Ways to prevent overeating during stressful times

Dear Readers:

These are uncertain times, uncertainty is not a favorite topic. America has not yet reached the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. Unfortunately, some people have lost their jobs and many of the lucky ones are working from home. Times like these can trigger emotions of anxiety and grief and when we are experiencing difficult feelings, people may try to push those feelings down with extra food. People have heard of it, maybe participated in it; it’s called emotional eating.

These are ways to help prevent overeating during stressful times:

• Keep your eating times structured: three meals a day and planned snacks (if part of your routine).

• Plan meals ahead of time. Most things in life run more smoothly with a plan.

• Keep a food journal. Write down the everything eaten. This will help identify trouble areas.

• Drink lots of water or non-caffeinated beverages.

• Pay attention to a body’s signals. Know what physical hunger is and stop eating when your body is full.

• Eat nutritious foods. The simplest way to do this is to follow the five-a-day rule: eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Limit fried foods and sweets. When a person’s body is nourished, they are less likely to reach for junk food.

• Avoid mindless eating. This may occur in front of the TV or computer or while reading a book. In this situation, people are likely to consume more calories than they realize.

• Avoid eating while cooking and during clean-up. Keep your mouth busy with a piece of sugarless gum during these times to prevent nibbling.

• Exercise.

• Find effective ways of dealing with stress. Try yoga, meditation or journaling.

• If you have tried the above and the cupboards are still calling your name, find a healthy distraction. Paint, go for a walk, clean a closet, read a book, call a friend or reconcile your checkbook.

• If a person has an episode of emotional eating, forgive and forget because beating up on yourself only makes things worse. Start fresh the next day, or as I like to say, “When you fall off the horse, get back in the saddle.”

Finally, ask if there is a food compulsion/addiction. This occurs when there is a strong urge to eat a certain food and when started, it is difficult to stop. People may feel out of control. If this is the case, it is better to avoid that food altogether. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Until next time, be healthy!


Leanne McCrate, RD, LD, CNSC,

aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning

dietitian based in Missouri.


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