Ever catch yourself reaching for food, not out of hunger, but because you’re stressed, overwhelmed, or anxious?
Stress eating is a common struggle of high-performing women. It’s that compelling urge to eat, not when you’re naturally hungry, but when you’re emotionally spent.
Turns out, stress eating isn’t about the foods you find comforting. It’s about your body’s primal response to stress.
In this episode, we dive deep into what stress eating looks like and why it’s a roadblock to the weight loss you want to achieve. We’ll uncover the reasons why you eat in response to stress, and most importantly, we’ll walk you through a process of awareness to begin ending stress eating in your life.
Because the truth is, you can eat healthy and lose weight alongside the stress in your life. It’s available now.
Hello my friends. Welcome back to the podcast this week. I hope you’re having a great week so far. And today we’re going to talk all about stress eating and this is something that as a high achiever, as someone who is ambitious, as someone who identifies as being busy, will likely come up for you when it comes to your eating habits. Now, before we get into today’s episode, I want to make a quick announcement and that is that the own Your Eating Habits group experience is now open for enrollment.
So this is a full-fledged process tailored to help you build the skills of naturally healthy eating and weight loss. So those who join will change their food relationship. They’ll end emotional eating, honor their body cues and prioritize nutritious, satisfying food. So in this experience, you’ll be part of a small exclusive group cohort with like-minded women all working towards the same goal for six months.
So you’re going to learn the tools, build the skills, and evaluate your progress as a group to ensure you’re showing up fully and holding yourself accountable. It is the best possible process to solidify healthy eating habits in your life. It is not a short-term approach. It’s not another thing you dabble in. This is a long-term lifestyle transformation you are committing to when you join. So we hit the ground running to help you create this change on November 1st.
Spots are limited, so go to cat rent us.com/coaching to learn more, submit your application and reserve your spot. All right, so let’s get into the topic of today’s episode, which is stress eating. And what stress eating is at its core is simply when you’re eating in response to stress rather than eating in response to natural hunger. And when you’re eating in response to stress, the experience of that is urgent and compelling versus when you’re eating in response to natural hunger, the experience is non-urgent and it’s neutral.
So first thing, I want you to separate those two experiences. Notice the eating decisions that you make that feel urgent, they feel reactive and they feel compelling. And then notice when you make eating decisions where it feels non-urgent, it feels neutral and you’re just responding to the natural hunger cues you are experiencing. This is how I want you to distinguish stress. Eating from healthy eating and stress eating of course is when you experience any type of emotional stress such as overwhelm, fear, uncertainty, and you experience a natural primal urge.
To seek out comfort from that emotional stress. And the most readily available source of emotional comfort is food. So a lot of us respond to emotional discomfort with other things like over netflixing, overspending, whatever it is. But it’s important to understand that the most readily available source of comfort from our emotions or stress is food because we have to eat to survive. So the urge to stress eat is natural.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, and I want you to normalize this as a high achiever. A lot of you will feel this disconnect from overeating or the urge to stress eat, and I don’t want you to make it mean anything personal about you. You have a human brain, you have a human body and the urge to stress eat is natural. There’s nothing wrong with it, and the stakes are not that high.
You just need to learn to work with your stress and your natural urges to overeat from that stress. And this is how you make the stakes lower, and this is how you make naturally healthy eating and weight loss accessible. Now at this moment is when you approach it this way. So here’s how stress eating looks in most cases with high achievers, this is how it looks for most of my clients is you go throughout your day feeling emotional stress. So maybe you feel pressure, you feel overwhelmed, you feel anticipation and without awareness this builds up in your body throughout the course of your day or maybe it’s your week.
And then at some point you reach a tip where the emotional stress feels relieved. So maybe this is when you come home after a workday or maybe this is when the weekend hits and you just feel this unloading and relief from your emotional stress.
