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Comfort Foods:
Break The Stress Eating Habit 

Comfort foods are generally eaten during periods of stress or anxiety and so could be called stress eating. 

The trouble with stress eating is that the food gives the illusion of making you feel better, but unfortunately this is only a very temporary feeling. 

You are soon left feeling guilty and this can cause even more anxiety and stress. 

Eating this way can soon turn into a vicious circle, where by you eat to stop feeling stressed, you feel guilt or start to put on weight and this in turn leads to more stress and other possible health problems.

Read on to discover why we comfort eat
and how to break the habit.

Foods We Turn To

When we are feeling stressed many of us turn to foods and substances which we know will help us feel better quickly. Things like

  • Coffee
  • Fatty foods
  • Sweets
  • Cake
  • Cigarettes
  • Drugs
  • Alcohol

Why do we turn to these foods? Well here are just a few reasons:

  • We think that coffee will be soothing and then give us a energy boost.
  • We think that alcohol or cigarettes calm us down
  • we think that sweets and snack foods make us feel happy

So we eat bad to make us feel good, right? Unfortunately this is true but oh how wrong we are.

Sure all these comfort foods and substances may give us a temporary stress break but in the long wrong it has solved nothing at all and could just be leading to another bad habit which will cause us stress and health problems. We seem to be very good and creating even more stress for ourselves than actually avoiding it in the first place.

Is It Just A Habit?

Habits have a funny way of creeping up on us when we are not looking. What once started as an occasional treat suddenly turns into a daily ritual.

But how do you know when it has turned into a habit?

This is easy to answer really, once something no longer gives you any benefit at all and you don’t really know why you are doing it any more, this is a sure indication that this has become a habit. For instance drinking a cup of coffee in the morning because you enjoy it and look forward to it is fine, but if you find yourself chucking back coffees throughout the day without really noticing the coffee at all then it’s time to knock this bad habit on the head.

The Stress Eating Habit Is Stressful Too!

The trouble with eating comfort foods and letting this behavior turn into a bad habit can actually make your stress levels go up, not down which was the initial reason for the behavior.

There is several ways in which it can cause further stress.

  • Comfort eating and other over use of substances such as alcohol and caffeine can put your body under physical stress. It can put a strain on the body and introduce harmful chemicals into the system, making it weaker and more prone to illness. This will in itself cause you more stress.

  • Emotionally it is bad too as you will start to experience feelings of guilt and even frustration at your behavior and this will affect how you react to other people. This in turn will make them respond to you differently; possibly resulting in confrontation and yes those stress levels will rise again.

Breaking The Comfort Food Habit

Once you realize that your comfort eating has turned into a habit you will be able to start to do something about breaking it.

There are several ways you can do this.

  • Don’t have your comfort foods available in the home. I.e. if you know that when you do comfort eat it is usually something sweet like cake or savoury like crisps then don’t have them available in the home all the time.

  • Use the pause method. When you find yourself just about to indulge in stress eating, stop and ask yourself these questions first;

    Will it nourish my body?
    Is this good for me?
    Will I feel bad about eating this later?
    Is it worth just a few moments of pleasure?

  • Replace your bad habit with something else which will be better for you and have this thing available at all times. So if you smoke because you get stressed, why not replace the cigarette during times of stress with another activity you like, listen to some music for instance.


It must be remembered though that for some, over eating comfort foods, drinking too much etc is more than a habit and is in fact an addition. When the body actually craves the substance then this is more serious and needs to be handled differently. Advice and help needs to be sought from a health professional so that you can wean yourself off of the addiction safely and permanently.

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