Do you have a Diet Mentality?
The thing that all stress eaters have in common is that they have a diet mentality. That means you categorize foods as good or bad. When you avoid those foods you feel virtuous. When you eat them you feel guilty. Those foods become something you either try to avoid or something that's ok to eat. Under stress, when you're inhibition is lowered you go to eat these foods that you have denied yourself.
Stress Eating Is an Attempt at Nurturing
Actually, while most people think it's a terrible thing to be an "emotional eater" or a stress eater, you can reframe your attitude and stop blaming yourself. You are using food to nurture yourself because you're stressed. You're trying to do something to help yourself! You're not using alcohol or drugs or another really harmful way to deal with stress.
OK, you may think that getting fat is terrible for your health, and you'd be wrong. But that's another story....
There are many ways to stop stress eating. But the most important one may be the hardest one to change. What is it? It's believing that you have to be thin and the only way is to control eating in order to be attractive. Lots of people will claim they're dieting for their health, but if you are really honest with yourself in most cases it's because of fear of fat- or fat phobia.
Diet Mindset is Why You Stress Eat
It's been said the 100% of people who get upset and then stress eat have a diet mindset. People who don't have negative feelings about their body's appearance are not concerned about their weight and trying to control it. They don't eat from stress!
"But", you may say, "if I don't control what I'm eating I will never stop eating. I'll be totally out of control and gain an enormous amount of weight!"
And you'd be wrong again! Because in actuality your body is much better at balancing the amount of food you eat against the amount of physical activity you expend to keep your body at a weight set point! As soon as you diet you essentially throw a "monkey wrench" into the calculations your body does naturally. With every diet and restriction your body slows down your metabolism in order to keep you at the highest weight you've reached (except from pregnancy you'll be happy to know).
Your Body's Self Management of Weight is AMAZING!
Read this paragraph from Health At Every Size by Linda Bacon. If this doesn't amaze you, nothing will. And it should teach you that your body will do much better at controlling your weight that you could ever hope to!
What Do You Do To Manage Your Weight Instead of Dieting?
This is the tough thing. You have to start accepting your body right now. Hating your body causes an internal fear factor that creates stress in your body. That ALONE can have a negative effect on your weight!
Then you have to figure out what your stress triggers are and find a better way to manage stress other than eating (or alcohol, etc.). This is something you'll need to do frequently and it will actually become something you look forward to because it will improve you mindset and your health! It will also improve your sleep - which has an enormous effect on your feelings of hunger and satiation.
Mindful or Intentional Eating
And finally, when you are in control of your stress, practicing mindful eating will get you back in touch with your body's signals of hunger and being full. When you stop multi-tasking and pay attention to your food and your stomach you'll know when you've had enough to eat. But it can take time to learn to trust your body again. It's worth the effort!