Tips to avoid stress eating for a better diet and a healthy heart


Chronic stress can contribute to heart disease. Compensating for stress by eating makes it worse. The good news is that we can avoid stress eating with some simple steps. This helps your diet, waistline and heart.

Eating during stressful times helps us deal with feelings. Those feelings could include:

  • Anxiety
  • Anger
  • Sadness
  • Loneliness
  • Boredom
  • Excitement
Managing these feelings through food can be helpful and can contribute to a vicious circle that you can and should get out of.

Tips to Avoid Stress Eating

1. Don’t buy tempting foods.

If they are not in your pantry or fridge, chances are you won’t bother leaving the house to get them. "Out of sight, out of mind" does help!

This is true even for foods that are not necessarily "cheats" but ones you would eat because you are bored or looking for something to distract you from the task at hand.

2. "Ride the wave." Redirect and choose something else to do besides eating to reduce stress.

For example, consider:
  • taking a walk
  • reading
  • listening to music
  • calling a friend
  • playing with a pet

Your list should include many options. Realize that breaking a behavioral pattern like "stress-eating" requires trying new responses more than once.

3. Confront "stress eating" verbally.

Right when it happens, when you catch yourself with your hand in the proverbial cookie jar, describe why eating will improve your situation. Your verbal description (even if just to yourself) can quell the urge to overeat.

4. Be mindful.

Pay attention to your physical cues of fullness and hunger. Deciding when to eat and when to stop eating should be based on these physical feelings rather than your emotional state. Only eat when you are actually hungry. Avoid stress eating.

It helps to use the hunger scale pictured here.

When you start feeling hungry, rate your hunger on a scale of 0 to 10 (with 0 as starving and 10 as stuffed). A rating of 5 to 6 means you are not too hungry or too full. If you feel like eating but you are at level 6, stop and assess. Ask yourself if you are eating because of physiological hunger.

Following these tips can help you avoid stress eating and help our hearts be healthy.