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How to Stop Stress Eating Today & Maximize Your Weight Loss.

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Your current weight and health have you completely stressed out. Add to that ALL the stressors of day-to-day life and it’s a dangerous recipe for stress eating.

Whether your home life, family, relationship, the current pandemic, finances, job security–the list goes on–is taking an extreme toll on your mental state, the emotional strain is heavy, and you just need to eat something delicious to soothe and even drown your feelings.

You reach into the freezer and pull out some double fudge chocolate ice cream and let the satisfying flavors take over. Or maybe you head to the pantry for something savory.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. Out of the thousands of people we’ve surveyed who have come to us for help, an overwhelming 80% of them have told us they are “stress eaters.”

Unfortunately, stress eating destroys weight loss results.

Let’s run through tips that will help you solve this problem, so you can lose weight and improve your health.

What Is Stress Eating?

So what exactly is “stress eating”?

Expert weight-loss psychologist, Kevin Sloan, says “Some individuals rely on food to cope while they are experiencing a life event, others utilize food after the event is over as a reward or recovery from the event. Part of the problem is that when the goal is to distract or enhance emotions, food actually provides the desired result ‘temporarily.’”

The scary thing about stress eating is that while it does seem to provide relief, it is only temporary.

While the food you grab for may soothe the emotion for a bit, the stress will come back soon. And so will the temptation to stress eat. Add on top of that the stress you’ll feel as a result of stress eating and going off track with your weight loss goals.

As you can see, this is a vicious, destructive cycle. And this stress eating will leave you feeling angry, frustrated, and helpless in your transformation journey.

Stress Eating: What Exactly Happens in the Brain?

It’s safe to say that everyone experiences stress! The stress of dealing with your weight and health, the stressors of day-to-day responsibilities and events.

It’s no wonder the amount of stress a single person can deal with during any given day can feel endless.

So How Does Stress Eating Work?

You experience stress. This stress causes your adrenal glands to release cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone.” Cortisol is our main stress hormone that also regulates how we use carbs, fats, and proteins.

With consistent stress, your fight or flight response kicks in, and your cortisol levels are affected, leading to an increase in appetite!

In addition to this, when something good happens to you or is about to happen (like the anticipation of sinking your teeth into a savory or sweet snack), your brain triggers a release of dopamine.

Dopamine is a neurohormone responsible for producing those “pleasure” and “feel-good” feelings in the brain.

Different activities can trigger different levels of dopamine. But here are some activities for starters:

  • Exercise
  • Listening to music
  • Sexual activity
  • Getting a massage
  • Eating food

Notice that last one? We bolded it for you!

Also, consuming certain food types can trigger serotonin spikes. Serotonin can affect your satisfaction level and mood.

While serotonin itself isn’t found in food, it’s a precursor to tryptophan, an essential amino acid that comes from foods like poultry, eggs, cheese, and, wait for it, CHOCOLATE.

Research shows that tryptophan affects serotonin levels, which will, in turn, help us regulate our mood. When serotonin is high, you’re happier—plain and simple!

So you:

  • Feel stressed
  • Your cortisol levels increase your appetite
  • The thought of food and eating food signals a dopamine release
  • You feel good temporarily
  • Depending on the food choice, your serotonin levels increase as well, boosting your mood
  • The stress eventually comes back

The Dangers of Stress Eating

As you can see from the walk-through above, stress eating is a vicious, destructive cycle.

  1. Stress Eating Destroying Weight Loss Goals

  2. When it comes to successful, long term weight loss, it all comes down to consuming fewer calories than you burn.And unfortunately, it can be all too easy to snack on enough foods to put you out of your weight loss range.Just take a look at some of these snacks, for example:

    To put this into perspective, you need to burn 3,500 calories a week to lose one pound. That comes out to be about a 500 calorie deficit each day.

    Consuming just some of these foods above (or foods like this) when you stress eat is enough to stop weight loss progress. In fact, it can also cause weight gain.

  3. So what kind of foods do people turn to when stress eating?
    1. Stress Eating Increases Consumption of High Fat & Sugar

    With this increase in cravings (triggered by high stress), you turn to comfort foods, foods that make you feel good, foods that you look forward to indulging in to soothe the negative emotion.

    Health professionals note that several studies (many of them in animals) indicate that “physical or emotional distress increases the intake of food high in fat, sugar, or both.”

