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Dr. Corinne: Overcoming Triggers That Lead to Unhealthy Eating Habits

Dr. Corinne Weaver : Sep 17, 2021

It might seem like a distant, unachievable goal right now for you to overcome this, however, I promise you it's doable! With a little bit of determination (and of course, support), I believe you can change the way you think about food for good!

This year I have been seeing some people in my office who have let themselves go and others who have been very diligent in their health. Which side have you been on? I can tell you I was on the just let it go side for a few months and then I had to slap myself around a few times to get myself together. Our slogan at our house lately has been, Get your life together!! So today I am going to share with you the struggles of Stress-eating in other words as 'emotional eating,' or eating to compensate for, or as an alternative to, dealing with emotions. (Image: Pixabay)

27% of adults admit turning to food to deal with stress, while 34% of these admit it to be a habit. That study was conducted in 2014. I am wondering if the stats are higher now??

Why Do We Do It?

While it's easy to blame external factors - the food itself, the party who provided it, the place in which it was consumed, etc., the real underlying issue with stress-eating lies in lack of awareness of our bodies, emotions, and our ability to deal with them. The majority of the time, stress-eating is done at times when the body does not need food, as the messages between mind and body get confused, and 'hunger' is not the main thing waiting to be satisfied.

Harvard Health has issued a fascinating article which details some of the reasons that stress causes overeating in adult Americans.

 Read more here

 As the article I've linked already outlines, in the short-term stress can actually PREVENT hunger cues. The hypothalamus in the brain produces hormones which suppress the appetite initially, but if the stress continues, the opposite occurs. Cortisol is released at higher levels, which increases appetite and causes those encompassed in their stressful episode to block out any other emotions, and sometimes logical thought.

Cue an episode of 'stress-eating'!

The longer the stressful period continues, the more emotional-eating a person will do. This inevitably leads to weight gain, further hormone imbalances, and an increased risk of more serious diseases down the line such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems. It's a vicious spiral that once entered into can be difficult to escape, but fortunately, there ARE ways to escape periods of stress and emotional eating. The first step - which you are all doing by attending this event today - is to acknowledge that it has become an issue. This is often where most people fall down, as their eating habits may fluctuate from periods of having a non-existent appetite and mild stress, to intense stressful and emotional eating periods.

Getting to know your stressors!

I know, it's not the most comfortable experience to look your discomfort head on, but it's the only way to make progress against the damaging habits of stress-eating truly. Even just taking the time to be honest with yourself and write down when you feel overwhelmed by thoughts of over-eating, or when you automatically turn to food for comfort can be a great way to begin. Once you've identified the root causes, you can set to work in minimizing the risks that they will happen to you again. For instance, if you know you eat when you're lonely, plan to call a friend or write in your journal instead. The more frequently you divert your energy to these alternative outlets for your energy and thoughts, the easier it will become to ignore cravings to over-indulge. It can also help to always carry food with you so that you never feel deprived. Emotional eating can be your body's reaction to feeling deprived in either a physical or mental form, so create new ways to nourish yourself. Stock your fridge with delicious, healthy foods, pack your calendar with exciting things to do, and be disciplined about setting aside time for yourself to relax.

Before eating - Assess your hunger truthfully. Take time to note your level of hunger before ingesting anything, and also note what kinds of foods would most successfully help fuel your body for the current situation/tasks you're facing. During - Chew slowly, take breaks and try to taste every little flavor. Many professionals recommend taking a break between 5-10 minutes in the middle of your meal. After - Try to view the meal you've just ingested as fuel to help you achieve whatever tasks, work or activities you're planning to undertake. 

An increasing number of studies link gut health to mood and mental health. Both human and animal studies have shown that probiotic supplements can improve mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and more. You can read more here:

Dr. Corinne: The Lowdown On Probiotics And How To Take Them Properly If You're On Antibiotics

Combatting your stress-eating can be extremely difficult. One way to face up to the reality of what you're consuming is to make a pact with yourself to write down every piece of food that passes your lips in a "Food Diary." I know this sounds fun, RIGHT?? But this is a good tool to see where you are at. For people used to ignoring ingesting unhealthy amounts of food in a single sitting, this can be a real eye-opener. Take note of when you eat, what you eat, and how you feel before, during, and after you eat it. After a few days of this, you might begin to notice some patterns in your eating habits - whether positive or negative; it's bound to make you see some sort of consistency OR inconsistency in the way you eat. There are now numerous apps available for your iPhone and Android phone which help you to keep track of your food intake/exercise and have easy access to refer to it. If you feel like writing down your intake and acknowledging the emotions which surround each meal, however, I encourage keeping a food journal, as opposed to just a diary.

