• Thu, Apr 14 2011

Do You Stress Eat? How Do You Handle That?

You don’t mind if I just take TheGloss and turn it into my personal food diary for a minute, do you? No? I mean, my grandparent’s friends already think that since I work on the Internet I run a blog where I list everything I ate that day, just like their 14 year old granddaughter. So, I figure I’m just giving into a natural impulse, here.

Since you’re cool with that: I stress eat, sometimes, how about you?

The other day, I was irrationally anxious and upset over some suff. Nothing major, all kind of minor things, but they built up and left me super-tense. Like, rubber-band-about-to-snap-tense. Now, normally during the week, I make an effort to eat well. Not well in a “I am a raw vegan” way but well in a “yes, I’ll have an egg white omelet for breakfast and salad for lunch” kind of way. Well in the way that I imagine most people eat when they try to eat well.

Not the other day. I guess we don’t need to go point by point, because I’m not the journalist that my grandparent’s friend’s 14 year old granddaughter is, but I ended up at a chocolate tasting and figured “sure, eat all the chocolates.” And since I’d done that, I went out and got a piece of pizza afterwards, because, hell, my diet was shot anyway. And then a cupcake. Because it had a frosting flower on it, and I find those visually appealing. And then I might have eaten some thin mints I had lying around my apartment before passing out in a sugar coma. It wasn’t a night I’m really proud of. 

It honestly stopped being fun right after the pizza, and it didn’t make me feel better about anything.  

I don’t feel bad about all the eating, but I do feel bad that it wasn’t really borne out of a spirit of enjoyment. Because eating great food should be a happy thing, not a thing you do to try to distract yourself from worrying. Generally I try to eat well during the week because I have something cool in sight like “Sunday, I’m going to go out to my favorite brunch place and I’m going to inhale a plate of breakfast nachos.” I’ve kind of accepted that my entire life is going to be a process of balancing loving food with the pre-teen ballerina inside me who still conducts a rib-count every morning, and I’m okay with that 85% of the time. 

Until I’m really worried or freaked out, and then I just want to bury my head in a box at Vosges. The stress eating day I found myself wishing that, even though I’m not overweight, I had someone like the sponsors the people in Weight Watchers call. And that person would say “you probably need to talk about your problems instead of following up that pizza with a cupcake.” But talking about problems is tough and time consuming, and buying pretty pink cupcakes with a flower on them is easy, so God knows how effective that would be.

 Now, I know this isn’t a terrible thing to do, especially since it happens very rarely. And I guess it’s good that my impulse is “EAT ALL THE CHOCOLATES” and not “DO ALL THE HEROIN”. Still, I’d like to find a better way to deal with personal stuff. A more self contained way.

And I don’t even know if that’s entirely possible. Most people I know, if they don’t deal with personal problems by eating, drink, or chain smoke, or organize fight clubs that they’re always trying to convince me to join. I’m into that, because, wow, what a great way to burn off some calories. (Tyler says to tell you I’m joking).

So, I guess the real problem isn’t stress eating, but just stressed-out behaviors we resort to in general. Do you have any crutches you lean on when you’re stressed? Have you found better ways to deal with anxiety? Do you want to join me for breakfast nachos? All valid questions!

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  • Cheryl

    I definitely do the food thing, too. But when I’m really stressing, I binge on TV. Recently, when I realized I would be short on this semester’s tuition due to an egregious student loan miscalculation, I spent a week watching seasons 1 through 6 of Grey’s Anatomy on Netflix. :(

  • K

    My body reacts in the exact opposite manner. When I’m stressed, I can’t eat. This sounds like it should be great, but it isn’t. Last year I had several months when I was dealing with extreme stress (major life change, new job, friend/coworker ODing on heroin, etc.) and I stressed myself to the point of esophagitis. My stomach produced enough acid that it literally burned away at my stomach lining. The end result was that I was unable to eat at all without feeling like I had just gorged on three Thanksgiving dinners in a row. I’m a naturally slim person and I dropped twenty pounds unintentionally in about a month.

    Moral of the story: stress eating could be worse. It could be severe stress not-eating.

    I’ve taken up knitting again as a response to stress. I have trouble focusing my mind when I’m stressed out, but getting my knitting needles going gives me something very methodical to do that doesn’t require too much thought and, end bonus, it results in something tangible. The act of creating does a great deal to boost my mood.

  • Lauren

    I have a box of champagne chocolate truffles in my desk drawer at work for when I’m stressed. Seriously.

    • Rosebud

      ur my hero

  • Saskia

    I do the stress-binging on TV to, which usually leads to even more stress due to less time.. Vicious circle I guess
    But I´ve never been prone to stress eating, I´m more of a boredom eater, which I think is equally bad

  • Kelly

    When I’m stressed my motto turns into “Bored, mad or sad? There’s a cake for that.”

  • Allison

    I tottally stress eat. the problem is when I am cooking said food for the eating, and then I do a lot of burning of the food due to the stress. and yes, i will join you for breakfast nachos.

  • Megan

    I’m not a stress eating person. I gained about 40 pounds in college–quite a bit of which was chicken fingers and fries while writing last-minute papers–and I lost the habit when I dropped those 40 pounds.

