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How To Control Eating Anxiety

How Anxiety Can Lead To Disordered Eating

How to control stress eating

May 29, 2020 | Behavioral Therapy, Eating Disorder Help

When you have an eating disorder such as anorexia, bulimia, or binge-eating disorder, its not unusual for you to also have another mental health issue. These problems can include depression, generalized anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

In fact, studies show that about two-thirds of people with eating disorders also suffer from an anxiety disorder. Of these, the most common is obsessive-compulsive disorder or OCD. In fact, some studies have shown that in women with anorexia nervosa, the rate of OCD is between 25% and 69%, and for women with bulimia nervosa, its between 25% and 36%.

Those who have both disorders often develop compulsive rituals connected to food, such as weighing every bit of food or cutting it into tiny pieces, using only certain silverware, cutting food symmetrically or even binge eating.

Other habits that can cause a great deal of harm are fasting or severely restricting calories, exercising for hours on end each day, and taking other actions that will prevent weight gain. Even though people who suffer from these disorders are typically underweight, they often still have an irrational fear of becoming fat.

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Indulge Without Overeating By Savoring Your Food

When you eat to feed your feelings, you tend to do so quickly, mindlessly consuming food on autopilot. You eat so fast you miss out on the different tastes and textures of your foodas well as your bodys cues that youre full and no longer hungry. But by slowing down and savoring every bite, youll not only enjoy your food more but youll also be less likely to overeat.

Slowing down and savoring your food is an important aspect of mindful eating, the opposite of mindless, emotional eating. Try taking a few deep breaths before starting your food, putting your utensils down between bites, and really focusing on the experience of eating. Pay attention to the textures, shapes, colors and smells of your food. How does each mouthful taste? How does it make your body feel?

Practice mindful eating

Eating while youre also doing other thingssuch as watching TV, driving, or playing with your phonecan prevent you from fully enjoying your food. Since your mind is elsewhere, you may not feel satisfied or continue eating even though youre no longer hungry. Eating more mindfully can help focus your mind on your food and the pleasure of a meal and curb overeating. See Mindful Eating.

Eat At Regular Intervals

The longer you go without eating, the more likely you are to eat too much, whether youre anxious or not.

Youve had a long, stressful day, youre hungry, youre to overeat,Dena Cabrera, PsyD, executive clinical director of the Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders, tells Health. Its a perfect storm.

Instead of stuffing yourself at one sitting, eat balanced meals and snacks every three to four hours. Eating regularly like this will help you control your portion sizes and limit the urge to eat out of stress. The goal is to feel satisfied and not turn to food, says Cabrera.

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Tips To Manage Anxiety And Stress

Coping Strategies

Try these when you’re feeling anxious or stressed:

Fitness Tips: Stay Healthy, Manage Stress

For the biggest benefits of exercise, try to include at least 2½ hours of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, 1¼ hours of a vigorous-intensity activity , or a combination of the two.

  • 5 X 30: Jog, walk, bike, or dance three to five times a week for 30 minutes.
  • Set small daily goals and aim for daily consistency rather than perfect workouts. It’s better to walk every day for 15-20 minutes than to wait until the weekend for a three-hour fitness marathon. Lots of scientific data suggests that frequency is most important.
  • Find forms of exercise that are fun or enjoyable. Extroverted people often like classes and group activities. People who are more introverted often prefer solo pursuits.
  • Distract yourself with an iPod or other portable media player to download audiobooks, podcasts, or music. Many people find its more fun to exercise while listening to something they enjoy.
  • Recruit an exercise buddy. It’s often easier to stick to your exercise routine when you have to stay committed to a friend, partner, or colleague.
  • Be patient when you start a new exercise program. Most sedentary people require about four to eight weeks to feel coordinated and sufficiently in shape so that exercise feels easier.


If you are the parent of a college-aged child with an anxiety disorder, here are some tips to help with managing his or her anxiety.

Comfort Eating Is Common Among The Entire Population

How to Control Your out of Control Eating

In one study, anxiety was the most frequently cited among a list of emotions that trigger binge eating, followed by sadness, tiredness, anger, and happiness . Keep in mind, however, that it is not only those with Binge Eating Disorder who use food to cope with anxiety.

