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Help! I Eat when I’m Stressed! How to Stop Stress Eating

Does a bowl of ice cream make you feel better after a really bad day?

Do you turn to carbs for comfort?

It’s common to use food as a coping mechanism when we are sad, angry, stressed or tired. Sometimes we act on autopilot and are unaware of how we use food to dull emotions.

Once you become aware of how you use food to cope with pain, you are ready to find healthier ways to deal with emotions and their triggers.

I often work with clients who identify with this problem, and maybe you do too.

Whether you are dealing with stress eating, mindless snacking or using food as comfort, this year’s Nutrition Month 2017 campaign has a great 3 step solution.

Steps to a Healthier Relationship with Food

  • Spot the Problem: Full-time working mom, raising a family and has a typical busy lifestyle. She turns to food for comfort when she is stressed at work or frustrated at home. She wants to improve her eating habits and get on the right track to a healthier lifestyle.

  • Get the Facts: She decides to seek out a dietitian and she learns that craving food when she’s stressed instead of hungry is called emotional eating. She recognizes some of her own patterns in the information the dietitian shares with her, such as:

  • Craving foods that are high in calories, fat and sugar (her weakness is donuts)

  • Eating too much without realizing it

  • Feeling even more stress and anxiety after eating too much

  • Learn About Mindful Eating: She learns about something called mindful eating as a way to manage her emotional eating habits. I will explain further below.

Mindful Eating

Pay attention to the food you eat using all of your senses.

  • Really see your food,

  • Take time to taste your food,

  • Listen to and hear your food,

  • Enjoy the smell of your food, and

  • Feel the energy and texture of your food.

Instead of eating a whole bag of chips when you are stressed, learn to be more mindful of your choices – perhaps by distracting yourself by going for a walk or reading a book if you’re not truly hungry. If you are hungry, choose a more nutritious snack.

Mindful eating can help you become more aware of the reason why you’re eating. It will teach you to eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. With the help of a dietitian, you can become more aware of your emotional and physical responses to food. With counselling, you can manage stress-related eating and pay more attention in the present moment when making food choices.

In the example above, instead of the mom turning to comfort food, she can learn to fight stress by doing something she enjoys, such as taking her dog for a walk, playing outside with her kids, reading a book or cooking.

She can also monitor when she eats and look for patterns with the help of her dietitian.

Seek Support

Many dietitians are coaches who offer mindful eating counselling. The ongoing support of a Dietitian can help you to identify your struggles, make changes and improve your overall health.

Do you have a food fight that you struggle with?

Contact us today to schedule an appointment with our Registered Dietitian, Samantha Goren.

Adapted from the Dietitians of Canada’s Nutrition Month campaign materials. Find more information about Nutrition Month at:

#emotionaleating #stress #copingmechanisms #weightmanagement #healthyeating #healthylifestyle #nutritioncounselling #nutritionmonth

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Integrative Medical Center, Toronto

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