    So you’ve most likely consumed foods higher in fat and sugar.

    This increase in calories effectively keeps you from losing weight, and may even cause weight gain.

    A consistent increase in processed sugar (think foods like candy bars and ice cream) intake can lead to:

    • Diabetes
    • Weight Gain
    • Inflammation
    • High Blood Pressure

    A diet high in saturated fat can also increase your risk of heart disease and weight gain.

    1. Damages Relationship with Food

    2. Stress eating leads to having an unhealthy relationship with food as you turn to it for temporary stress relief.Not to mention, eating and even binging consistently on these comfort foods (high in calories, sugar, etc.) can take a toll on your overall health and wellness.This endless cycle of numbing your emotions with food can get in the way of your goals, productivity, feelings of self-worth, confidence, and keep you from living life to the fullest.

      The Plan To Overcome Stress Eating

      Stress affects every single bodily aspect. Yes, that means uncontrolled stress can affect your entire body and the way you function, including your weight loss results.

      The key to stop stress eating has a lot to do with managing your stress!

      While reducing stress is a bit more complicated than just flipping the “off” switch, we’re going to give you a 4-step plan to navigating stress eating as well as some of our top tips for managing stress.

      Stress Eating: How to Stop It In Its Tracks & Win

      1. Determine Your Goal

    3. If you have a specific goal in mind–whether it’s wanting to fit in a swimsuit for your family reunion, wanting to be able to run a mile, etc.– this can make such a big difference when faced with stress eating.If you have a goal, if you have a WHY, if you have a reason to say “no!” when the temptation to stress eat hits, this will help make it a little easier to resist giving in.On the flip side, if you don’t have a goal, this will make you more susceptible to give in to the stress eating temptation.If you don’t have a goal, this is step one! Establish what your goal is going to be. We’d love to hear your goal, so comment below!

      2. Prepare

      “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” –Benjamin Franklin

      One important thing you can do to stop stress eating is to prepare! So, what do we mean by this?

      Specifically, you need to understand and be aware of the triggers and create an environment for success.

      • Become Aware of People Triggers

      Did you know people themselves can actually be triggers for emotional eating? What we mean by that is, people can trigger the stress response. And as a result, you react by stress eating.

      These people can be a variety of relationships, like bosses, neighbors, friends, and yes, even family. In fact, family members as a stressor seem to be even more prevalent as a result of the pandemic we are navigating. More and more people are isolating themselves with their families, quarantining at home, working from home, etc.

      That said, knowing who triggers you will help you be mindful and one step ahead of your stress eating habit.

      It’s important to note that these people may not even be bad! Your relationship with them may just bring about more stress than your other relationships.

      So that’s the next step: be aware and mindful. This will help you realize WHY you may be having a stress craving.

      • Become Aware of Event Triggers

      Job uncertainty, financial stress, broken relationships, fear of the unknown, the loss of a loved one, feeling alone–there are unfortunately plenty of events that can trigger stress, especially given the current situation of our world.

      Like the advice above, being able to identify what events are causing you stress will help you be mindful and aware. This awareness factor alone will help give you a little edge on navigating your stress eating.

      • Create an Environment for Success

      Studies and research shows that our environment influences our behavior and our actions and motivation to act.

      So once you have identified your stressors, creating an environment for success is crucial.

      To put yourself in a position to fend off the stress eating temptation, focus on food proximity!

      • Food Proximity

      Having unhealthy food options easily accessible and close by can make it extremely difficult to resist when the temptation hits.

      And when you start to eat a trigger food, it can be hard to stop until the bag/box of food is gone!

      According to a 2018 study, placing those trigger foods as far away as possible can reduce the likelihood of consuming them.

      So put those trigger foods in a spot that is hard to access. And, if possible, remove those trigger foods from your house.

      Another tip that can help you stop stress eating is by keeping healthier trigger substitutes close by!

      If a Snickers bar is a trigger for you, keep some dark chocolate (like chocolate chips) on hand.

      At the end of the day, our strongest suggestion would be to keep those trigger foods out of reach and out of your home is possible.

