Stress-Eating: Why Am I Doing It And How Can I Stop?

Often, the hectic pace of our lives can lead to us developing unhealthy habits that we use as coping mechanisms, such as smoking, procrastination and stress-eating. One anonymous reader experienced exactly this scenario, and asked for help.


I have just started a new job and I’m trying to balance my home life, as I’m a mother of two young children under the age of eight. Although my husband does assist, he also has a stressful work life. Since I started at my new job, I’ve found that I’m putting on weight. What is it that causes people like me to engage in stress-eating, and how can I curb it?


When you are living in accordance with your highest values, you have greater resilience and a lower probability of distress, because you’re willing to embrace challenge and support more equally, and live with more objectivity (even-mindedness). Distress is a result of your perceptions. There’s no such thing as a stressful life; it’s imbalanced perceptions that lead you to the perception of distress. So it would be wise to prioritize your life and adjust your perceptions.

For instance, if I slammed your thumb with a hammer, you would probably perceive it as highly painful and you would see that as distressful. But if I said I will give you a billion rand cash if you let me slam your thumb, you would probably not mind so much at all. Your perception of your thumb being slammed would then be totally different. So it’s more about your perception of what is going to happen that is the distressful part. A lot of things you think or fear are going to happen, don’t. But it’s your anticipation of those things that often cause you distress.

For many people, distress is the fear of the unknown.

In actual fact, there is no such thing as fear of the unknown. It’s fear of the content that you put in your mind that you think is about to occur that’s frightening. It’s fear of the known that you have made up that is an assumption that more drawbacks than benefits are about to occur.

When it comes to overeating or stress-eating, it can go back to the principle that if you don’t fill your day with high-priority actions that inspire you, and that are extremely meaningful and “fulfilling”, which bring self-governance to your behavior, the feeling of unfulfulment will lead you to a desire for eating, for immediate gratification to make you full. If you’re not doing something meaningful, where you have more objectivity and more resilience, you may automatically want to eat to feel better. You see, distressing perceptions can make you want immediate gratification or consumerism, whether you find it in shopping, eating, stimulants or sugar.

Women who are working, running a home, looking after kids – they are wise to plan carefully and prioritize their daily activities to ensure they have enough time to do everything that is truly most important. Sometimes it may seem difficult to stick to a diet or an eating plan, because you’re so busy, but there are certainly ways of eating wisely regardless; it just takes forethought. These days there are people who will deliver quality, wholesome foods to you so that you can manage your time and your eating more effectively. So there is no excuse to say that you don’t have time. If it is truly important, you make time for it.

How can stress-eating be curbed?

If you find that you’re overeating in a distressful situation, prioritize your daily actions so your executive centre will bring you greater objectivity and self-governance. If you have time on your hands to be eating, you have time for high-priority actions. It is wise to eat to live, more than live to eat. A wise first step would be to complete a value determination exercise: work out what’s meaningful to you and start filling your day with meaningful, truly inspiring, high-priority actions. Ask yourself what the highest-priority actions are that you can do today that are most meaningful, most fulfilling, so that you don’t have to fill your life with food and engage with stress-eating. To better understand the impact of stress of your health, click on the following link.

If you’re doing everything for everybody else, and you’re unfulfilled, you’re going to fill yourself anyway. If you have an addiction to overeating, sit down and write an exhaustive list of all of the benefits you are getting by overeating – put stars next to the ones that bring tears to your eyes. Then ask yourself, what are alternative ways of getting the same benefits without eating? If you don’t have an alternative way of getting the same bene t, you will just keep eating, because it’s the only solution you know.

So it is wise to go and find a viable alternative that will give you the most benefits. Take those that satisfy the most benefits and liken them to your highest values. You will then move into doing those activities instead of overeating. For instance, if you have a project and you’ve got a deadline that’s extremely important to you, you won’t let yourself go, because there’s no time for that.

Who is the writer?

John Demartini is founder of the Demartini Institute, a human behavior health specialist, author, educator, health professional and business consultant. Learn more and visit his website at the following link.