Northeastern University Dining Services Blog

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Stressed? Eight Easy Steps to Control Stress Eating

Thursday, September 26, 2013 | 2:20 PM Posted by Northeastern Dining , , , , , , No comments

With assistance from Northeastern graduate student Kelli Harvilla

Whether you are getting adjust to being at school or your new schedule you may be feeling a bit stressed. Many of us are guilty of it – emotional eating. We love our favorite comfort foods and make sure they are available when we are feeling “stressed out.” When we let our feelings affect our nutritional choices, we also affect any weight loss goals we are trying to reach. Food tends to serve as a distraction, allowing us to put aside our worries for the time being. Unfortunately, we often feel guilty after an episode of overeating to deal with stress.

Tips to Control Stress Eating
Learn to distinguish between true hunger and purely emotional hunger
Know your triggers and recognize consistent negative eating patterns
Try comfort in another form, such as walking, watching a movie or talking to a friend
Don't make unhealthy treats readily available
When you decide to snack, indulge in healthy choices such as fruit, vegetables or low fat snacks
Eat a balanced diet and follow the recommended dietary guidelines, such as MyPlate
Exercise regularly and get enough sleep
Don't give up! If you do find yourself emotionally eating - start fresh the next day, setting new goals for yourself

Stress Effects
Stress is ubiquitous – meaning that it is everywhere, all the time! Stress does take a toll on our minds and bodies, but how and to what extent? For the most part, stress is harmless when experienced in small doses. In large amounts, however, it can be dangerous and interfere with our everyday life. Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between short term physical effects and temporary stress. Physical reactions, such as abdominal pain and headaches often result from temporary stress, while long term stress is more serious and can increase your risk of developing obesity, insomnia, digestive ailments, heart disease and depression.

It is important to remember that we are not the same, so everyone responds to stress differently. Individual vulnerability levels and physical reactions to stress situations vary across the board.

Helping Yourself
Managing stress starts within – only we know our bodies and our personal limitations. Believing in ourselves today and trusting the future will make a huge impact on how we choose to live our lives. We can help manage stress by learning to deal with it effectively, while identifying the cause and tracking our daily moods. It is also important to schedule “me” time and set reasonable standards for yourself and others. Be sure to look after your body and keep your health in check, while learning relaxation techniques and shifting your overall outlook.

Tips and Tricks to Manage Stress
  • Exercise
  • Stretch
  • Get a massage
  • Listen to good music
  • Talk to family and friends about your feelings
  • Get help when you need it
  • Be realistic and learn to say NO if you may become overwhelmed
  • Meditate or take a yoga class
  • Indulge in a favorite hobby or activity
  • Create a healthy lifestyle routine

Stress 9-1-1 – When To Get Help
  • If you feel trapped, like there is nowhere to turn
  • You can’t concentrate and you worry excessively
  • Your feelings affect your sleep habits, eating habits, job performance, or relationships

There are licensed professionals available who are specifically trained in dealing with mental stressors and helping you get back on your feet. Early detection and treatment is helpful in preventing serious problems in the future. It is also important to keep close friends and family in mind, as they may be the starting block to help you feel like you again. Even though stress does wreak havoc in our lives, it is a necessary reaction. We get stressed about negative events such as traffic or work deadlines, and we get stressed about positive, life changing events such as moving to a new house, completing a major project, or taking a test. Whether negative or positive, all events trigger stress, and the reality is, without it, life would be dull and boring!


Kelli Harvilla is a graduate student of nutritionist Christine Clark in the MS in Applied Nutrition program through the College of Professional Studies at Northeastern University.

Nutritionist Christine Clark works with Dining Services to provide you with tips and techniques to stay healthy during your time at Northeastern. If you have any further questions about this topic or are looking for more information about any other nutrition or diet topic, such as food allergies or sports nutrition, please contact her at


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