5 Easy Steps To Stop Overeating During Stressful Situations

shelli johnson weight loss transformation stop overeating

I’m qualified to talk to you about how to stop overeating because I used to weigh 304 pounds. Now I weigh 130 and I’ve kept it off for 8 years and counting.

I’ve struggled more with wanting to overeat in the last few weeks than I have in the last few years. Here’s how I stop overeating and how you can too.

Step One To Stop Overeating: Calm Down

Being in fear and anxiety causes a fight-or-flight reaction in your body. All kinds of biochemicals flood your system, which makes it really difficult to listen to any kind of cues your body is giving you about hunger and fullness. The other thing that’s happening to you when you’re in a high-alert state is that the emotional part of your brain is what’s in charge. That means you’re mostly reacting and not using your logical, thinking brain when you’re making decisions.

So the reason you need to calm down is two-fold:

  1. So that you can listen to your body and be able to tell when you’re actually physiologically hungry and when you’re comfortably full.
  2. To help you be clear-headed so you can make rational, informed choices about for what’s best for you, including what foods you actually want to eat.

So the first thing you need to do is take action to calm yourself down in whatever way works for you. You can take a walk or a bubble bath or meditate. Something else you can try is coloring or writing something down or doing math problems in your head. All those activities activate your logical thinking brain.

I have created a free ebook filled with self-care activities, including coloring and journaling pages. Get it by clicking here.

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Step Two To Stop Overeating: Decide If You’re Actually Hungry

I know that many times when I find myself in the kitchen wanting to eat lately, it’s not because I’m hungry. It’s because I am full of anxiety and fear and a loss of control, and I want food to make that go away. I also know that food might make it go away temporarily but that’s always short-lived. And when the food reaction wears off, the fear and anxiety and lack of control will still be there.

The food won’t have fixed anything.

To stop overeating, you need to know if you’re actually physiologically hungry. So how can you tell? You’ll hear your stomach growl or it’ll feel hollow or empty in your belly. If you don’t feel that, you’re likely not hungry and instead looking to food to fix something.

I know it’s been challenging lately for me to tell because I find myself slipping back into anxiety and fear. So that’s why I have to go back to Step One and practice some self-care and calm down. I haven’t been doing it perfectly, but the great news is I don’t have to do any of it perfectly. I’m doing the best I can and if I eat when I’m not hungry or if I eat past full, I am cutting myself some slack and not beating myself and not using it as an excuse to overeat even more. I just do my best to wait until I’m hungry before I eat again.



Step Three To Stop Overeating: Define The Problem

Food is fuel for your body when you’re hungry, and that’s all it is. If you want to eat when you’re not hungry, then the question you need to ask is: What is it you’re actually wanting food to fix?

That reason, I assure you, has nothing to do with food. It has something to do with an emotion you don’t want to feel, a situation you don’t want to be in, a choice you don’t want to make, or something along those lines. It’s your job to figure out what exactly is the actual problem.

In my case it’s all these fear-based feelings that make me feel powerless and stuck, which is never a good combination and I just don’t want to be feeling them.

Step Four To Stop Overeating: Decide On A Solution

So start asking questions like:

  • What do you need to do to fix the actual problem?
  • What steps can you take, no matter how small, to fix the situation?
  • How do you get from where you are now to where you most want to be?

You get to choose how you respond to anything. Sometimes there aren’t great choices, but there are always choices. You’re responsible for your own happiness and your own life, so what choices do you want to make?

  • And if the situation is completely out of your control, what can you do to manage your feelings about the situation?

I’d recommend going off by yourself and sitting with that feeling or feelings and letting yourself feel whatever it is without numbing it with some substance or behavior, including food. You have to feel whatever it is because you can’t think your way out of a feeling. The only way out to the other side is through. Food won’t fix it. So you need to feel it.

You also get to choose how to react to your feelings. I know it can be overwhelming because I’ve been feeling a lot of overwhelm lately. That’s why my response to nearly everything has been to go take a walk in my backyard or play with my dog or go work on my novel. To stop overeating, I’ve made self-care a priority in my life to break the panic cycle, calm down, and get back into my rational, thinking brain, so I can think clearly enough to come up with a solution.

Start Where You Are
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Eat what you want, lose weight, & keep it off.


Step Five To Stop Overeating: Empower Yourself And Take Action

You are not stuck and you are not powerless. You have choices. So you do whatever it is you need to do to solve the actual problem. Taking action, even if it’s small steps, will make you feel empowered and give you control over the choices you make.

Letting yourself feel what you need to will also empower you. Once you feel it and let it go, you will realize that it was just a feeling and not something that can trap you or crush you or control you.

