Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed

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Managing stress is really hard sometimes, and binge eating might feel like the only way you can cope. Binge eating is a response to stress because your body releases the appetite boosting hormone cortisol as a response to stress.[1] However, binge eating usually makes your problems worse and often leads to weight gain, so you likely want to stop. Combat your cravings by distracting yourself, dealing with your emotions, and learning new ways to cope with stress. Additionally, fight temptation by removing trigger foods and taking good care of yourself.


[Edit]Distracting Yourself from Your Cravings

  1. Challenge yourself to put off your cravings for 10 minutes at a time. It’s really hard to fight cravings, especially when you’re stressed. Instead of telling yourself that you can’t have the food you want, promise yourself that you’ll wait 10 minutes before eating. After 10 minutes, set a goal to wait 10 more. Your craving will likely go away on its own.[2]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 1.jpg
    • If you give in and eat something, don’t get mad at yourself or give up. Instead, start the process over and tell yourself that you’ll wait 10 minutes before eating anything else.
    • Drinking a full glass of water while you wait may help you feel full, which can make it easier to avoid a binge.
  2. Talk to your friend about what’s stressing you out. Venting to a friend is a great way to fight stress binging because it helps keep your mind off food and relieves stress. Call, text, or visit a friend and explain how you feel. Tell them if you’d like some advice or just want to vent.[3]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 2.jpg
    • You might say, “I feel like I have too many work and school assignments to get everything done on time,” or “I’m moving in 2 weeks but haven’t even started packing. I’m not sure how I can get all of this done.”
    • If you’re at work, you might try talking to a trusted coworker or mentor.

      Tip: Hang out with your friends if you can. This will help boost your mood and make you feel less lonely, making you less likely to binge.[4]

  3. Look at funny memes or videos online. Take a few minutes to enjoy something that makes you laugh. Scroll through a site like Reddit, watch videos on YouTube, or search your favorite meme. This will boost your mood so you’re less likely to binge.[5]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 3.jpg
    • Don’t look at memes or videos that have to do with food, as this might make you want food more.
    • For instance, you might watch silly cat videos or song parodies.
  4. Read an engaging book to take your mind off of food. Reading is both a distraction and a stress reliever. Choose a book that draws your full attention and keeps you turning the page. Read as long as time permits or until your cravings go away.[6]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 4.jpg
    • Pick a genre that appeals to you. For instance, you might read the latest young adult novel that’s trending. Alternatively, you could pick a fantasy or sci fi book that immerses you in a different world.
  5. Go for a 10-15 minute walk to clear your mind. A walk will shift your attention away from your stressor and can give you a sense of accomplishment that might help you feel better.[7] Take a short walk outside to help you relax and boost your mood. If you can’t go outside, use the space you have in your home or workplace.[8]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 5.jpg
    • Try to focus on your environment while you’re out walking. Notice the scenery, sounds, smells, and sensations that you experience while you’re walking.
  6. Engage in a hobby to distract yourself while also reducing stress.[9] Pick a hobby that fits your interests and is easy to fit in your schedule. Then, turn to your hobby when you feel tempted to binge due to stress. Set a time limit on your hobby if you can’t spare much time. Here are some hobbies you might try:
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 6.jpg
    • Knit
    • Do puzzles
    • Draw or paint
    • Play a video game
    • Write a blog
    • Make clay figurines
    • Dance
    • Build bird houses
    • Garden

[Edit]Processing Your Emotions

  1. Allow yourself to feel stressed because fighting it makes it worse. When you’re feeling stressed, it’s normal to just want the feeling to go away. However, trying to fight off your feelings of stress can make them worse. Oftentimes, this triggers your binge eating. Instead, give yourself permission to feel stressed.[10]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 7.jpg
    • Tell yourself, “I’m feeling stressed right now, and that’s normal. I’ve got a lot to do right now.”
  2. Identify why you’re feeling stressed. Anything can create stress, including happy things in your life. Think about what was happening when you started to feel stressed and about what you feel pressured to accomplish. Make a quick list of what you believe is stressing you out.[11]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 8.jpg
    • You can make a mental or physical list.
    • You might write things like, “meeting deadlines at work,” “cleaning the house before guests arrive,” “planning Luisa’s birthday,” and “paying this month’s bills.”

      Warning: If you can’t find a reason for your stress, it’s possible that you’re dealing with a mental health condition like generalized anxiety disorder. Talk to your doctor to find out if you might need treatment.

