Learning how to stop stress eating isn’t about getting food under control.
Learning how to stop stress eating is about understanding that food can not solve emotional hunger.
What is emotional hunger? When our feelings are unmet and not taken care of properly. In this case, they will find a way to be comforted, heard, and seen through food.
Learning how to stop stress eating and lose weight God’s way is not about applying scripture to cover up a wound, it’s about allowing God to heal the wound.
Therefore, healing from stress eating is not about finding all the right scriptures that go with stress. Healing happens when our hearts become aligned with His word and we begin to live from our relationship with Him.
What is Stress Eating?
Stress eating happens when we become overwhelmed with specific feelings and food becomes the outlet where we try to take away our emotional hunger.
Therefore, stress eating is a response to an emotional trigger. (Learn more about this inside of my Biblical Framework to Overcome Emotional Eating course.)
Here’s what I don’t want you to do when learning how to stop stress eating:
I don’t want you to think all stress is bad. Managing stress is key. Being in this world, we will encounter stress. (Remember that there are many forms of stress such as environmental, physical, and emotional.) We just don’t have to live stressed and claim it as a badge of honor.
We do not have to convince ourselves we are okay because we are afraid to be honest with God. Eating food when stressed is not “bad” unless it controls us. We must understand different levels and acknowledge where we are in the process of healing.
Matthew 6:25-28 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
A couple verses before Matthew 6:25, we read how we can not serve two masters. One being money and one being God. Specifically in verses 22 and 23 Jesus says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”
Therefore means “because of that” which connects the two sections together. Jesus was speaking of spiritual vision. The strength of Christians lies in how single our vision is upon Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
Therefore, our beliefs form our stress. Stress is the perception of the situations before us and where our focus is. However we view stress will cause our stress eating.
Knowing this goes beyond our knowledge of God but also our depth of relationship with Him.
Have You Ever Said to Yourself, “Why Can’t I Stop Eating When Stressed?”
There are also some physical reasons why stress and strong emotions can cause you to overeat.
- High cortisol levels: Stress causes the appetite to decrease so that the body can deal with the situation. If the stress does not let up, another hormone called cortisol is released. Cortisol increases appetite and can cause someone to overeat.
- Cravings: High cortisol levels from stress can increase food cravings for sugary or fatty foods. Stress is also associated with increased hunger hormones, which may also contribute to cravings for unhealthy foods.
When we want to learn how to stop stress eating, sometimes we need to have a basic understanding of how our bodies are responding to stress causing us to stress eat.
If we are under stress our brain instructs our adrenal glands to release a burst of adrenaline, which revs the heart rate and frees up stored energy (glucose and fat) that we can use to fight or flee.
During stressful times, cortisol tells our bodies to store any unburned calories as fat—typically belly fat. (Back in the day, these reserves would ensure we had a quick source of fuel to flee from danger or survive famine.)
Our adrenal glands release cortisol, which tells our bodies to replenish that energy by stimulating our appetite for high-calorie foods (unfortunately, our brains don’t know if we actually burned any calories). Cortisol can then stay in our system for hours. The result from this is that we feel hungry even if we sit most of the day.
How to Stop Stress Eating and Lose Weight
Scientific research shows that eating creates a cascade of bodily responses that make you feel calmer. In other words, different foods can serve as anxiety pills. You may think that you are not soothing your nerves, but, if you’re a stress eater, food is your chemical stress suppressant.
Therefore, if we want to learn how to stop stress eating, we must first acknowledge that food has been the pills we take to soothe something deeper going on within us.
I am sharing three ways on how to stop stress eating from my Biblical Framework to Overcoming Emotional Eating course.
Practice Mindful Eating to Stop Stress Eating
Know that your craving may result from a stressful event, and then ask yourself, are you truly hungry? Wait a few minutes before eating. Being mindful is being aware and focused on the Holy Spirit. Mindfulness gives us the opportunity to renew our mind because we are conscious of the thoughts running through our minds. It’s only when we are aware of our thoughts that allow us to choose intentionally versus our bodies and minds choosing for us. As if we were running on autopilot. Stress eating can be born from living on autopilot. When we want to stop stress eating, we must take ourselves out of autopilot.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
I believe the heart is the combination of the soul and spirit. Originally, God created the physical body of Adam. Still, he wasn’t alive until God breathed into him the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). That is when God imparted His Spirit into man, and he became a living soul. That is to say that Adam received a life-giving spirit from God, and the soul came into existence as a buffer between the spirit and body. The soul and spirit together comprise the innermost part of man and are what is being referred to here.
Know Your Stressors So You Can Learn How to Stop Stress Eating
Identify the circumstances and emotions that lead you to stress eat. These are your emotional eating triggers, and once you recognize them, you can take steps to avoid them or at least be prepared for them. We all have triggers that cause a reaction out of us.
James 1:19 says, “Understand this, my beloved brothers and sisters. Let everyone be quick to hear [be a careful, thoughtful listener], slow to speak [a speaker of carefully chosen words and], slow to anger [patient, reflective, forgiving].”
I have learned over the years certain people trigger me, and certain situations cause me to want to react. Deep down, the root is my old insecurities trying to resurface, the feeling of not being good enough, and the feeling like I don’t have a voice. People could say certain words to me like, “well, you just wait and see,” which causes me to want to stand and fight because it’s something I have heard most of my life.
However, now that I know what words, topics, or situations trigger me, I can better plan for them and be prepared mentally when they happen.
Avoid Highly Restrictive Diets During Stressful Times to Avoid Stress Eating
It’s never a good idea to follow a highly restrictive diet or deprive yourself of food, especially during stressful times.
In times of high stress, lots of deadlines, or seasons of transition, you do not want to follow a restrictive diet. Stress eating can come from a restrictive diet because it can all feel like too much at times. Between all the feelings you may have and then worrying about what you can or can’t have will lead to overwhelm and wanting to give up. Restrictive dieting can lead to stress eating.
1 Corinthians 10:23 says, “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.”
Paul was saying that he was free to do many things that he wouldn’t do. Rather than seeing just how far we can go and still retain our salvation, we should be seeing just how close we can stay in our love and devotion to the Lord. We are free to do things, but are they beneficial to us in our life with Christ?
These are just three ways you can begin to apply to learn how to stop stress eating. Know that overcoming stress eating will take time and intentionality through the process.
Don’t know where to start and feeling overwhelmed with it all? Join me in my Biblical Framework to Overcome Emotional Eating course. I’d love to work with you and help you finally feel like yourself again.
Rooting for you,