Many individuals who do not engage in binge eating still engage in emotional overeating eating more than their body needs for nutrition in response to emotional triggers, including anxiety.

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Food As An Exclusive Source Of Pleasure

Tasting good food is a not inconsiderable pleasure. However, when we only find well-being through it, making it the “responsible” for our satisfaction, we are faced with a problem.

As discussed in the first point of the article, alleviating our anxiety or our anguish with food will only make us enter a spiral of discomfort.

Focus On The Positive

We often dont realise it, but we can train our brains to think in particular patterns, and those patterns are often negative. We train ourselves to look back on the day and replay the ways that weve stuffed up or not done the right thing. I shouldnt have had that chocolate or I looked fat in that T-shirt or yeah I might have had 2 litres of water but I still ate that cake. Ive failed.

This process of focusing on the negative can make you feel like youre not getting anywhere. If all you can look back and see is bad, then its hard to feel like youre making any progress. And therein lie the rub!

You may be making progress but your brain is not letting you see it. Its holding on to the negative. So, you have to train yourself to see the positive progress you are making, even if its tiny. This can leave you feeling better about food, better about yourself and can reduce a lot of the stress and anxiety that goes along with food.

A positive journal is one of my favourite ways to start training your brain towards the positive. I have used it on many occasions when I feel like stress and anxiety are getting the better of me.

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Be Kind To Yourself And Celebrate Your Wins

Take a full picture approach make small tweaks to look after yourself in various ways, nutrition-wise and other aspects of life, and the upwards spiral will begin.

Once you catch yourself on the verge of overeating and stop yourself, be proud of yourself and remember that feeling. It’ll feel good, and you’ll want to do it more.

One thing that’s worked for me in the past is writing down my “wins” at the end of the day to help me stay positive, such as leaving the final slice of pizza when I’m full or only having three cookies and not the whole bag.

A post shared by Rachel Hosie on May 20, 2020 at 9:15am PDTMay 20, 2020 at 9:15am PDT

But know that changing our habits doesn’t happen overnight and progress isn’t linear.

Once you start making healthier decisions, there will still be times where you “mess up.” Only you haven’t messed up. It’s all part of the process and the journey.

An expression that’s really helped me is: “I don’t fail. I either succeed, or I learn.” Every time you overeat despite not wanting to, it’s an opportunity to reflect and learn.

You’ll get there.

Wishing you well,


Rachel has a wealth of experience covering fitness, nutrition, and wellness, and she has the hottest experts at her fingertips. She regularly speaks to some of the world’s most knowledgeable and renowned personal trainers, dietitians, and coaches, ensuring she’s always up to date with the latest science-backed facts you need to know to live your happiest and healthiest life.

Keep Caloric Foods Out Of Sight

Tips to Control Stress Eating

It is a fact that if you have unhealthy foods in sight, you are going to want to eat them. This can make you more anxious to eat.

If foods high in calories, unhealthy fats, and sugar are visible around the house, youre more likely to choose them over fruit.

Although this does not mean that you go on a diet and never eat them. Storing unhealthy foods out of sight, such as in cupboards or cupboards, can help you control the urge to eat all the time.

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Addictive Properties Of Hyperpalatable Food

Food-intake research indicates there is significant overlap with substance addictions, with much to be learned from this relatively well-established field , including with regards to the role of stress and hyperpalatable food. Stress, particularly uncontrollable stress, is a potent negative reinforcer that promotes the acquisition of drugs of abuse . Pretreatment with corticosterone, thought to mimic the condition of chronic stress, exaggerates this effect . Conversely, adrenalectomy abolishes the effect of stress on drug acquisition .

Choose Filling Nutritious Foods

Stocking your kitchen with filling, nutrient-dense foods can not only help improve your overall health but also combat the tendency to stress eat highly palatable foods.

For example, filling your fridge and pantry with foods that can help fill you up in a healthful way rather than foods rich in empty calories like candy, chips, and soda is a smart way to prevent the chances of noshing on unhealthy choices.

Filling foods are ones that are high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Nuts, seeds, avocados, beans, and eggs are just some examples of nutritious, satisfying choices that can help fill you up and prevent overeating (

Also Check: Are Anxiety And Depression Related

Do Anxiety Symptoms Improve When You Cut Back On Sugar And Feed Your Body The Right Foods

Its a good idea to talk with your doctor before making dramatic changes in what you eat. Involve a nutritionist if you need some extra guidance.