And I want you to consider that when your stress operates in this way, where it’s this building up of stress only to have this sharp release at the end of your day or when your weekend comes. This is a stress cycle. So this is actually not emotionally sustainable and it’s a very tumultuous experience emotionally. So what tends to happen is that relief feels so strong at the end of your day or on the weekends that it actually feels almost uncomfortable and invasive in your nervous system and you’ll feel the urge to strongly comfort yourself during this time.
So this might be that you overeat your dinner when you come home, you snack in front of the tv, you overeat, the foods you find pleasurable, you completely go off track when the weekend comes, you just become unconscious and reactive with your eating decisions in response to the stress from the previous days or the previous hours of the day.
It’s very, very reactive and survivally based. Now, something I want to address is many of you listening, especially if you identify as type A and ambitious, a lot of you don’t identify with being a stress eater or being an emotional eater. Occasionally some of you won’t see yourself that way. So you’ll think that stress eating means you’re in front of the TV eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting, and I certainly have been there by the way in my past. So , if this is you, no judgment.
But I do want to establish here that that is usually not what stress eating looks like. It can look like unconscious reactive eating decisions that you make in response to your stress. And these can be little snacks you eat throughout the day, bites of food that you eat past your fullness. It doesn’t necessarily need to look as dramatic as you may think it needs to.
This will still contribute to weight gain, and when you stress eat in any capacity, it will inhibit the weight loss results you want to create. So that’s just to say it may not look like eating an entire tub of ice cream on the couch in front of the tv. It could mean that you feel compelled to eat a handful of chocolates at the end of your day from this really reactive, desperate place, or maybe you overeat dinner or maybe you snack throughout the day, but it is in response to stress. Now, where it feels the hardest is these behaviors can cause you to feel confused and frustrated with what it will take to move forward with healthy eating and weight loss because you know that to lose weight, you have to eat healthy consistently.
But when you stress eat, your emotional stress state feel so tied to your eating habits, which means that you’ll feel like your current stressful circumstances are preventing you from eating healthy and this is not true.
What I want you to learn from this episode again are the stakes aren’t that high. You do not need to remove your stress in your life in order to eat healthy consistently and lose weight. Instead, what you’ll begin doing is working with your stress through stress regulation. So this is a skill that is non-negotiable when it comes to long-term healthy eating and weight loss. You need to become a woman who actively regulates her stress levels so you don’t experience this buildup of stress throughout your day, which is followed by the sharp downward slope of relief.
This is what creates maximum cravings and maximum urgency with food. So that’s what you’re going to be solving for. And in this episode, I really want to give you a resource to start thinking about this more deeply because here is why stress eating ultimately prevents weight loss. These are the exact reasons.
First is the the overeating piece of it. Of course, if you are eating past your natural fullness, you will be contributing to weight gain and you’ll be preventing the weight loss you want. When you are overeating, you are eating in response to emotional urges and stress, and of course this will prevent your weight loss. So that’s the most obvious one. Stress eating prevents weight loss because you’re overeating. Stress. Eating also indicates that you’re having high stress that is not sustainable and this causes you to retain weight.
So weight retention is a very important factor to consider when solving for stress eating because here’s what happens when you’re in a stress state where it’s very up and down, your body will become primed to lock down the hatches with your weight to store energy. So when you’re in a fight or flight response where you’re having unchecked stress and then you’re relieving yourself at the end of the day, this is a fight or flight response and this compels the body to store weight as energy.
Because our bodies are so, so primitive, there really is not a huge difference between how our body reacts now versus when it did in caveman times. There wasn’t much of an update that happened there. So that means when your body is undergoing fight or flight stress responses, it believes the best thing to do is to store your weight as energy because it thinks of famine is occurring or that you’re having a shortage of resources or that you’re in danger. So this really gives you perspective on why regulating stress is a huge non-negotiable when it comes to solving your food struggles permanently.
It absolutely is the missing factor when it came to diets we’ve tried or weight loss regimens is that if you’re having a strong fight or flight response and you’re attempting to eat healthy, then you’re still going to be experiencing massive cravings and your body is still going to be primed to retain weight, and that’s something we wanna solve for so you can release weight most efficiently.
