#80: How To Stop Stress Eating Sugar

How To Stop Stress Eating Sugar

When we’re stressed, our bodies crave salt and carbs. No guilt – it’s science! Instead of trying to willpower ourselves into hiding the treats, the better option is changing the situation, so we’re less stressed to begin with. In today’s episode, I’m sharing how you can start living in alignment and with less stress, and stop reaching for sugar as a coping mechanism.

You’ll hear about:

  • [02:21] Why we turn to sugar when we’re stressed (it’s normal!)
  • [04:54] How stress-eating is a signal of misalignment
  • [08:02] Ways to change the situation when you find yourself reaching for sugar

Mentioned in this episode:


How to Stop Stress Eating Sugar – Right Now and Forever

It was just Halloween and if you’re like me, you’ve got loads of candy sitting around. Is that scary?

Let’s talk about how to stop stress eating all that candy… because stress eating is a thing. Stress eating sugar is an even BIGGER thing.

But we don’t have to stop eating sugar.

We can have Halloween candy.

We’re human. It tastes good.

But how do we stop doing it in a stress-eating kind of way? 

Drop sugar shame

It’s not the candy that’s the problem. It’s the way we’re eating it.

Stress eating starts to feel out of control, doesn’t it? The hand going in and out of the bag, over and over. That’s when we feel like, oh damn, I did it again! Regret. Shame. 

I don’t have time for that– and neither do you.

So first let’s talk about the big picture. What is stress eating about – and how do you REALLY get rid of it? 

Find your stress eating triggers

When does stress eating come up for you?

I’ve been known to stress eat when I’m doing something I really don’t want to do. It’s like I’m bribing myself with sugar to get it done.

I really don’t want to sit here and proofread this slide deck, but FINE, if I can pound a bag of Hershey kisses… I’ll do it.

What are you coping with?

Here’s what’s really going on in those scenarios…

Your body is giving you a signal that you’re out of alignment with your values.

By forcing myself to proofread at night, I’m out of alignment. It’s not what I want to be doing. Not even a little.

So we start using sugar not because we love it (that’s cool!), but to cope (not cool).

We’re using it like a drug. 

I really don’t wanna be here right now so I’m gonna get drunk. Or get high. Or get a sugar high. That’ll get me through.

Big picture: It’s all about alignment

Here’s the cool part – we can change the situation so we’re living in alignment. When we’re doing things that make us feel good, they’re true to our values and sugar cravings fall by the wayside.

(You know when you’re really into something, you don’t get that urge to run away from it?)

Like me with proofreading… I don’t want to be doing that. But when I’m coaching a client? There’s nowhere I’d rather be. I’m not looking for a sugar hit because I’m psyched to be there. I’m not thinking about anything else.

What’s that sweet spot for you? What are the people, places, and things that light you up? That’s where you want to be most of the time. In alignment.

Stress eating is the body talking to you: HELLOOOO? SOMETHING ISN’T RIGHT HERE.

And that’s a beautiful thing. Because now that you’re hearing your body’s signals, you can make some changes.

Why you’re craving sugar

We crave sugar when we’re stressed. The stress response system in our body is literally fueled by carbs and salt. That’s why those chocolate covered pretzels taste so good.

When we’re living in alignment, we’re less stressed. We don’t crave sugar in the same way. We aren’t using it to cope with anything.

Now, I know you probably can’t quit your job the next time your boss gives you a project you don’t like. And you can’t outsource every tedious task. 

But DO pay attention to how, where and why you’re stress eating. Because over the long term, you can start making decisions that put your life into better alignment.

So that’s the big picture. (Sorry, not sorry, you can’t skip over that part!)

In-the-moment fixes for stress eating

OK, so you’re working on the alignment piece. It’s a process. 

But what about right now, today?

The next time you’re stressed out and reaching for the candy, there are ways to change the situation on a micro level. 

Do you need a change of scenery? If you’re working at home, go outside. Go to the coffee shop. Find a nicer place to work. Give yourself that treat instead.

Or make yourself a beverage that feels comforting. I love tea – a hot mug feels like a small indulgence. Or in the summer I’ll take a flavored seltzer out to the deck and suddenly everything feels a little easier. (There’s not even vodka in it! It’s just a little something that feels special.)

If you really do want something to snack on, go for crunchy. Go for savory. Try to replace the sugary snack with something else. 

It doesn’t even have to be “healthy”. I get it… going from candy to celery sticks can be quite a leap. 

So find a middle ground– something that will satisfy that urge to snack WITHOUT all the sugar. Something with some protein and some fat. I’ll grab a big handful of almonds. I’ve even been known to reheat an Italian sausage from the fridge. Try feeding your body, not just your stress response.

Make peace with sugar

And most of all… and this is super relevant this time of year… it’s ok to eat sugar sometimes. 

Do it when it feels celebratory. Do it when it feels joyful. Do it when you actually want to… not when you’re being driven by stress, with shame and guilt sitting nearby. 

And, if stress eating happens, it’s no big deal. Now you know it’s just a sign that something, somewhere within you is out of alignment. 

And you can take steps to change it. No shame required.


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