/then Strategy

I love the if/then strategy because it is the easiest thing you can do for yourself for a quick win. It works like this:

If X then Y

Once you identify your trigger, plug that trigger into the formula after “if” and then come up with a solution to plug in after “then”. Let’s use the presentation example again. If you know that presenting gives you anxiety, your if/then strategy will look a bit like this:

IF I’m getting nervous and stressed because of this presentation THEN I will take a minute to breathe, quickly jot down my feelings and then grab a healthy snack or a glass of water.

Often when we get overwhelmed with these feelings, it’s because in the moment we feel out of control, powerless, and vulnerable and we panic. It feels like there’s no way out so we compensate with food. Having this strategy in place gives you peace of mind, knowing you have a backup plan in case of a stress-eating emergency.

Remember you will only see changes if you’re consistent and commit to the process. Have a purpose, identify your triggers, and make a plan! If you practice these three things, I promise you’ll start seeing changes in your mindset, you’ll be more mindful, you’ll think through things better, and you’ll start to see those destructive habits go away.

 You’ll be free from stress-eating in no time.

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21 Comments

  • Reply
    Gillian
    May 11, 2017 at 4:34 pm

    planning ahead is key. If I know I have what i planned to eat available I am so much less likely to graze for sweet things and carbs.

  • Reply
    Nicole
    May 11, 2017 at 4:52 pm

    Great post! I think most of the time that I stress eat, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. But I’ve become aware that whenever I’m busy or overworked, I grab a soda, and start eating chips, which is terrible for me. I like your if/then strategy a lot! I think my new goal will be, if I’m stressed, I will drink a glass water (with lemon) and take a deep breath.

  • Reply
    Ben
    May 11, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Some really useful suggestions and strategies to better understand the triggers and responses needed to cultivate to reverse the unhelpful mindset. If a further deterrent is needed, you can ask yourself, “Once I eat/drink this, how will I feel straight away? How will I feel in 10 minutes after? How will I feel later today?” You can bring those feelings from the future and use them to block that behaviour 🙂

  • Reply
    Nichole
    May 12, 2017 at 10:44 am

    I stress eat more than I care to admit, I loved this post. Thank you.

  • Reply
    Ant
    May 12, 2017 at 11:42 am

    I love the if/then strategy idea. The biggest thing that helps me is planning ahead. It’s a little hard these days to do that with the little person, but I’m trying. I have breakfast down pat.

  • Reply
    Sincerely Ophelia
    May 16, 2017 at 10:53 pm

    I def stress binge eat. Awesome steps and tips! Def gonna give em a try!

    XOXO //
    SINCERELY OPHELIA | NYC Petite Fashion Blogger

  • Reply
    Ashley Spang
    May 17, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Yep, totally been here more than once. It’s all in the head, and you’re right-that’s the key to overcoming it. Easier said than done though, but I love your “simple” solution…spelled out, easy to understand.

  • Reply
    Prerna Garg
    May 17, 2017 at 5:36 pm

    Awesome ideas. We’ve all been guilty of stress-eating at some point and feel bad latter. I think planning ahead and knowing your triggers are important. Unless you know what makes you do something, you’ll never be able to control it!

    http://www.prernashighonchai.com

  • Reply
    Laura
    May 17, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    Planning ahead is totally key! I like to take Sundays to plan my meals for the week and get my food shopping done as well. It makes it so much easier during the week and even if I decide to change up the order for dinners I still have all the ingredients that I need!
    xo, Laura

  • Reply
    Bethany
    May 17, 2017 at 9:28 pm

    Great tips! Meal planning has saved my life as a working mom with kids!!

  • Reply
    Saidat
    May 18, 2017 at 3:10 am

    I do the opposite of eating when I am stressed – I lose appetite completely. I have learnt to live with it, all I have to do is make sure I eat breakfast at least.

  • Reply
    Estelle
    May 26, 2017 at 12:11 pm

    I tend to eat a lot when I’m bored. But while stressed, I do the opposite: can’t eat anything.

  • Reply
    Zoë
    May 26, 2017 at 5:20 pm

    I know a lot of people that stress eat and their health really siffers from it – it’s shocking how most people will just accept it or sweep it under the carpet. The time and care you’ve put in to create a strategy is wonderful of you. I’ll definitely be sending this on and telling them all about the three steps… Plan, plan, plan!

  • Reply
    blossawe
    May 27, 2017 at 9:14 am

    This post is what I need right now! I took a break today and did nothing since morning. I slept for a while, watched silly videos and curled up in bed. It felt good and I realized how much I was working in the last 2 weeks including weekend. I pre-select what to wear on Sundays for the coming week. But I struggle with meal prep. I need to do this, you made me realize that it will automatically stop my binge eating on unhealthy food in stress. Thanks for the great tips 🙂

  • Reply
    Gabriela Goldberg
    May 27, 2017 at 9:35 am

    I love this list! Will be using it in the coming weeks as I keep looking for my career making job while dieting and exercising!!! haha #stressedtothemax

  • Reply
    Nimbe
    May 27, 2017 at 10:11 am

    Yes! Totally agree, used to do this a lot more but planning and meal prepping in advance has helped so much. Thank you for the reminder

  • Reply
    kate
    May 30, 2017 at 5:24 pm

    Some good ideas here. Stress eating s something I struggle with. Thanks for the post.

  • Reply
    Amanda
    May 30, 2017 at 5:29 pm

    Just came across your blog and love it! Look forward to catching up on more of your posts.

    With regards to stress related over eating, I’m definitely guilty of this! Some interesting tips on you outlined and I’ll definitely be more conscious of my triggers now. Thanks for the tips!

    Amanda | http://ldnrose.com

  • Reply
    Carrie
    May 30, 2017 at 5:34 pm

    Excellent post. This is totally me. I stress eat alot, especially lately. Sugar is my downfall. I’ll have to try these!

  • Reply
    Dani
    May 31, 2017 at 9:52 am

    I absolutely love this article. The If/Then Strategy is great. I’ve noticed in my own life that paying attention to the “WHY” I’m eating takes practice but it’s so helpful when I stick to paying attention

  • Reply
    Mel
    May 31, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Meal prep is always my down fall!! Great post and going to think about my triggers and really sort out the meal prep!

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