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The Negative Effects of Stress Eating: How to Manage Them

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 09, 2021

The Negative Effects of Stress Eating: How to Manage Them

Have you ever felt so stressed out that you just wanted to eat your worries away? Then you have probably experienced what’s known as stress eating.

Stress eating, and sometimes binge eating, are common problems that people have when it comes to food. While it is generally fine to eat your favorite foods every so often, eating too much and too often can definitely affect your health.

But what exactly causes stress eating, and what can a person do to manage it?

What is Stress Eating?

This is when a person uses food as a coping mechanism to better handle their stress.

For example, someone who stress eats might feel better after eating a bag of chips, or an entire pizza if they are stressed out. It gets even worse if the person is under constant stress, which can be due to work, family, or personal problems.

Stress eating is an interesting phenomenon. Because for the most part, people who get stressed usually lose their appetite. You have probably experienced this yourself at one point.

However, if a person is under constant stress, a person’s appetite can go up, which causes them to crave food. This occurs if their appetite does not go down even after the stressful episode is over.

This means that someone who stress eats may constantly feel that they want to eat food, even when they are not stressed out or hungry. Over time, this can be very problematic, since it leads to weight gain and an unhealthy lifestyle.

How is Stress Eating Connected to Binge Eating?

Binge eating is connected to stress eating in that it can be triggered by stress. People who binge eat usually do it to help cope with a stressful situation.

The difference with binge eating is that someone who binge eats tends to lose control and eat a lot of food in a very short span of time. This is usually followed by feelings of guilt, or even trying to vomit the food that they just ate.

In essence, binge eating can be considered as a type of stress eating.

What Causes Stress Eating?

As the name implies, this type of behavior is primarily caused by too much stress. Sometimes people just find themselves under a lot of stress, and find it difficult to relax or distance themselves from that stress.

Sometimes, it is also used as a coping mechanism by people who find it difficult to handle emotional problems.

How Do You Know if You Are Stress Eating?

A person who stress eats may notice the following in their daily eating habits

  • Eating faster than normal
  • Consuming more food than normal
  • Eating a lot of food even when you are not hungry
  • Feeling embarrassed after eating
  • Constantly rewarding yourself with food
  • Feeling powerless or you feel that you have no control when it comes to food

These are the most common signs of eating when stressed.

What Effects Does it Have on the Body?

Overeating due to stress can have a number of effects on the body, including the following:

  • It can cause you to gain weight
  • Increases your risk of heart disease, if you eat fatty foods
  • It can increase your risk of atherosclerosis
  • This type of eating pattern can put you at risk of high cholesterol
  • It increases your risk for diabetes
  • You can experience stomach cramps
  • You might have difficulty concentrating
  • Managing the urge to binge is very important since it can lead to a number of serious health problems.

    How Can You Avoid Eating When Stressed?

    Here are some tips that you can do in order to manage this condition:

    Manage your stress

    The best thing to do if you frequently eat when you are stressed would be to find ways to better manage your emotions and learning how to cope or address triggers.

    Sometimes it helps if you face it head-on. Other times, talking to a therapist can help you figure out what steps you need to take to manage your stress better.

    Lowering your stress levels is important when it comes to managing your urges and preventing you from eating when you are stressed.

    Try to focus on other things

    Distracting yourself can sometimes help when you have a sudden urge to eat. You can play video games, watch a movie or your favorite show, listen to music, or take a walk. Anything to keep your mind off food and to distract you should help in dealing with your condition.

    Meditation can sometimes help

    Meditation is a great way to deal with stress and to control your urge to eat.

    Take some time out of your day to meditate and be more mindful of what you are doing. This can help you focus and control yourself whenever you feel the urge to binge eat.

    Try to exercise

    Exercise can help lower your stress levels so that it does not cause you to eat more food. Whenever you feel hungry or have the urge to eat, try to do a quick 10 to 15-minute workout to keep your mind off food.

    Not only can this help prevent you from binge eating, it can also help you lose weight and keep yourself fit and healthy.

    You may also want to drink water. It will allow you to feel full and quench your thirst which may sometimes cause you to feel hungry.

    Talk to someone about it

    You can’t always handle your problems by yourself. Sometimes, it would be better to talk to someone if you feel stressed out. A therapist can teach you effective ways to better address your root problems and help you cope with stress triggers.

    Key Takeaways

    People often admit to stress eating. While you are allowed to indulge once in a while, it is important to observe when stress eating develops into a more concerning issue. There are healthier ways to deal with stress and other emotional problems than through stress eating. Consult a doctor or therapist to help you become more equipped in addressing and managing stress.

    Learn Other Healthy Eating Tips here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Expertly reviewed by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Jan Alwyn Batara · Updated Dec 09, 2021

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