    4. 3. It’s Time to Act

      1. A trigger can last anywhere from 5-15 minutes. So if you don’t do something when that trigger hits, that time could feel like an eternity!Once you’ve identified your triggers and prepared your environment, it’s time to act when those stress eating temptations hit!As soon as this stress eating hits, do a hunger check! Are you physiologically hungry, or are you trying to escape?If you are physiologically hungry, make sure to eat. If you aren’t, set the timer so you can be aware of how long it has been (if you need to), and then get busy!You can try meditating (we’ll talk more about this later!), going for a walk, reading a book, chatting with a friend or family member, or just getting outside and away from your trigger food.If needed, substitute your trigger food for a healthy alternative. For example:
        • If you crave soda, go for a diet soda.
        • If you crave a candy bar, go for a healthier option like dark chocolate.
        • If you crave something salty, go for air-popped popcorn.

        4. Rely On Your Anchor

        When mountain climbers are scaling a mountain, they anchor themselves in repeatedly. That way if they fall, their anchor will catch them and keep them safe.

        Chris discusses a very important anchor that works perfectly for navigating stress eating (and is also a great motto for life), which is this:

        • Never Miss Twice

        What does this mean? It means that if you mess up, that’s ok. But get back on track immediately.

        If you mess up and eat a meal (or snack) that’s not on plan, let it pass. Don’t dwell on it, but your next meal that you eat needs to be back on track. And if you mess up again, make sure your next meal is back on track.

        Adopting this “never miss twice” philosophy will help you stay on track for the majority of the time, which is a HUGE win in and of itself.

        Take weight loss, for example. It all comes down to consuming fewer calories than you burn throughout the day and doing this consistently.

        In a nutshell:

        No one is perfect. Even top athletes and top performers “mess up.” But what separates them from the rest is how fast they can get back on track.

        On any given day, if you are “on track” with your meals more than you are “off track”–by applying the “never miss twice” principle–you’ll be able to reduce your calories. And if you do this consistently enough, you will lose weight.

        Tips to Reduce Stress & Stop Stress Eating

        Meditate

      2. Meditating is a great and simple way to help reduce stress, and according to health professionals, “Spending even a few minutes in meditation can restore your calm and inner peace.”And the best part–you can meditate anywhere and anytime you need it. You don’t need to be lying down or secluded in a dimly lit room with incense candles. That’s right. You can practice meditation even if you are walking or standingThe basic elements of meditation require:
          • Focusing your attention – Like on an object, a mantra, or even your breathing
          • Concentrating on relaxed breathing – deep and slow breaths
          • A quiet environment – A setting that helps you relax
          • A position that you are comfortable in – This could be laying down, sitting, standing, or even walking
          • Paying attention to your attitude – Allowing thoughts to come and go without passing judgment.

        There are several different forms of meditation, some of the popular ones, including “mantra meditation” and “mindfulness meditation.”

        Mantra meditation is when you distract negative thoughts by quietly repeating a word or phrase.

        Mindfulness meditation is when you focus on what you experience as you meditate. One common practice during mindfulness meditation is to focus solely on your breathing, the sensation of airflow as it fills your lungs and empties, and allowing your thoughts to come and go without judging them.

        Exercise

        Getting sweaty?! You may be rolling your eyes here, but check this out: Exercise is a great weapon you can use to help reduce stress. This activity is excellent for releasing serotonin and dopamine (remember those feel-good hormones?!) and reducing the body’s stress hormones.

        Furthermore, research shows consistent aerobic exercise can help:

        • Decrease tension
        • Reduce stress
        • Increase & stabilize mood
        • Support sleep
        • Boost self-Esteem

        If you’re not currently exercising, try out your local gym!

        If the gym isn’t a realistic option right now, no worries. There are PLENTY of exercises you can do to help reduce stress, no pass required:

        • Go outside for a walk
        • Ride your bike
        • Go for a hike
        • Do bodyweight exercises at home. (Want a FREE 28-Day at-home workout plan with video-guided exercises and NO weights required? Click here!)
        • Jumping rope

        Whatever you decide to do, start small and build on it over time. Doing so will help exercise become a sustainable and realistic tool you can use to combat stress.

        Eat More Protein

      3. While protein is an important nutrient for controlling hunger (this is huge for weight loss) and supporting workout recovery, protein does a lot more!One significant breakthrough researchers have made is the discovery that whey protein can help treat symptoms associated with stress.So how does whey protein offer stress relief?Protein’s main bioactive protein component alpha-lactalbumin can help regulate the stress hormone (cortisol) and serotonin, the neurotransmitter that plays a role in satisfaction level and mood!

