3 Tips To Break The Vicious Cycle Of Emotional Overeating

To put it as simply as possible, mental stress occurs when the reality of the situation we’re in does not live up to our expectations.

Here’s an example: We expected to get in our cars and drive to work in the Google Maps estimated time of 15 minutes. Instead, we find that a fender bender has the road backed up for miles and our commute has suddenly turned into a 30-minute drive. Stress might start to ensue.


Expectations Lead To Stress

Some of us are able to relinquish our expectations or go into situations without expectations more easily than others. And there are ways to practice this to become better at it, such as:

  • Simply recognizing when you are feeling stressed and what your expectation of the situation is
  • Mindfulness meditation
  • Deep-breathing exercises

While feeling stress is frustrating in and of itself, it also impacts many of our actions, including how we eat.


Think of the last time you truly felt stressed. Did you turn to food? If so, what food was it? How much of it did you eat?

When we get really honest with ourselves, we often see that we tend to overeat when we’re stressed. But why?


Stress Leads To Overeating

People overeat for a variety of different reasons, so learning to recognize what the cause is can be really helpful in preventing this slippery slope.

And we know from studies that stress, which is inevitable, makes people tend to overeat and particularly on higher-fat foods (donuts, cookies, brownies, etc.). Knowing this can make it easier to choose nutritious foods when you’re in the height of it.


By allowing the cycle of overeating out of stress (or any other emotion) to continue, we continuously suppress our true hunger and satiety cues. This makes it harder to tell when you’re hungry and when you’re full.

There are some exceptions when overeating can be justified. Think of a big celebration or party. Overeating in these rare circumstances and situations won’t prevent you from feeling your hunger and satiety cues.


It’s when we overeat (or undereat, or eat with other sporadic habits) regularly that these cues become less and less prominent.

How To Stop Overeating

If overeating from stress is a regular struggle for you, there are a few things you can do to regain more “regular” eating habits.


1. Find Nutritious Alternatives

Simply find more nutritious foods to swap for the foods you typically overeat.

Do you tend to grab some sort of chocolate candy bar when you’re feeling stressed? Opt for dark chocolate, which contains antioxidants that can help to protect your cells.


The temptation may be to eat fried, fatty foods or to turn to sweets, like ice cream. But remember your goals: overall health and wellness.

Have a smaller scoop of ice cream with some fresh strawberries or make baked fries instead of deep-fried ones.

Small swaps like these can make a huge impact over time. But it’s important to understand that this will not target the causes of overeating.

2. Eat Routine Meals

Help your body regain its natural hunger and satiety cues by eating routine meals each and every day. Schedule your breakfast, lunch, dinner, and a snack or two for the same times each day.

This is not the end goal, this is simply a means to an end.

After allowing your body some time to “reset” by realizing that it will get fuel in a normalized way, you’ll start to feel those hunger cues again and eventually be able to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.

3. Understand The Root Cause

You must address the issues that cause you to eat sporadically! Whether it’s stress, anger, or boredom, understanding the problem makes it much easier to solve.

Journaling can be one really therapeutic way to understand how certain emotions or feelings may impact your actions.