Stress eating also prevents weight loss because you’ll have suppressed body cues. So when you’re continuously stress eating, that is how you condition your body to make eating decisions. So what will happen is your natural hunger and fullness cues will become suppressed so they’ll stop becoming as obvious to you. They’ll stop stepping in, and so it’ll be become easier for you to make decisions with food based on stress versus noticing the beginnings of your hunger cues or your fullness cues.
This is why for a lot of you, you will stress eat unconsciously and then only realize you’ve eaten too much. When you’re stuffed and you’re massively full. It’s because your body cues have become suppressed over time because of your stress eating. So this is a very important factor. Another reason is unconscious eating. So this is similar to overeating. When the stressors in your life are taking up your brain space in such an optimal way, you’re going to feel like you don’t even have room to make intentional eating decisions.
This is when you think that your only two options are to micromanage healthy eating or throw it all away. You allow yourself to become totally unconscious to the eating decisions that you’re making because you don’t know how to manage your stress. When you learn how to manage your stress, the stakes become lower, everything becomes more evened out, and then you have the capacity no matter what circumstances are occurring to make intentional eating decisions. The last way stress eating prevents weight loss is you will rely on pleasurable foods for dopamine.
So what tends to happen when we have an unhealthy relationship to healthy eating is we will make foods we find pleasurable wrong. So we will make foods that have less nutritional value that we really enjoy wrong and we’ll demonize them in a way and make them responsible for our lack of weight loss when for almost all of you, it’s not the pleasurable foods that are preventing weight loss, it’s how you’re eating them.
And what happens when we stress eat is it’s not the dopamine hits of the pleasurable foods that are wrong or negative, it’s that we’re relying on the dopamine hits from the pleasurable food to relieve stress. And so this is when we have an unhealthy relationship to the pleasurable foods. It’s not that they’re wrong in the first place. So I really want you to understand the impact of solving for stress eating and why it is so, so important because here’s how you begin stopping stress eating in your life.
It’s not gonna be what you think. It’s not to micromanage your eating habits further, it’s not to put in more effort where you track more, you research more and you study more. It’s to begin building awareness of these patterns that you have with stress seeding. And I’m going to explain really specifically what I mean by this because sometimes when we bring up the word awareness, it can sound a little froufrou and fluffy and like it’s not tangible enough to create massive tangible results, but it actually is everything and here’s why.
So there are three areas of awareness that you will need to begin having to solve your stress eating in your life. The first piece of awareness is awareness of your eating. So this seems obvious, right? So stress eating is when you eat in response to stress. It is urgent, it’s compelling, it’s not in response to your hunger, which is non-urgent and it’s neutral. So before you rush to fixing stress eating, be willing to be aware of it when it’s occurring for you right now, make a note of it.
What time of the day do you notice stress eating occurring? What is that experience.
Like for you? What foods do you notice you gravitate towards the most? Get very specific with your stresse patterns in a way that you never have before and acknowledge realistically when you stress eat during your day and what that looks like. So awareness of the stress eating that is what you want to establish. Then you’re going to establish awareness of the stressors. So you’re going to go to the next level and become aware of what stressors are contributing to the stress eating.
Is it work? Is it home life? Is it a relationship? Get very specific and not in a way where you’re sitting in misery with what you observe but narrate what’s coming up for you neutrally. So for most of you, it will be work. For instance, consider how do you feel emotionally When you think about work, what comes up in your brain?
Do you experience overwhelm, fear, resentment, anticipation, pressure? Consider this, really check in here. Then acknowledge with yourself that you don’t stress it because of whatever circumstances happen at work. So for instance, you don’t stress eat because of your work to-do list you stress eat because the experience of your work to-do list is creating overwhelm in your body. Your experience of the to-do list creates overwhelm for you.
