How to Stop Stress Eating

Stress and Weight Gain

Today's article comes from Debi Silber, a recognized health, weight loss, fitness, wellness, and personal development expert, and founder of Her work has helped 1000s of people get their ‘mojo' back, which is of course this elusive thing that's hard to describe. But when you lose it, you just kind of know…

She wrote a piece about the connection between stress and weight gain, which is something a lot of us have dealt with. We love Deb and her work, so we thought we'd pass along her very helpful article.

The Connection Between Stress and Weight Gain

Stress can contribute to everything from aging and weight gain to illness and disease. In other words, stress makes us sick, fat, old and exhausted.

Have you noticed that whenever you stress about the venue where you’re hosting that all-important fundraising gala or whether you picked the right caterer, you’re prone to gaining a few pounds, especially around the midsection? That’s because there’s a link between stress and weight gain.

By understanding when you’re prone to stressing and what to do about it, you will not only feel healthier, but also a little lighter on your toes.

When you’re stressed, it’s unlikely that you want to devote any extra effort or energy to reading labels, preplanning healthy meals or snacks, or making healthier food choices. You want relief!

Understanding what causes you to be stressed and your habitual behaviors when stressed can help, though. We can't eliminate stress from our lives completely, so it's best to learn how to coexist with it.

First we'll talk about what we tend to do when we're stressed…

Emotional Eating

They’re called comfort foods for a reason. It’s not just the food we’re reaching for—we’re looking for that feeling we had when those foods were served to us long ago. For example, if you had a bad day and Mom or Dad thought you’d feel better by taking you out for ice cream, as an adult you may now associate that ice cream with those warm feelings of comfort and support.

When you’re under stress, you’re looking for a surge of neurotransmitters, a flow of brain chemicals, specifically because of the feelings they provide. You’re looking for serotonin and dopamine.

These powerful chemicals give us a sense of peace and calm and trigger the reward and pleasure centers of our brain. Food, especially foods we love and have good memories of, can trigger these chemicals. It's no wonder we turn to them when we're stressed!

What Happens When We Eat Under Stress

For emotional eaters, stress provides the perfect reason for a binge. When you eat emotionally, you’re eating to soothe, calm, numb or relax from your problems or pain. You’re self-medicating, and food is simply your drug of choice.

While others may look toward numbing themselves with alcohol, drugs, TV or reckless behavior, emotional eaters have found that food offers some readily available, temporary relief.

Here's the problem…

Under normal circumstances, food goes into the body and gets digested. Some of it goes to the liver to be converted to glycogen and is stored in the muscles during a process called gluconeogenesis. Food becomes fuel to energize us and keep us healthy. When you’re stressed, however, the same food goes through a different process. Instead of getting digested properly, the stress hormone cortisol rages through your system and drives fat storage, especially to your middle.

That’s why you may have noticed some belly fat that seems so unusual for you, or stubborn belly fat that just won’t seem to budge. As if that weren’t bad enough, that belly fat is also the most dangerous because it’s surrounding your vital organs.

Ok, so what can we do?

How to Stop Stress Eating

So now that you know how that stubborn weight got there, what can you do? The first step is to identify your stressors.

What ignites the stress response within you? Is it something within your control? Is it because you took on too much or let your boundaries get crossed? Did you put yourself in a difficult situation?

Once you’ve identified what’s behind your stress, it’s time to find a way to manage it. If it’s within your control, it’s certainly best to cut out the stressor or at the very least minimize it as best you can.

If it’s not within your control, the only thing you can do is find a healthier way to manage it. That could mean finding a healthier outlet for your stress through exercise, meditation, journal writing or carving out time to relax.

It also could mean learning to say no to preserve your time and sanity, or it could mean making the effort to spend some time doing something that brings you joy.

Most importantly, it means finding a way for you to turn off the raging stress response that contributes to aging, weight gain, illness and disease. Stress is undeniably an occupational hazard, in some jobs more than others, so take the needed precautions to ensure you are at the top of your game and light on your feet.

What are you methods for dealing with stess?

Deb Silber

This article was contributed by, Debi Silber, MS, RD, WHC, FDN, founder of The Mojo Coach. She is a recognized expert in weight loss, fitness and personal development. Silber is a popular speaker, author and counselor. She spoke at the Smart Meetings event in New Orleans earlier this year, and contributes wellness news for Fox, CBS, The Dr. Oz Show, Forbes and The Huffington Post. Sign up to receive her 20 Insider Secrets to Achieving Your Ultimate Lifestyle by visiting

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