  3. Notice how the stress is making your body feel. Negative emotions tend to manifest in your body in some way. As an example, stress could be causing tightness in your chest, pain in your shoulders or back, or an upset stomach. Close your eyes and focus on how you’re feeling to see how stress is affecting you. Then, concentrate on releasing that sensation.[12]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 9.jpg
    • For example, you might realize that your shoulders are feeling tensed. Take a deep breath and try to release that tension.
  4. Use positive self-talk to remind yourself that stress is temporary. When you’re feeling overwhelmed, it can feel like there’s no end to it. This can drive you to your unhealthy coping strategy of binge eating. Change your outlook by trying to stay positive. Remind yourself that you’ll get through this and the feeling is not forever.[13]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 10.jpg
    • Tell yourself something like, “I’ve handled this before and I know this feeling will go away,” or “I know I’ll be okay if I just keep going.”
  5. Talk to a therapist if you’re having trouble coping with your feelings. You may not be able to cope with your feelings on your own, and that’s okay. A therapist can help you process your feelings and learn new ways to cope. This might help you stop binge eating when you’re stressed. Ask your doctor to refer you to a therapist or look for a therapist online.[14]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 11.jpg
    • Your insurance may pay for your therapist visits, so check your benefits.

[Edit]Adopting Healthy Coping Strategies

  1. Meditate for 15-30 minutes a day to help you relax. Set a timer for how long you want to meditate. Sit or stand in a comfortable position, then close your eyes. Take long, deep breaths and focus on your breath. If your mind wanders, gently bring it back to your breath.[15]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 12.jpg
    • It may help to count your breaths.
    • You could also follow a guided meditation using an app like Headspace, Calm, or Insight Timer.
  2. Do breathing exercises to calm down when you feel stressed. Breathing exercises can help you feel relaxed and calm and help release tension in your body. Use breathing exercises when you feel stressed or to help you manage your daily stresses. Here are some breathing exercises you might try:[16]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 13.jpg
    • Inhale through your nose for a 5-count, then hold your breath as you count to 5. Exhale slowly out of your mouth for a 5-count. Repeat 5 times.
    • Cover 1 of your nostrils, then slowly inhale through your open nostril. Exhale slowly through the same nostril, then switch nostrils and repeat. Do 5 breaths on each side.
    • Lie down and place 1 hand over your chest and the other over you stomach. Inhale slowly through your nose and draw the air down into your lungs. Your stomach should rise but your chest shouldn’t. Hold your breath for 1-2 seconds, then slowly exhale through your mouth.
  3. Use aromatherapy to calm yourself down. Take a whiff of an essential oil to help you relax. Alternatively, mix 1-2 drops of essential oil into .5 cups (120 mL) of a carrier oil, like jojoba or grapeseed oil, then rub the oil onto your skin. If you’re taking a bath, add 3-5 drops of essential oil to your bath water. Here are some scents that may help you feel relaxed:[17]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 14.jpg
    • Lavender
    • Lemon
    • Yuzu
    • Bergamot
    • Ylang Ylang
    • Clary sage
    • Jasmine
  4. Perform progressive muscle relaxation to release muscle tension. Sit or lie in a comfortable position. Then, focus on your toes, tighten them, and release. Work your way up from your toes to your shoulders, tensing and relaxing each set of muscles. This should help you feel calm.[18]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 15.jpg
    • You can use this technique when you’re feeling overwhelmed or as a daily exercise to help you manage your daily stress.
  5. Do yoga to help you release stress and breathe better. Yoga helps you focus on your breath and connect your body and mind. Learn a few yoga poses and do them when you’re feeling stressed. For a deeper practice, take a yoga class for a guided routine and expert advice about your form. Alternatively, follow along with a yoga video workout.[19]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 16.jpg
    • Search online for a yoga studio or gym that offers yoga classes in your area. You may be able to pay per class, but some places might require you purchase a membership.
  6. Express your feelings through art to help you cope. Artistic outlets like drawing, painting, and writing help you process your feelings. Pick a creative outlet that feels right for you or try different ways of expressing your creativity. Here are some ideas:[20]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 17.jpg
    • Do pencil sketches in a notebook.
    • Take a painting class.
    • Color in an adult coloring book.
    • Write in a journal or express your feelings through stories.
    • Write poetry about how you feel.

