Why stress eating always leads to overeating and what can you do?

I live in Italy, where food and eating is almost the most important part of life. 

What you had for a lunch or what are you going to eat for a dinner are questions asked in any conversation. 

Emotional connections to food are normal and are woven into the fabric of our social experience everywhere in the world. 

Notice how often food is at the center of your celebrations: office or home parties, baking holiday treats with grandma, and sharing traditional meals with your family. 

Eating is a wonderful way to reminisce, nurture, and bond. Isn’t that slow food and vine experience in Italy  you are looking for when you plan your trip?

Emotional eating is a normal part of life —unless it is the primary way you cope with or avoid your stressful negative feelings.  

How stress eating leads to overeating:
  • Food is a quick, convenient, easy way to manage your negative feelings and moods (for example, soothing them or stuffing them down). 
  • When you’re eating for emotional reasons, you’re more likely to reach for sweets, salty snacks, and comfort foods stress cravings. In other words, why you are eating affects what you eat.   
  • Emotional eating is often mindless, so you barely notice what you’re putting in your mouth or how full you’re getting.   
  • You can eat a lot of food when you’re eating for emotional reasons.
  • Emotional eating only gives you temporary pleasure or distraction so you have to eat again when the effects fade.   
  • Food alone can’t really make you happy or less stressed so your emotional eating triggers come back again and again.   
  • Emotional eating can lead to shame and guilt—ironically two of the most powerful emotional triggers for more overeating. 
The way to stop stress eating pattern is to manage stress mindfully

Essential part of that is effective self-care routine -- finding time to meet your own needs and nurture holistically all four dimensions – physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual. 

Preventing Stress Eating  

Practice self-care:  Give yourself the gift of adequate sleep, healthy meals, regular physical activity, and unscheduled time to decompress and relax.  

Do what you love:  What are your favorite activities? Who do you want to spend time with?  

Eat what you love:  Deprivation and guilt are powerful emotional triggers that can lead to overeating, so choose foods that nourish your body and your soul. 

Love what you eat:  Eating can be a satisfying emotional experience. Savor each bite mindfully, staying conscious of how your body feels as you eat.  

Recognize head hunger:  Whenever you feel like eating, first ask yourself, “Am I hungry?” Look for physical signs of hunger that you need fuel. 

If you’re not hungry, you can either try redirecting your attention (read  How to stop stress eating creatively ), or discovering and meeting your emotional needs.


What are you waiting for?

If you've been reading this blog for awhile but just haven't taken action, it is time. It doesn't matter what you do, but do something to overcome the doubt, fear, or inertia that's keeping you stuck in stress eating: 

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