For a lot of us right now, my guess is that there aren’t a whole lot of tangible solutions available to us. We do the best we can to prevent, and that’s all we can do. So that’s why it’s so important that you practice self-care. Self-care will ease anxiety and fear. It’ll make you feel supported and nourished and bring some joy back into your life. And self-care is also something that’s completely under your control.

If you’re not physiologically hungry, go find something that brings you joy and makes you feel comforted and nourished then go do that. Something that has nothing to do with food or any other substance or behavior you may abuse. Find what makes you feel the most alive and go do it. That’s probably one of the most important thing you can do for yourself right now.


My weight-loss journey & how it can help you stop overeating

I got free. Your life can be that way too.

I made my own path because I needed to get myself out of the crazy-making behavior I was having around food. I needed no restrictions, no weighing and measuring food, no off-limit foods, no more judgment around food, no more judging my self-worth based on the scale, no more you’re-not-doing-it-perfectly diet rules that were only fueling my constant thinking about and obsession with food. I needed to modify and change any weight-loss technique I found useful to suit my own personal needs.

  • I lost 160+ pounds naturally & have kept it off for 8 years and counting.
  • I no longer have any eating disorders.
  • I no longer have a fear of food.

Just imagine what you could be doing with your life, following your own dreams and reaching your own goals, cultivating your own passions, making both your inner and outer worlds a more blissful and peaceful place, if you weren’t running in circles on the diet-go-round.

I got that for my life. I want it for yours. My books will show you how.


Start Where You Are Weight LossTM

Start Where You Are Weight Loss PlaybookTM


Let this be the year you make peace with your body and with food.

For more information, check out the Start Where You Are Weight Loss page.


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6 thoughts on “5 Easy Steps To Stop Overeating During Stressful Situations”

  1. Hi Shelli, great ideas…I’m going to try the coloring one to reset before stress eating, plus, how fun is that?! I’ll put the coloring book and felt pens on my kitchen counter:)

    A thing I recently came up with, for both slowing down eating a meal and registering if full, is to eat half of my meal, and without this being a sense of deprivation – I set kitchen timer for 10 minutes. I’m fully allowed to finish my meal after 10 minutes, but amazingly I’m nearly always full (and I don’t have big meals)! It’s SO true our brains (and stomach) don’t register full right away. This has really helped me shift from way over eating.

    Thanks for your sharing your journey, very inspiring.


    1. Shelli Johnson

      Hi Monica!

      Coloring really is great for stress relief. I’m so glad you’ve figured out what works for you while also showing yourself some compassion, doll. That’s the best way to stick with anything long-term. Thank you too for the kind words. Made me smile. 🙂

  2. Hi Shelli,
    I didn’t realize these e-mails you’ve been sending contained videos. Nice to meet you face-to-face. A LOT of stress lately with this Covid-19 thing. Locked in the house and self quarantine are really lonely for me (and a lot of people no doubt). Food seems seems to be the only way to get a endorphin release.
    I have started some coloring (Thanks for those pages to color) and a cross-stich project. Maybe your readers have other ideas?
    Thanks, be well

    1. Hi Maggie! *waves* Yes, I’ll agree that everyone’s stress level is much higher than normal. I’m sorry to hear that you’re lonely, doll. Big hug from me to you. I know I’m missing my social interactions too.

      You are welcome for the coloring pages. I’m glad to hear that they’re helping you. I’d recommend doing anything that brings you joy and makes you feel alive. Doing those kinds of things will give you the endorphin release you’re looking for without food. Those things will also give you a sense of normalcy and purpose too. 🙂

      I’d also recommend finding things that nourish and comfort you (bubble bath, listening to music, etc.) to ease anxiety and fear. I’ve also made a point of giving myself rewards for every little thing I manage to get done (even if they’re small, free rewards), and that has made me feel a lot better even with everything that’s going on.

  3. Shelli, you are such an inspiration to me. I am guilty of mindless eating. Thank you for the coloring and journaling pages.

    1. Shelli Johnson

      Hi Deb!

      It’s so great to hear from you. Thank you for the kind words. Made me smile. 🙂

      You’re not alone, doll. I would venture a guess that all of us have been guilty of mindless eating at some point, especially now with everything that’s going on. You’re welcome for the pages; I hope they’re helping you.

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The 7 Tips to Savor The Holidays

Without Gaining Weight

Download a free tip sheet so you can eat what you want during the holidays & not gain weight.

The 7 Tips to Savor the Holidays

Without Gaining Weight

Download a free tip sheet so you can eat what you want during the holidays & not gain weight.

Where should I send it?

Enter your details below to get your 7 tips

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We value your privacy & would never spam you.

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