[Edit]Resisting Temptation to Binge

  1. Throw out all of the foods you typically binge. It’ll be harder for you to binge when you’re stressed if you don’t have the foods you’re craving. Clean out your pantry, cabinets, and refrigerator. Get rid of foods that tempt you to binge, then restock your kitchen with healthier options, like veggies and nuts.[21]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 18.jpg
    • Even if you do resort to binging, it’s better to eat healthy food like baby carrots or grapes.
  2. Stop keeping sugary and high calorie foods in your home. After your kitchen clean out, commit to not buying junk food for your home. This will make it much more difficult for you to binge. If you want to indulge in your favorite treats or snacks, buy a single serving and stick to that.[22]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 19.jpg
    • You don’t have to be afraid of the foods you like. However, it’s best to keep them out of your home if you know you might binge them.
  3. Eat a meal every 2-3 hours so you don’t get too hungry. It’s harder to resist a binge if you’re hungry, so eat every few hours to stave off hunger. Plan healthy meals that will give you the nutrients you need and help you feel full.[23] Build your meals around lean protein and veggies.
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 20.jpg
    • For instance, you might eat egg whites with spinach and tomatoes for breakfast, a salad with tuna fish for lunch, and roasted chicken with potatoes and zucchini for dinner. For snacks, munch on baby carrots, apple slices, and almonds.
    • Restricting your food intake will only lead to more binging. Be sure to give your body the nutrients it needs each day.[24]
  4. Choose antioxidant-rich foods to help stave off cravings. Eating nutritious foods may help keep you satiated so you’re less likely to binge. Additionally, these foods may help you be in a better mood, which can help you deal with stress. Incorporate antioxidant-rich foods into your meals. Here are some foods you could try:[25]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 21.jpg
    • Avocados
    • Blueberries
    • Salmon
    • Almonds
    • Dark chocolate
    • Veggies
  5. Take a different route home if you stress eat after work. Work stress is a common issue, and you might feel like binging after a hard day. If you drive past food places where you normally stop, change your route so that you’re less tempted to binge on your way home. This might help you change your habits so you can finally stop binging.[26]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 22.jpg
    • As an example, let’s say you’re tempted to stop at a fast food place for comfort food on your way home. A different route could help you break this habit because you won’t be passing that place anymore.
  6. Sleep 7-9 hours a night to help you manage your stress. Being tired makes it hard for you to resist the temptation to binge. Additionally, it’s hard to handle stress. Help yourself stay well-rested by going to bed at the same time every night. Additionally, follow a sleep routine to help you fall asleep faster.[27]
    Avoid Binge Eating when Stressed Step 23.jpg
    • A good sleep routine might include taking a warm bath, getting into your pajamas, and reading a chapter of a book in bed.
    • Turn off your screens at least an hour before bed. The blue light from your screens can keep you awake.


  • Don’t give up if you have a day where you slip-up. You’ll likely cave to temptation at times, but focus on getting back on track right away.[28]


  • While you may not need to worry if you’re only binge eating occasionally, binge eating is an eating disorder that may require treatment. Talk to your doctor if you’re binge eating often to see if you need additional help.[29]


  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
  2. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.htm
  3. https://familydoctor.org/emotional-eating-in-children-and-teens/
  4. https://familydoctor.org/emotional-eating-in-children-and-teens/
  5. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.htm
  6. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/emotional-eating.htm
  7. [v161627_b01]. 21 October 2020.
  8. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.htm
  9. [v161627_b01]. 21 October 2020.
  10. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.htm
  11. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/stress/causes-of-stress/
  12. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/about/copingwith-stresstips.html
  13. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/3-tips-to-manage-stress
  14. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/binge-eating/treatment/
  15. https://www.apa.org/topics/mindfulness/meditation
  16. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/breathing-exercises-for-stress/
  17. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/urban-survival/201604/six-aromatherapy-essential-oils-stress-relief-and-sleep
  18. https://www.anxietycanada.com/articles/how-to-do-progressive-muscle-relaxation/
  19. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/yoga-stress.html
  20. https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/the_benefits_art_therapy_can_have_on_mental_and_physical_health
  21. https://www.helpguide.org/articles/eating-disorders/binge-eating-disorder.htm
  22. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat
  23. [v161627_b01]. 21 October 2020.
  24. [v161627_b01]. 21 October 2020.
  25. http://www.center4research.org/stress-binge-eating-avoid/
  26. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/never-binge-again/201901/how-stop-binge-eating-in-three-unusual-steps
  27. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/never-binge-again/201901/how-stop-binge-eating-in-three-unusual-steps
  28. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20047342
  29. https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/conditions/binge-eating/treatment/

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