        A helpful tip to increase protein & reduce stress:

        A great way to help control your stress and prevent you from eating foods that are high in sugar, salts, and/or fats is to drink about ½ of a meal replacement shake followed by a tall glass of water.

        Here’s why:

        • A meal replacement shake helps provide a quick protein source. Protein helps reduce stress.
        • You won’t have the additional stress and anxiety of contemplating going off your weight loss plan
        • You won’t have the stress, anxiety, or regrets of going off your weight loss plan and having to recommit
        • Protein helps block hunger and curbs appetite because of the protein, fiber, and good fat.
        • The delicious flavors will satisfy most sweet tooth needs
        • A good meal replacement shake promotes satiety, not additional hunger.
        • Most people fall short on their daily recommended protein consumption, so an extra 10 grams of protein is usually very beneficial

        In addition to these benefits, a good meal replacement shake also provides good fats and fibers, both of which also help provide additional stress relief.

        For the best meal replacement shake designed to help control hunger, reduce calories, and promote weight loss, check out our Low Carb Meal Replacement Shake.

      4. It’s packed with 20 grams of protein to help with stress relief, and each serving provides a balanced, nutritious meal designed to help support weight loss.Not too mention, it comes in several mouth-watering flavors:
        • Chocolate
        • Vanilla
        • Salted Caramel
        • Mint Cookie
        • Chocolate Peanut Butter
        • Strawberries & Cream
        • Cookies & Cream
        • Orange Cream
        • Mocha
        • Chocolate Coconut

         

        Nourish Your Gut with a Probiotic

        How can a probiotic actually help with stress and stress eating? Good question, let’s dive in.

        The medical community is starting to explore the effects of stress on gut health. Gut health is incredibly important to your overall health, weight loss, stress relief, and energy.

        Good Gut Health Can Help Combat Stress

        Numerous studies in the past two years have demonstrated links between gut health and the immune system, mood, mental health, autoimmune diseases, and so much more.

        The term “gut microbiome” refers specifically to the microorganisms living in your intestines. A person has about 300 to 500 different species of bacteria in their digestive tract. While some microorganisms are harmful to our health, many are incredibly beneficial and even necessary to a healthy body.

        Healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome also help create and regulate neurotransmitters (like serotonin and tryptophan), the chemicals in the brain and the body responsible for happiness, motivation, and sleep.

        With diets full of ultra-processed and processed foods (stripping foods of essential nutrients and damaging bacteria in our gut), antibiotic use, and times of high stress (like right now!), our gut health is suffering.

        Supplementing your gut health with a great probiotic is an incredible way to help the beneficial bacteria flourish and support your stress relief.

        A helpful tip to support your gut health.

        You can get probiotics from certain foods like sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, and more. Unfortunately, it can be challenging to consume enough of these foods consistently to ensure you are fueling your gut with important probiotics.

        You can also supplement with a strong probiotic supplement designed to provide your gut with billions of beneficial bacteria. That’s actually why we created our Wellness Probiotic!

        Establish a Good Morning & Evening Routine

      5. The stress hormone cortisol is the highest in the first hour of being awake and tends to peak at night.Even though “morning anxiety” isn’t a medical term, it refers to waking up with feelings of stress and anxiety and is very real for the majority of people. The adrenal glands release the “stress hormone” cortisol in response to fear or stress.Additionally, the evening is when you have plenty of time to focus on your stressors as you roll around in your bed, which raises your anxiety levels. At night there is not much you can do about your stressors until the next morning, leaving you to stew and think about them.That’s why this tip is CRUCIAL for helping you manage and minimize your stress.
        Tips for the Best Personal Routines

        Tip #1

        Bedtime and morning routines have to be personalized to you. Developing a morning and bedtime routine that works for you will take some time and experimentation.

        As a rule of thumb: Don’t create items or activities in your routines that don’t work for your schedule.

        Tip #2

        Your morning routine should be designed to relieve stress and anxiety, so don’t make your routines so rigid that if you miss an item or two–or the whole routine for some reason–it doesn’t completely throw off your whole day or evening and sleep. Doing this will cause you more anxiety and stress and suck the energy right out of you.