As with any dietary change, your body will need some time to adjust. If you are otherwise healthy and cut back on processed sugar, you may feel your anxiety slowly improve thanks to fewer ups and downs caused by the excess sugar. If you are only using diet to combat anxiety, this change may not be obvious or immediate. You may also need to speak to a doctor about a medication. An integrated treatment approach including talk therapy, mindfulness techniques, stress relief, good sleep hygiene, and a balanced diet are all equally important parts of your care.

Identify Situations Or Moments When Hunger Appears

How to control the anxiety of eating?

Surely the need to eat is triggered by some event that has affected us on an emotional level. These events can be from work stress, bad news or a bad encounter or even due to the hormonal changes typical of the menstrual cycle.

If we are able to detect the moments when this sensation appears, it will be much easier for us to foresee them and to develop strategies that will help us avoid the compulsion to eat.

Also Check: How To Help A Child With Anxiety

Anxiety Eating And Chronic Stress

When our bodies are confronted with chronic stress, the cortisol production response does not cease. Cortisol production goes into overdrive and our bodies become constantly alert and anxious.

According to “Psychology Today,” this constant stress also activates other stress receptors. One of these receptors tells the body to find and consume foods laden with calories and fat. The increased cortisol moves these calories to your abdomen, which is close to your liver, and enables your liver to immediately convert the calories to energy to help you cope with constant stress. These fatty deposits tell your brain to shut off cortisol production and you begin to relax.

  • When our bodies are confronted with chronic stress, the cortisol production response does not cease.
  • The increased cortisol moves these calories to your abdomen, which is close to your liver, and enables your liver to immediately convert the calories to energy to help you cope with constant stress.

What Can Help Us Control Anxiety

Food should not be used to calm anxiety, otherwise it can be harmful to health because it increases the chances of gaining weight to get a morbid obesity or alter the body to such an extent to be able to acquire serious diseases such as diabetes, cardiac, among others.

That is why we must acquire a suitable method for each type of person that works to control or control anxiety, so that it appears by any circumstance that activates it.

An easy way can be to acquire a slow and deep breath each time an anxiety attack is detected , the second is to acquire a routine of exercises that help the body to drain all the stress, anguish and heaviness of the day to prevent them from appearing the anxiety attacks.

Another way to reduce the anxiety to eat is to acquire a routine of life where time is set aside for the realization of exercises, this will not only help to tone the body and maintain a healthy figure, but also when expelling toxins, the body relaxes and does not go into a state of anxiety.

When the situation becomes chronic, it is always advisable to attend a medical check-up or psychological help to treat anxiety with drugs when it can not be controlled individually or personally.

Medical intervention is always recommended to avoid future problems that can threaten life, such as something complex such as insulin problems or something less degenerative but uncomfortable as indigestion.

Read Also: When To Get Help For Depression And Anxiety

Consume Healthy And Balanced Meals

When feeling anxious, you are unlikely to eat nutrient-rich foods such as homemade broccoli soup or carrots sticks.Instead and as mentioned above we tend to grab foods rich in sugar or fat such as potato chips, fries, cookies, ice-cream, and similar.But these foods cause sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar likely to result in more sugar cravings, increasing your chances of overeating!Also, sudden changes in blood sugar can raise your anxiety levels!

To regulate your blood sugar levels and manage your anxiety, it helps to eat healthy and balanced meals.Healthy and balanced meals include healthy sources of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats with carbohydrates making up the bulk of the calories.

Examples of healthy sources of:

  • Carbohydrates include whole grains and vegetables.
  • Proteins include fatty fish , beans, lentils, organic fresh unrefined tofu
  • Fats include extra virgin olive oil, salmon, avocado, almonds, flaxseeds, sesame seeds, coconut oil, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds

Whole grains and vegetables are rich in complex carbohydrates, meaning they give a slow release of energy and help to keep blood sugar stable.Also, these foods are rich in dietary fiber which helps to keep you feeling full and satisfied for longer and in turn reducing your urge to overeat.Heres an example of a healthy and balanced dinner:Salmon served with brown rice, swiss chard, carrots, and zucchini, plus sunflower seeds sprinkled on top or a drizzle of olive oil!

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