03/17/2015 12:16 pm ET | Updated May 17, 2015

Use These Tiny Tweaks and Stop Stress Eating


Stress eating happens for most of us, given the right circumstances. Even people who don't usually struggle with overeating turn to food when they're overwhelmed, overworked, or overtired. It's complicated, because when you're stressed, you don't have a lot of extra bandwidth to problem solve -- and your willpower and discipline are probably in short supply, too.

That's okay. Your plan of attack doesn't need to be complicated or time-consuming to get results.

Do your best to make these eight small adjustments during stressful times to feel more in control, keep hidden hungers from getting the best of you, and be less vulnerable to stress eating.

Eight tiny hacks you can use to beat stress eating.

  1. Minimize mindless eating. Set a no multi-tasking rule while you eat. I know you feel time-crunched, but try this. It helps.
  2. Pay extra attention to transition times between activities (which tend to disappear or even overlap when you're stressed). People stress eat during transitions from one task or role to another or use food as a way to numb out, revive themselves, or procrastinate. Instead, give yourself even five minutes to pause, breathe, make a cup of tea, or close your eyes and clear your mind before diving in to the next activity.
  3. Make a second column in your to-do list. Label it "Who Can Help Me with This." Don't fall into the trap of feeling too busy to take the time to ask for help. You'll end up more overwhelmed and, quite likely, overeating.
  4. Don't let yourself get too hungry (when you're more apt to lose control and make choices you regret). Set a reminder if you need to, but eat at regular intervals. Invest the time to make a plan for what you'll eat ahead of time. It will be worth it.
  5. Find ways to connect with yourself and to stay aware of your feelings, your hunger, and your needs. Set a reminder on your phone to check in with yourself. You'll be more able to give yourself what you really need instead of letting hidden hungers (like exhaustion or emotions) trigger a binge you'll regret.
  6. Leverage the value of five minutes. A quick walk, a change of scenery, some easy stretches, or watching a funny video online can help you recalibrate and avoid stress eating when you're feeling overwhelmed.
  7. Strategize to avoid night eating. Create a wind-down ritual that includes some nice things for you without including food.
  8. Fire your perfectionist. When things don't go as planned (or go totally off the rails) leverage the opportunity for learning instead of writing things off as a "failure." What's the experience telling you that you can use to tweak and adjust your strategies as you move forward?

This article was previously published at where Dr. Melissa McCreery shares tips and resources for moving beyond the 3 Os - overwhelm, overload, and overeating - so that you can create a life you love. To get useful tips and strategies for making changes that last, join her free newsletter and sign up to take the free Hidden Hungers Quiz.