Why Am I Always Stress Eating? How To Cope With Stress Better

Reviewed by Whitney White, MS CMHC, NCC., LPC

Published 06/27/2022

Stress is something that everyone in the world has to deal with in some fashion. You aren’t ever going to get yourself in a position where you have no stress, but some people do need to learn how to alleviate stress better. There are millions of people who have issues with stress eating that can become quite problematic. You might even start stress eating so often that you begin to gain weight, which can be an additional stressor.

Read on to learn a bit more about why people stress eat. You’ll also understand coping mechanisms that can make it easier to deal with the stress that you’re experiencing. It can be disheartening to feel like you’re going through a stressful time in life, but understanding your options for coping with stress can help you.

Why Do People Stress Eat?

What is stress eating? If you look at the stress eating definition, you’ll see that a stress eater is someone who eats in response to a stressful situation. This is a coping mechanism for stress because a person is just trying to feel better after having a hard time. When you’ve just gone through a terrible day at work, it might be tempting to eat that pint of ice cream that you had in the refrigerator. Many people will eat much more than they should during stress eating because they’re chasing positive feelings.

You might know that eating food gives you a positive feeling. Your body does let you know that eating is a good activity that is necessary for survival. You’ll get a hit of dopamine every time you eat something, and this positive feeling is one reason people eat to relieve stress. Eating and stress can go hand-in-hand for some people.

Recognize That There Is A Problem

The first step is to recognize that there is a problem with your stress eating. You have to be honest and say “I stress eat” before you’re going to be able to fix it. Many people deny that they’re doing anything harmful when they start stress eating. They don’t think that it’s a very big deal, but it can wind up cascading into a much larger problem faster than some will realize. If you are honest with yourself and understand that it’s an issue that needs to be addressed, you can move forward.

You need to keep this in mind the next time that you feel stressed out. If you understand that eating a lot of food is not a healthy way to deal with stress, then you’ll be more likely to do something else to try to alleviate stress instead. Of course, some people are going to struggle to resist the urge to stress eat. It isn’t always going to be easy to go against your impulses to eat like this, but you can do it with enough willpower. It can also be very useful to know that other coping mechanisms for stress are available.

Start Exercising

Exercise is perfect for alleviating stress, and it’s certainly going to be a better course of action than stress eating. If you take the time to exercise, you’ll notice your stress symptoms dissipate. Exercise is a type of natural stress relief that can make you feel good. Exercising releases endorphins in your bloodstream that will boost your mood. You can use it as a reliable way to battle stress when you’re feeling anxious.

It’s also nice to know that exercising can help you to get closer to your fitness goals. You could lose weight by exercising to cope with stress. It’s best to talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise routine. You want to make sure that certain exercise types won’t interfere with any medications you’re on. It’s also best to be safe and to know that you’re physically capable of doing certain types of exercise.

Change Your Diet

Changing up your diet can be a very good way to get your stress problem under control. Instead of eating foods such as sugary snacks and processed foods, it’s going to be wise to switch to eating healthy meals. You can try to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet to get yourself feeling better than ever.

You also might want to think about the type of things that you’re drinking. Many people like to drink sodas containing a lot of sugar, which can be very bad for your body. Even the diet versions of these drinks should only be consumed in moderation due to the caffeine content. If you’re careful about the things that you drink, it’ll be easier to stave off stress. Dietary changes might not keep you from feeling stressed completely, but they can positively impact your body and mind.

Stop Smoking

Lots of people say that they smoke cigarettes as a way to deal with stress. This is incredibly harmful to your body, and it can even make anxiety symptoms worse than they would otherwise be. The idea that smoking alleviates stress in any meaningful way is actually a misnomer. The next time someone tells you that they can’t stop smoking because they need it do deal with stress you’ll know better. This is an incorrect label that makes smoking seem like it has a benefit when it actually doesn’t.

Reduce Sources of Stress

Most people are going to have at least a minor understanding of what their stress factors are. Stress factors are things that are known to cause you stress in life. For example, you might get overly stressed out when it’s busy at work. It’s also possible to get stressed when you aren’t getting along with a family member or friend. If you can reduce stress sources in your life, you might not be tempted to stress eat so much. It isn’t possible to entirely eliminate stress sources, but you can limit how much they impact your life.

It might even be necessary to take a little bit of time off from work. You can easily overwork yourself and wind up feeling very stressed because of it. A little bit of downtime might be enough to turn things around for you. Don’t work more than your body can handle so that you won’t let your stress levels get out of control. If you’re more mindful of your personal limitations, then it should be simpler to manage stress moving forward.

Start Spending More Time on Your Hobbies

Try to start spending more time on your hobbies so that you can reduce your stress levels. There are lots of hobbies that you can consider participating in. Some people like to start gardening as a way to get rid of stress. Others will just want to sit down with a good book and get lost in it. You might even be more inclined to play video games with your friends as a form of stress relief. Any of these hobbies can be perfectly fine as a form of stress relief, and you should try them out if they sound good to you.

There are also more physical activities in nature that can help you work on your fitness goals. Playing sports such as basketball, tennis, hockey, and soccer could help you get the exercise you need. You can combine your love of sports with your need to exercise very easily. Just do whatever sounds practical to you so that you can get those stress levels where they need to be.

Turn to Your Support System

Turning to your support system for help when you’re stressed is sensible. You can spend time talking to family and friends who care about you when you’re going through a difficult time. Venting on the phone with your best friend can be a good form of stress relief. Some people like cuddling on the couch with their significant others when they’ve had a bad day, too. This can help to keep you from stress eating if you utilize it right.

Get Help for Anxiety Problems

Getting help for anxiety problems is highly recommended when you’re in need. Millions of people struggle with anxiety each day, and you don’t have to go it alone. You can speak to your doctor about what you’ve been experiencing so that you can start figuring out a treatment plan. If you’re unsure whether or not you have anxiety, it might be helpful to take this anxiety test. It can give you a better idea of whether you’re experiencing anxiety symptoms or if you’re just a little stressed.