Getting to know your triggers is KEY if you are ever to overcome (or at least manage) your emotional eating. There are no specific outlines as to what an individual's triggers can be as everyone experiences different things, so it can often also be hard to gauge when/how a stress-eater will be triggered to binge. For this reason, I'd recommend taking time while you try to gain control of your eating habits to focus solely on YOU. No matter how tempting it might be to surround yourself with people all the time to hide your eating issue - or the opposite, complete isolation - the solution to stress-eating will not be found in either extreme. It's by becoming comfortable eating when you need to, as much as you need to, and stopping at that, slowly beginning to trust yourself around food again. Trusting your body and the signals it's giving, and listening for once instead of numbing pain or other complicated emotions with FOOD.

More on triggers here

In the end, avoiding stress-eating and learning to nourish yourself with balanced, satiating meals is easier said than done, and you may still slip up from time to time. Busy schedules and unpredictable meal plans happen, but the critical thing to be aware of is that this is perfectly natural.

Not everyone eats 100% healthy, 100% of the time.

By providing your body with balanced, regular, portion-controlled meals, you'll begin to gain control of your eating patterns and more importantly, to recognize when you have thoughts or emotions that would previously have resulted in a stress-eating session.

What triggers or stressors in your life can you start to remove today?

 Taking the reins regarding stress eating is doing more than just ensuring your continued physical health, it's taking control of your mental health, too. When you start to consider the connection between the thoughts you're having - anxiety, stress, sadness - and how they're affecting your body - discomfort, indigestion and stomach issues - stress eating can seem like a vast and all-encompassing issue. But just as you can change your mind one thought at a time, you can change the way you relate to food one BITE at a time.

Through grateful eating, journaling, food prepping, speaking openly about your issues, and acknowledging triggers for what they are; you CAN and WILL see an improvement. Striving for balance and not perfection is some of the best advice I've ever received, and being aware that recovery is not linear is also a humbling realization. Allow yourself to struggle and find it difficult at first, just be aware that it DOES get easier. Try to forget all previous periods of stress-eating, and start fresh beginning with your next meal. (Image: Dr. Corinne Weaver)

While it might seem like a distant, unachievable goal right now for you to overcome this, however, I promise you it's doable! With a little bit of determination (and of course, support), I believe you can change the way you think about food for good! I am here to support you, so if there's anything I can do to help, please reach out. My mission is to help you get healthier without needing more medications.

I am deeply passionate about helping people become the very best versions of themselves. If you need any additional information, help, or questions answered, please email me at

If you want more healthy tips you can subscribe to my YouTube channel here Like and comment on my channel so I will know what tips and topics you want to know about. I am forming a community of people who want to take action in their own health with my social media channels and I want to know what health topics you want to hear. 

I hope my column speaks to you and you can wake up each morning with a purpose. What I do every day is a calling, and I give God the glory for allowing His gifts to work through me. I do believe in miracles, because I get to see them every day! Subscribe for free to Breaking Christian News here

God Bless and Keep Breathing,
Dr. Corinne Weaver 


Dr. Corinne Weaver is a compassionate upper cervical chiropractor, educator, motivational speaker, mother of three, and internationally bestselling author. In 2004, she founded the Upper Cervical Wellness Center in Indian Trail, North Carolina. Over the last 13 years, she has helped thousands of clients restore their brain to-body function. When she was 10 years old, she lost her own health as the result of a bike accident that led to having asthma and allergy issues that she thought she would always have to endure. Then, after her first upper cervical adjustment at age 21, her health began to improve thanks to upper cervical care and natural herbal remedies. This enabled her to create a drug-free wellness lifestyle for herself and her family, and she also enthusiastically discovered her calling to help children heal naturally.