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How to Stop Eating When You're Stressed

Are You a Stress Eater?

We are pumped to share one of our favorite stories from Prevention here on FitSugar!

How to respond to stressful situations without heading to the fridge!

By Melissa Roberson, Prevention

If we could all try to learn healthier habits in a stress-free bubble (real life, in other words), the going would be a lot easier. Who hasn’t received an irritating email and had a sudden urge for a bag of chips, not baked?

When it comes to weight loss, stress reduction is extremely important, according to Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, and author of the just-published The Hunger Fix. "When life’s stresses hit, you must learn to adapt and adjust without resorting to self-destructive habits — your False Fixes," she writes.

"Studies have shown," writes Peeke, "that forming what is referred to as an implementation intention (‘If I encounter situation X, then I will perform behavior Y') increases your probability of carrying out your goals.


"These problem-solving skills require creativity, and by flexing those cognitive and creative muscles . . . you’ll also exercise and thus strengthen your PFC [prefrontal cortex], giving you a Healthy Fix that will make you more creative! Definition of a virtuous cycle."

Thirteen Foods That Fight Stress

Learn how to fight stress eating after the break!

Peeke offers these guidelines for trying out this approach:

1. First, be aware of your usual life stresses. Think about what was happening in your life when you had your last big tussle with False Fixes. Fill in this blank: "I was doing fine until ___ happened."

2. Then think about which False Fixes you "took" to get through the situation . . . These are the maladaptive knee-jerk reactions that have packed on the pounds over the years.

3. Last, activate your PFC and adapt and adjust your responses based on your Healthy Hunger. Write down every suggestion you have for a Healthy Fix alternative.

4. Be proactive and plan for the typical False Fix land mines you know you’ll encounter. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

The Real-Life Stress Survival Guide

Here’s an Adjust and Adapt Plan that Peeke offers for five common stress scenarios:

1. Work Deadline

False Fix Response:
Stress eating, late nights, too much caffeine, too little sleep.

Healthy Fix Response: Get up from your desk every 30 minutes and stretch, sip green tea, chew gum, do minimeditations, eat healthy foods every three to four hours.

2. Kids Sick

False Fix Response:
Skip exercise, stress out over missed work responsibilities, lose temper, eat mindlessly, don't sleep enough.

Healthy Fix Response: Do yoga/Pilates stretches or dance to a Zumba DVD while the kids sleep, take naps when possible, delegate some work to a co-worker whom you’ll pay back.

Stress-Relieving Yoga Poses

3. Business Travel

False Fix Response:
Airport and airplane food, buffet breakfasts, skipped meals, late nights drinking, midnight in-room dining, raiding the minibar in the hotel room, no exercise.

Healthy Fix Response: Bring your own travel food (dried fruit, nuts, peanut butter on mini whole wheat pita); stock the fridge in the hotel room with yogurt, cottage cheese, and fruit; set your curfew for 11 p.m.; use the hotel gym before breakfast; get rid of the minibar; drink sparkling water instead of alcohol; sleep seven to eight hours.

Adapted from The Hunger Fix: The Three-Stage Detox and Recovery Plan For Overeating and Food Addiction by Pam Peeke, MD, MPH, FACP, Rodale 2012. Available at and wherever books are sold.

Reeling From Other Stresses? Read on to Find Out How to Respond Without Turning to Food.

Image Source: Thinkstock
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