How to Stop Stress Eating / Emotional Eating / Overeating During the Holidays

Today, what I'd like to talk to you about is how to stop stress eating / emotional eating / overeating, especially during the holidays when it's so easy and there are buffets and sugary treats everywhere. So, if you have ever had the experience of sitting down, maybe it's in front of your phone to watch a Netflix show, or grazing on a holiday buffet until all of a sudden you just feel like you have a stomach ache and you don't know why you ate so much food, then this video is for you.

Signs You Might Be Stress Eating / Emotional Eating

What are some signs that you might be stress eating or emotionally eating, rather than eating because you're actually hungry?

Some of the ways to know that you might be stress eating or emotionally eating are watching for warning signs like craving a lot of sugary treats. Do you find yourself sitting down with a donut, or a pint of ice cream, or a box of cookies, or whatever it is? Rather than portioning yourself out some reasonable amount, are you just eating because…you're not even sure why? Maybe you're just eating because you feel like you need to and then you look down, and all of a sudden the entire bar of chocolate is gone, or the box of cookies, or the pint of ice cream, whatever it is, right?

Maybe, like I said, you go to a holiday buffet and you're feeling a little bit anxious in a social situation and so you just stand by the buffet table and you keep picking little bits of food and pretending that you're busy. And you're using that as your way to mitigate the stress and the anxiety of being in an event or a social situation that's uncomfortable for you.

Maybe you notice that you are just mindlessly picking at crackers or chips or cookies because you're bored, or you're idle for a moment, and you're like, "Wait a minute, why am I actually eating? Is it just because I'm bored?"

Or maybe you find that you often eat until the point of discomfort, or over-fullness, and that's how you know when to stop.

Those are some of the signs that you might be stress eating or emotionally eating.

What Are the Costs of Binge Eating Junk Food?

Now, what are the costs to our system of eating this way? There's so many health costs! Costs like:

  • Obesity and/or weight gain

  • Low self-esteem because of the weight gain (and then we don't want to be seen in public or take our clothes off in the yoga locker room, etc.)

  • Or it could be more serious health risks like:

    • Diabetes

    • Heart disease

    • Etc.

  • You could have a lot of fatigue if you eat a lot of sugary treats, because your blood sugar spikes and then crashes.

Why Do We Stress Eat / Emotional Eat?

Why do we do this to ourselves? Why do we continue to engage in this behavior that we know does not benefit us? My guess: It’s because it takes the edge off of something in your life.

Maybe it's boredom, you don't like to experience boredom, so you eat because you're bored, and that takes your mind off of it, it gives you a little dopamine hit, and you feel a little bit better, temporarily.

Maybe it is anxiety, like I talked about the social situations of being in a holiday party where you don't know people, so you're just eating to ease your anxiety. Maybe it is loneliness, because you've just had a breakup, or you lost somebody around the holidays, or you are away from friends or family, and you're feeling really lonely, so you go to Trader Joe's and you buy a chocolate bar and you eat that, and it temporarily makes you feel better, right?

Maybe you just had a crappy day and you're like, "Oh, I need this to ease the crappy day". But the problem with that is it's like trying to quench your thirst by drinking salt water. There's a temporary relief because you're like, "Oh, it's liquid. I feel so much better" and then afterwards you feel even more thirsty.

The loneliness or the anxiety or the depression or whatever it is comes back tenfold and then it is added to by all of the nasty stories that we tell ourselves about all that food that we just ate. Not super helpful.

How to Stop Stress Eating / Emotional Eating

And What to Do Instead…

So, how do we stop doing this? Next time you notice that you're about to frantically eat something, I want you to just pause long enough to breathe and ask yourself what are you avoiding? By eating this chocolate bar or this piece of cookie or this ice cream or this cake or whatever it is, what are you avoiding? What are you substituting that for?

When you have that answer, what I want you to do is ask yourself what you really need in that moment. What could you do instead to meet that need, besides eating another bon-bon?

If it's loneliness, could you reach out to a friend? If it is anxiety, could you breathe and use a mindfulness technique? If it is boredom, could you recognize that and breathe and allow it to pass, or find something else to do that might not have less negative effects associated with it?

If you want to stop stress eating / emotional eating / overeating but find it’s hard…

Mindfulness and Stress Management Can Help

Now, if you find that's really hard for you and you're looking at me like, "Yeah Becky, whatever. Okay, well I'm still miserable, this isn't going to help," what I want you to do is check out the info below for my upcoming stress management group. I'm starting another section in January, and I teach people a lot of tricks and mindfulness techniques to help you breathe and work through some of these difficult moments. Moments when we might otherwise reach for chocolate, or something even less helpful, like alcohol or something else.

I would love to chat with you about the challenges you are facing and help you come up with a plan to shift back into healthier patterns. Click the button below for more info on the upcoming Stress Management Group and fill out the form to find out if group is right for you.


For more information on how individual psychotherapy or coaching can help you catch this behavior as it’s happening and stop it by addressing the issues underneath your stress or emotional eating, check out the Individual Therapy & Coaching page.