        Bedtime Routine

      6. Generally, if you lie down in your bed and take more than 15 minutes to fall asleep, you will want to adjust what you are doing to prepare to sleep.Your bedtime routine should be simple, feel easy, and be about taking care of yourself.Here are a few suggestions:
        • Set an alarm to signal you that is now time to prepare to sleep
        • Turn off electronic devices in advance of lying down to sleep.  Sleep studies show that high exposure to high amounts of blue light lowers your melatonin ( a hormone that regulates your sleep cycle)  levels resulting in sleeplessness and delayed REM (deep) sleep. So far research has shown that 30 to 45 minutes prior to laying down is the optimal time to turn off your electronic devices.
        • Lower the lights and set the thermostat between 65 to 69 degrees.

        If you aren’t able to fall asleep within 15 minutes after lying down, you may add some additional things to your nighttime routine to help you relax:

        • Yoga
        • Meditation
        • Take a bath or show
        • Do some tai chi
        • Try and foam roll
        • Use essential oils and aromatherapy
        • Play soft music

        Whatever works for you, do it!

        Morning Routine

      7. Your morning routine, like your bedtime routine, should be simple, feel easy, and be about taking care of yourself.Once again, make sure your routines are personal to you, and if something doesn’t work for you, discard it and move on.Additionally, try to “automate” the little things in your routines.  For example, one of our extraordinary Transform marketers works out in the morning, so he leaves all his workout clothes stacked next to his bed.  Then when he wakes up, he is ready to go without spending time looking for his clothes.Here are a few suggestions of thing you can start implementing to start your mornings off right and create a day full of energy:
        • Get out of bed as soon as you wake up. Doing so will help you avoid laying in bed and letting your stressors (finances, work, civil unrest, COVID19, etc.) take control of your thoughts.
        • Drink up to 2 cups of ice-cold water in the morning just after you wake up. This will help you get energized and rehydrated.
        • Try and get in some form of exercise. Exercise will help release those feel-good hormones and help you start the day off with a victory under our belt and feeling good!
        • Start your day off with a cold shower! The physiological effect that a 2-3 minute cold shower can have as it increases your heart rate and breathing can help you feel alert and energized and zap some of that brain fog!

        Additional Tips to Help You Stop Stress Eating

        Track Your Food

      8. When you’re on the verge of eating your feelings, if you are in the habit of always tracking your intake, you’ll know the damage that a pint of ice cream can do. Monitoring your intake is a great preventative measure to avoiding emotional eating!

        Phone a Friend

        Someone you trust and who will support you when you’re ready to dive headfirst into a bag of chips is worth their weight in gold! They’ll cheer you on and help you through your actual struggles. Get you that person!

        Stay Busy

      9. This is one of Heidi’s favorites! Get your mind off of your troubles and the foods you want to eat, and move! You can exercise, do chores, get work done, read a book, go for a walk, so many productive things!

        The Rubber Band Trick

        This is a signature trick Chris and Heidi used with their Extreme Weight Loss people! Keep a rubber band on your wrist and snap it when you find yourself getting overwhelmed, and your mind goes to food. It will help you refocus and get back on track!

        Mindfully Eat  When You’re Hungry 

        When you’re focusing on a healthy lifestyle, it’s important to distinguish when your body needs fuel and when it doesn’t. Restriction just contributes to emotional eating. You can completely cut out all unhealthy food in an effort to be healthy, but that makes it pretty easy, when you get sad or frustrated, to take it out on the salty bag of chips sitting in your pantry.

        When you are actually hungry, eat a balanced meal. Doing so will help satisfy your nutritional needs, which will help squash cravings.

        Learn to eat for fuel and pleasure. Enjoy your food; chew slowly, but remember, ultimately, your diet is to help your body keep running.

        Doing other things while you eat, such as watching TV, or reading, only gets you more distracted and further away from your feelings. You end up eating without tasting your food and enjoying the experience.

        You Can Stop Stress Eating Today. You’ve Got This!

      10. Hopefully, now you can see how stress eating is a weight loss and health goal killer. It leads to consuming extra calories and opting for foods that aren’t optimal for our health–high in sugar and fat.Stress is something that we all deal with. There is no “on” or “off” switch, no matter how much we might want.That said, there are several things you can do to help reduce stress, which will help you stop stress eating. These things range from establishing good evening and morning routines to consuming an excellent probiotic (to help optimize stress relief) and eating more protein.Now that you’re aware of how stress eating works in the body, you have the tools and tips above for battling it head-on.Let us know which tips you’re going to utilize by leaving a comment below!

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