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“Stress eating,” also called “emotional eating,” refers to eating food in response to feelings rather than to your body’s signals, especially when you are not hungry.

There are many different causes for stress eating. Some people stress eat when they are sad or lonely. Other times, eating can be a way of avoiding problems or tasks.

If we know that it’s bad for us and our goal is to lose weight, why do we continue to eat when we are stressed? Because for most of us, food offers comfort. Moreover, the most unhealthy foods are usually the ones that offer the most comfort.

In times of emotional discomfort, if we only grabbed veggies we’d be a lot better off! Try grabbing a bag of carrot sticks next time you’re lonely—not quite the same satisfaction as a chocolate bar. This is because high-fat, sugary, high-calorie foods make us feel better. The more fattening, sweeter, or the saltier the food, the more feel-good hormones—serotonin and dopamine—are released.

Another cause of stress eating is past emotional trauma. A behavioral health specialist who is trained in treating underlying emotional causes of overeating can help you to deal with past trauma. Your insurer or health care provider can help you find a qualified mental health professional who can help you get to the root of the issue.


How do you know if you’re a stress eater? If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you are an emotional eater:

Binge Eating
If you eat unusually large quantities of food or you often eat until you feel uncomfortably full, you have a problem with binge eating. If you binge eat on a regular basis, please contact your health care professional. This is a serious condition.

How to Stop
If stress, or emotional, eating is the main problem, you may be able to find a solution on your own. There are many positive ways to cope with your stress and emotions rather than eating. However, this will require you to examine and change your habits. If you really want to stop stress eating for good, you need to be committed.

Waiting and hoping that emotional eating will change or go away on its own is just wishful thinking. You must take action to get control of your behaviors. Begin taking proactive steps today to find new healthy habits to manage your stress. You’ll be surprised at how much better and more energized you feel throughout the day as a result.