    Of course, I’m still a mentally fucked up person–I do get stressed quite a bit; I’m bipolar on top of it. I might go for a few spoonfuls of ice cream, but normally I get my cat and snuggle. Or I read something fictional and light. After about an hour of escaping into “Anne of Green Gables,” I have enough distance between me and whatever was stressing me out to be rational about it.

    And if all that fails, I can go punch my brother…like I did when I was a kid. ;)

  • Carolyn

    I stress eat too, but when I’m REALLY stressed I kinda just shut down and hide in my room watching tv or reading internet instead of taking care of whatever is stressing me until I feel recooped enough to handle it. Not very healthy…since usually the thing I need to do takes way less time than the recoop or the energy I spending worrying about how I’m not getting it done fast enough…

  • Dove

    I stress-eat, for sure. I have an extremely boring job where I work for a very abusive and crappy boss (I’m leaving very soon after 3 years of searching) and I’ve gained like 15 lbs because I flee at lunch time and grab junk to eat for the rest of the day. When I go on vacation I normally lose weight (I even lost 6lbs at CHRISTMAS this year), and I eat substantially less when I’m at home.

    Ugh.

  • Ellie

    I’m going to be evangelical here, because stopping emotional eating felt so awesome and I always want to share the happiness : ) Like you, I thought I’d spend the rest of my life like so many women, just a little stressed about food. I was average sized, but thought I was the opposite of the motivation posters – I was a slim girl with a fat girl trying to get out, and when I got stressed, she’d take over and eat for 2!
    If you do things like eat egg-white omelettes – something that I only realised isn’t normal once I went to France and Italy, and perfectly slim men and women looked at me like a crazy person – then you’re always starving yourself, and anything emotional can make you binge. For me it was going overseas that made me break the habit, for some people it’s books (just do a search for intuitive eating), and if you do need a ‘sponsor’ like you say, there are lots of blogs about this type of thing (I like healthygirl, but there are more). It won’t make you perfect, but it won’t make you fat either (in my case I actually dropped from an 8 to a 4-6), and it will let you focus on the rest of your life. My new stupid stress habit, though, is nail biting – any good tips, do let me know!

    • Jennifer Wright

      Oh, wait, I actually LOVE egg-white omelettes.Seriously. They’re one of my favorite foods, I’ve hated egg yolks since I was a kid. But as for nail biting – I find the best cure for me is a manicure. If I’m thinking about my nails looking pretty I’m way less to gnaw on them.

  • M

    I am definitely an emotional eater. I made a comment on the crying-in-public article about when my friend was crying in the middle of Olive Garden and I told him to eat his feelings because dammit, it works for me. How do I handle that? I have made my peace with being fat. I guess it’s not the BEST solution, but it works.

    To be more specific: I love food. Food is one of the few truly consistent sources of pleasure in my life. So when I’m happy, I eat because I’m already in a good mood so the world is awesome and the part of the world that involves food going into my mouth is even awesomer. When I’m sad I also eat because it makes me feel better, or at least makes me feel like things are more delicious. However, when I’m angry then I don’t eat. And because I love food, not eating makes me angrier. It’s a vicious cycle. I spent about six years of my life not eating and throwing up on the rare occasions I did, and in retrospect it’s no wonder I was so miserable. Though to be honest the whole don’t-eat-for-six-years thing was partly because I was already miserable too, but when you’re miserable and fat you think maybe being skinny will make you happier. And then one massive eating disorder later you find out you’re wrong.

  • Mads

    Like Saskia, I’m a boredom eater. Usually when I’m stressed I can’t eat much because I get bad anxiety and end up stressing more anyway – when I was doing my final exams for high school I lost 6 kilos (13lbs) because I just never thought about eating. I then put 10 kilos back on when I moved out of home, because I was able to keep whatever I wanted in the fridge.
    When I’m stressed I clean. I guess that sounds good but it usually results in me collapsed on the floor sobbing.

  • Lindsay Cross

    I’m a stress-reader. I love reading and do it when I’m not stressed. But my way of avoiding things is to get so lost in a book that I can’t think about anything else. I just lay around and read and never look up.

    It’s still probably not a great way to deal with stress, but it works for me.

  • Arnie

    I’m a huge snacker, and will pick at pretty much any plate of food that is around me. Especially if I’m working. Which is especially bad at the moment, as I’m working in a kitchen, where we have plates of the most delicious buffet food, that is going to be thrown out at the end of the night if we don’t eat it. If I’m around food, I’ll eat it. And in fairly large quantities, too. I’m finding it hard being in an all female flat this year, where we generally have much less food, and much smaller servings than I’m used to. I’m the vacuum cleaner of the group, as I clean up any leftovers, and eat pretty much anything.
    And yet somehow I’m still 5’11″ and under 70kg. Yay genetics! One day my metabolism will change its mind and I’ll be properly screwed.

    I don’t stress eat, though. I’m more inclined to go off food, if I’m stressed or upset. Instead I binge on either internet, or tv. After my recent split from a long term boyfriend I watched the entirety of the first five seasons of How I Met Your Mother in four days. Because I’m cool like that.

  • marissa

    I run. I just run and run and run for miles until my hands are swollen and I have blisters on my feet. I guess that’s not too bad though.