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If You Are a Stress Eater - Don't Diet. Try this Instead.

If you are an emotional stress eater you are not alone. Eating to take the edge off and calm the nerves is one of the top reasons why emotional eaters reach for food. Below I am listing my top 5 strategies for dealing with emotional stress eating.


Stress affects us all. Stressors can vary from relationship quarrels to workplace issues to dealing with a family member or a loved one who is not well. Stress is commonly accompanied by feelings of anxiety, nervousness and the inability to relax and calm down. Eating a few cookies, some chocolate or a bag of chips provides instant relief and comfort. For a brief moment you don't care about what's bothering you. The action of eating has created a form of "trance state" - a time out from anxious and stressful feelings.


Instead of shaming yourself or feeling weak for not being able to control your eating, serve yourself a large portion of self-compassion, self-empathy and loving-kindness.


Tip #1 - Self-Compassion is Urgent Care for the Heart


When we are hurting and emotionally suffering, we don't need discipline or harsh reasoning. We need compassion, understanding and love. Self-compassion means treating ourselves the same way we would treat and comfort a child or a loved one in distress. Kindness starts with us. Give yourself permission to take care of YOU.


Tip #2 - Practice the Self-Compassion Break


This is a powerful and beautiful self-compassion exercise, developed by Dr. Kristin Neff and her team. You may use it day or night: Think of a situation in your life that is difficult, that is causing you stress. Call the situation to mind, and see if you can actually feel the stress and emotional discomfort in your body.


Now, say to yourself:

1. This is a moment of suffering

That’s mindfulness. Other options include:

  • This hurts.

  • Ouch.

  • This is stress.

2. Suffering is a part of life

That’s common humanity. Other options include:

  • Other people feel this way.

  • I’m not alone.

  • We all struggle in our lives.

Now, put your hands over your heart, feel the warmth of your hands and the gentle touch of your hands on your chest. Or adopt the soothing touch you discovered felt right for you.


Say to yourself:

3. May I be kind to myself

You can also ask yourself, “What do I need to hear right now to express kindness to myself?” Is there a phrase that speaks to you in your particular situation, such as:

  • May I give myself the compassion that I need

  • May I learn to accept myself as I am

  • May I forgive myself

  • May I be strong.

  • May I be patient


Tip #3 - Go To the Root Cause of Your Stress


It takes courage to admit (and look at) what's lingering below the surface and what's keeping you up at night. It pays off to seek professional help from a counselor or coach if those stressors seem insurmountable.


Many years ago I found myself chronically fatigued, moody and tired. It took the support from my mentor to realize that my work situation left me feeling unfilled and hungry for a life full of purpose and meaning. I finally put my warrior cape on and had the courage to quit my job.


I never regretted my decision. The act of quitting and taking a leap represented a short period of stress, which I happily leaned into. I had turned my back on a situation that longer served me. I am not saying that it was easy. I suggest you get support before making a big decision. I can happily say it it has paid off to listen to my heart and follow my soul's calling.


Tip #4 - When Food is Comfort Practice Re-Framing


If you have coped with stress by eating too much, start by setting an intention to turn things around. I believe that as an emotional stress eater you don't need more restrictions, such as dieting or calorie counting. Instead, make a list of comforting mini rituals, i.e. unplugging from electronics and taking a short mindful break. Or journaling about what worries you most. Challenge your thoughts: "Is it really true that XYZ is going to happen?" Practice re-framing by replacing an anxious thought with an empowering affirmation.


Give yourself permission to stop worrying about the future. Read inspirational literature. Share your feelings with a trusted friend or your partner. Seek support. Don't go it alone.


Tip #5 - Trust That Emotional Stress Eating Can be Overcome


Stress eating can be a thing from the past once you embrace the fact that your behavior has always made sense. Comfort eating may have gotten you through tough times and challenging situations. Knowing (and trusting) that there is another way will provide a more hopeful and positive outlook. It is my life's calling and passion to help my clients find peace with food and their body - even after years and years of dieting and weight cycling.


I am here to support you!



Let me assist you on your emotional self-care and weight management journey. I promise you that it will be gentle, heartfelt and safe. Schedule your initial complimentary consultation by clicking on this link.

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