Psychiatrist Blog

Emotional Stress and Stress Eating – Binge Eating

hamburger with fries

Managing and coping with stress can be a real struggle. With the current COVID-19 pandemic and the world practicing social distancing, most of us are feeling stressed and looking for ways to cope. Unfortunately, some coping mechanisms may be counterproductive such as binging or stress eating.

You may have lost your job or are unsure of your job security.  You may feel panic to see grocery store shelves empty, stocked, and empty again.  Home schooling is new to you, being around your spouse 24/7 is new to you, wearing masks are new… We all feel stress of what we are going through as a society.  Anxiety is normal, but we have to utilize tools to deal with it. Turning to food can be self-soothing or comforting, but it can have negative effects.

Boredom and feelings of self-isolation can trigger binge eating. Stress can trigger changes in cortisol levels which can increase appetite. When we are stressed our bodies require more energy, fats and sugars are short term or a quick way to obtain it. 

Unfortunately, emotional or stress eating can lead to negative impacts to our physical and emotional health, including Cardiovascular issues, Diabetes, Obesity, and Depression.

Understanding your emotions and utilizing positive coping skills during times of stress and anxiety can be difficult.  Anxiety is an innate feeling everyone has. During these times, we are looking for ways to cope. You are not alone, we are all in this together. 

A few tips to help with emotional eating:

  1. Recognizing emotional triggers that triggers stress eating. When we are aware of what triggers anxiety, coming up with a plan to decrease triggers will be easier.
  2. Don’t deprive yourself of food, instead eat the things that comfort you in moderation.  One thing you can try is the 30 second trick – if you bite into chocolate (or your favorite food) chew and hold it in your mouth for 30 seconds.
  3. Exercise and Meditation to decrease stress and improve well being. 
  4. Try to drink green tea.  We often mistake hunger for thirst and so a few sips of this tea can turn off cravings.
  5. Try Grapefruit – which lowers your levels of insulin and helps you to avoid the blood sugar spikes that cause the cravings.
  6. Support System- you can still be social while distancing. Reaching out to friends and family virtually or on the phone can help minimize anxiety and feeling lonely. 
  7. Evaluate what is in your refrigerator and cupboards. Try to keep “junk foods” and sweets in the back or not easily seen to avoid overindulging too often.
  8. Use time – Sometimes cravings may simply pass – Go on a walk, call a friend, spend time writing. You might be surprised how the craving went away.

Remember there is support if you need it.  We are here to walk with you, encourage you, and be here with you on your journey.  There are other ways to help make you feel your best.


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