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6 ways to quit ‘stress eating’

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When we’re stressed, doctors say we may not eat as well as we normally would.

Researchers at the Mayo Clinic find that, when under a lot of stress, people often eat to fill an emotional need even if they’re not really hungry.

The habit, which is called emotional eating or stress eating, is especially dangerous when coupled with unhealthy comfort foods high in fat and calories.

Doctors say the most important step in handling emotional eating is learning to manage stress. People who are in control stick to better eating habits and exercise more.

Here are six ways to reduce stress and combat emotional eating:

  1. Recognize when it occurs. Pay attention to warning signs like anxiety, irritability and muscle tension so you can know when you need to take a moment to relax.
  2. When eating, try to decide if you’re really hungry or if you're simply eating because you want to.
  3. Don’t skip meals -- especially breakfast. If you don't eat consistently, it's harder to manage your appetite.
  4. Don’t have unhealthy snacks like potato chips or candy readily available in your home or work space. "Out of sight, out of mind."
  5. Practice relaxation techniques like yoga and meditation.
  6. Get plenty of sleep. People who get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night have more energy, are more aware of themselves and are better focused in stressful situations.