Your Expert Guide to Stress Eating

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Stress eating is consuming food in response to your feelings, especially when you are not hungry. Stress eating is also sometimes called emotional eating. Emotional eating means that your emotions — not your body — dictate when and how much you eat.

Why Does Stress Eating Happen?

Some stress eaters binge when they are sad or confused.  For others, eating can be a way of avoiding thinking about problems or taking the action required to solve them.

So why do we eat when we are stressed? Because for most of us, food offers comfort. And unfortunately, the least healthy foods usually offer the most comfort. 

If we reached for veggies in times of emotional discomfort, we'd be OK. But how many people turn to carrot sticks when they're feeling stressed? It's the high-fat, high-calorie foods we love that make us feel better. The more fattening, sweeter or the saltier the food, the better we seem to feel.

Are You a Stress Eater?

You are an emotional eater if you answer yes to any of the following questions:

Do you ever eat without realizing you're even doing it?

Do you often feel guilty or ashamed after eating?

Do you often eat alone or at odd locations, such as parked in your car outside your own house?

After an unpleasant experience, such as an argument, do you eat even if you aren't feeling hungry?

Do you crave specific foods when you're upset, such as always desiring chocolate when you feel depressed?

Do you feel the urge to eat in response to outside cues like seeing food advertised on television?

Do you eat because you feel there's nothing else to do?

Does eating make you feel better when you're down or less focused on problems when you're worried about something?

If you eat unusually large quantities of food or you regularly eat until you feel uncomfortable to the point of nausea, you have a problem with binge eating. If you binge eat on a regular basis, please speak to your healthcare professional. But if stress eating is the main problem, you may be able to find a solution on your own.

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