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9 Things to Do Instead of Stress-Eat

A woman stress-eating a donut while looking at her phone.
Roman Samborskyi/Shutterstock

Food is delicious, comforting, and really easy to turn to when you hear disturbing news or your boss is firing off angry emails. Need something to do besides eating your stress? Try these alternatives.

Take a Walk

Step away from your snack of choice, grab your walking shoes and keys, and get outside. A simple walk around the neighborhood and some fresh air will allow your body to calm down and reduce your stress levels.

As soon as you start feeling more relaxed, any food cravings will weaken, and maybe even disappear. You don’t have to take a long walk, either; a short 10-to-15-minute break will do. If you’re still hungry when you get back, go ahead and grab a healthy snack.

Call a Friend

Distracting yourself by calling a friend will help you stay away from those chips you’ve been munching on while answering emails. There’s a good chance you didn’t even notice you’ve eaten half the bag.

When you eat without acknowledging, the drive isn’t coming from hunger, but rather, stress hormones. Turning them off is the key to managing stress-eating.

Picking up your phone and talking to your friend will help bring your stress levels down and, consequently, cause you to forget that bag of chips ever existed.

Hydrate

Often, we find ourselves reaching for that top shelf full of snacks when, really, we’re just a bit dehydrated. Try drinking a full glass of water, and then waiting 10 minutes to see if your cravings return. If they don’t, you weren’t really hungry, but if they do, make yourself a healthy meal or snack.

Do Something Fun

Next time your boss makes you feel frustrated, abstain from opening your fridge and going into full savage mode. Instead, take a deep breath and think of doing something that makes you laugh and feel good.

Play a video game, go for a run, play catch with your dog, or put on some good music and dance around the house. Anything that lowers your stress levels, while raising your endorphins is a good idea.

Exercise

A woman running up the stairs at a stadium.
Izf/Shutterstock

Exercise is known to reduce stress levels. It also helps you feel more relaxed because it causes endorphins to run through your body. So, put on your favorite activewear and take a fitness break.

Go for a run, get on your bike, roll out your yoga mat, or challenge your friend to a game of tennis. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you get moving. You’ll feel all the tension and toxins start flushing away.

Take a Bath

Hopping in a hot bath will soothe your mind and bring some Zen into your life. It’s a great way to distract yourself from mindlessly snacking while nervously typing away on your computer.

Take a break and allow the warm water to relax your muscles and overall tension. Let all that stress go down the drain.

Meditate

Whenever you feel an urge to raid the pantry, take a moment to tune into your own breath. Listen to your inhales and exhales. Close your eyes and place your hands on your thighs or knees. Ground yourself to the floor and feel your sit bones support your spine.

Find peace and calm through your breath as you deepen each in- and exhale. Allow your shoulders to drop, the space between your eyes to soften, and your jaw to relax. Your mind will follow.

Afterward, you’ll be in a much better position than you were when you started—and your urge to eat should be calmed (or gone).

Make an Elaborate Meal

If you’re suddenly starving, choose something you can’t make in 5 minutes, or a snack you can’t just open and devour. Find a recipe that sounds appealing and start slowly prepping the food and preheating the oven. When your meal is done, sit down and eat it without distractions.

This pure activity allows you to feel, touch, taste, and experience food in a whole different way than you do when you just grab a chocolate bar or a pint of ice cream. It’s also more likely to open your appetite to foods that are better for you. This way, you’ll really absorb all the nutrients, instead of munching on empty calories.

Talk to Yourself

It’s important to notice and acknowledge your stress-eating patterns for what they are. Distractions or ignoring them can only do so much. The goal isn’t to avoid succumbing to them, but to prevent them from happening in the first place.

Learn how to be your own best friend. Find activities that work for you and help you avoid stress-eating. Eating poorly just adds more stress to an already stressful situation. It also makes your body feel like it’s under attack from all sides. This can wreak more havoc, making it impossible for you to deal with all at once.

In addition to the methods we covered above, take some time to think about what’s driving your stress-eating in the first place, and then take steps to mitigate it.


Stress-eating is a problem many people deal with, and the more we talk about it, the easier it will be to find ways to cope and prevent it. Try these techniques and see which one works best for you.

Karla Tafra Karla Tafra
Karla is a certified yoga teacher, nutritionist, content creator and an overall wellness coach with over 10 years of international experience in teaching, writing, coaching, and helping others transform their lives. From Croatia to Spain and now, the US, she calls Seattle her new home where she lives and works with her husband. Read Full Bio »

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