How to Stop Stress Eating and Start Feeling Awesome

Your kids are hyped up on holiday hormones and the whole family has a permanent cold and there is snot EVERYWHERE, your boss is lighting a fire under you to close deals and finish up a million things in Q4, your parents keep hounding you to nail down your plans to drag you and your (what seems like 15) screaming kids across the country to visit for 36 hours and the house can’t seem to stay organized. 

So, as you begin to shut down your fight or flight response at the end of each day and your butt settles into the couch, you grab a harmless bag of [insert your comfort food of choice]. With every intention of treating yourself to a few bites of your favorite treat as a reward to a stressful day, before you know it, and without even being hungry, you’ve polished off the entire bag and, somehow, half of your pantry. 

Sound familiar? 

Comfort eating is common and understandable.

While, for some, there is a very real emotional eating issue that needs to be dealt with with a therapist, for many of you feeling like you need to address the Comfort Beast in the room, I have some tips here to help wrangle him out of your life. 

Before I get into that, I want to point out that habitual comfort eating does NOT mean that you have no will power and are doomed to a life of sabotaging all of your healthy living efforts.

Just for some perspective: imagine how unhealthy you would be if you did that without having earned S.Well 13 points (if you’ve never worked with me, S.Well points are my system for helping you learn to make healthy choices throughout the day)? So, you are still doing a good job and you should still give yourself a high five for getting in that workout and drinking all that water because that is STILL awesome. 

So, even if you make no changes, you can still live a healthy(ish) life without banishing the Comfort Beast from your home, however, it can be frustrating to want make progress and feel like you are getting in your own way every. single. night. And that stress and guilt (and extra calories) are definitely stalling your progress and they don’t have to be something you carry around. 

Here are my 4 favorite tips for exorcising the Comfort Beast from taking control of your body:

  1. Drink water:

    If you didn’t know I would put this one in here, you don’t know me well enough (so let’s hang out!)! We are trying to manage our cravings but, more importantly, we are trying to manage our stress. And being dehydrated stresses your body OUT. If you’re chronically dehydrated, you may not even notice but you don’t feel well when you’re dehydrated. Physically feeling unwell causes your stress hormones to increase as your body tries to figure out what’s wrong. So don’t put yourself through that. Just drink water.

  2. Eat consistently during the day:

    Same same as above! Giving yourself nutrient dense and satiating food in regular intervals throughout the day will not only keep your stress hormones under control, but you will be treating yourself to delicious food throughout the day and not saving yourself for the yummy dinner and night binge later that night. Find nutrient dense snacks and meals that you are excited about. Make lunch a bigger meal than dinner. You will be happy to be fed and your body will be nourished all day long so that Comfort Beast will have a lot more fighting to do to get into your head.  

  3. DON’T tell yourself no:

    Say hi to the beast, acknowledge he is there and take back the steering wheel of your brain. DO NOT tell yourself that you are a bad person for letting CB take over (because you’re awesome for so many reasons!). You are in control and you have the power to keep him (her?) at bay. So take that control and acknowledge the validity of what you want. Want some of that leftover halloween candy? That’s legit! Feel like ordering Chinese instead of cooking that meal you planned? I get that!

    BUT before you grab that treat (or cocktail) or place that order, tell yourself you’ll do ONE healthy thing first: drink a pint of water, do 5 minutes of exercise, walk around the block or eat a healthy nutrient dense snack, drink some water and wait 15 minutes. IF you’ve done those things and still want to reach for that treat, do it! Now you’re more mindful, more calm, and you’ve decided this is the choice you want to make. Portion it out to something reasonable so you feel good with your choice. If you want another serving, repeat the whole process again!

  4. De-stress:

    Start by NOT grabbing for the comfort food amidst chaos. Make yourself wait until the kids are in bed or until after you finish that pile of work. If it comes on strong amidst the chaos, at least run through step 3 first! And if you need some more stress management help throughout the day, stop and focus on your breathing for a minute whenever you think about it. And check out this blog for more stress relief tools!