Overwhelm and how that feels in your body. The discomfort of that vibration is what triggers an urge to stress eat. Alright? So awareness of the stressors. What do you feel stressed by? What circumstances are present and how are you interpreting them? Then you want to have awareness of the actual urge to stress eat. So let’s use the previous example. Now you’re aware, let’s say that you overeat after work and you’re aware now that your to-do list for work is the stressor that it creates overwhelm.
Now you’re going to notice the urge you experience to eat when that overwhelm is present, that sense of urgency, that pull that you notice, get to know that urge as the watcher of it, study it. Begin the process of separating that physical urge you feel from all of that chatter in your brain. So the chatter in the moment that you want to stress eat tells you, I had a long day. I deserve to eat after work. I’ll start healthy eating tomorrow.
That chatter is all in your head. When you drop into your body and you observe the urge to overeat there when you feel stress or in this example overwhelm, you’ll see that this experience of urges to stress eat are actually very tangible and physical. So in other words, you don’t stress.
Eat because you don’t have control. You don’t stress eat because of work or your to-do list. You don’t stress eat because of the stress or overwhelm. You stress eat because there’s an urgent urge in your body that compels you to take action by eating food. Become aware of this experience, begin to narrate it properly. When you become aware of your stress eating patterns, then you can take the steps to interrupt those patterns and adjust them accordingly.
It’s non-negotiable to take a step back and observe your behaviors. This requires you to slow down and be present for moments throughout your day. So check in with yourself actively and deliberately. Take ownership of solving this problem and building expertise and awareness of your stress eating patterns. This is exactly what happens in own your eating habits. So when you join, you adopt this leadership role with your eating habits.
You learn the four step process, access the tools, and build awareness. As you build this awareness, you’re going to implement and then after you implement, you’ll evaluate. So in our process, you conduct daily check-ins, weekly evaluations, and monthly reviews with your group. So you’re not only staying on track with your progress, but you can also observe the progress of your group members to learn from. So I like to say it’s like being in a container where you’re surrounded by other case studies where working through the same process you are.
So it is so invaluable. So the process to end stress eating is working with your stress so you don’t see your stress as flawed or fixable in this really rigid way. You don’t rush that process. You acknowledge the fact that you are a human who inherently will have emotional stress at times, and rather than trying to fix that through desperation and urgency, you decide to work with your stress from a mature approach in own your eating habits.
When you join, you will learn the exact process to end your stress eating, so you’ll gain access to the step-by-step process. To do so, you’ll receive coaching each week and you’ll implement the tools each day to solve this stress. Eating it is a big factor for women who join this process. The difference in this program is you’re not solving stress eating like it’s something to be fixed. You’re not going in with that mentality because that’s not the intention that’s useful when it comes to solving this area of your life.
You need to be willing to give yourself the tools, skill building, and patience you need to heal stress eating in your life. That is the approach and mindset that is the most effective. While own your eating habits does make it simple and accessible. To do that, you must go in with that level of.
Commitment. It’s about working with your body, with your nervous system and your natural human emotions to build the skill of stress regulation. This is why you’re not as far from naturally healthy eating as you may think most of you are right there because you don’t need to solve for the fact that you have stress in your life. You just need to learn how to regulate the stress you do have. Effectively. This is a skill you can absolutely learn now you can eat healthy and lose weight alongside the natural stress in your life.
You don’t have to wait again. If you identify as an ambitious woman who feels like you’ve tried everything to eat healthy, you feel like you’ve really put in the work, but you’re looking for that very permanent solution and you’re committed to creating the result of naturally healthy eating, I want to invite you into the own your Eating Habits Group cohort. We hit the ground running November 1st, so make sure you reserve your spot. Spots are limited, so go to kat rent.com/coaching to get your application in today.
I cannot wait to see you there. Have a fantastic rest of your day and I’ll talk to you next week.
Hey there! I'm Kat Rentas. I’m a certified life and health coach for women who believes that eating healthy should feel simple and sustainable. I teach hundreds of high-performing women to change their eating habits without the overwhelm. Want to change your eating habits in a way that is aligned with your needs, preferences, and goals? You’re in the right place. You can read my full story here.