How to Stop Stress Eating

food low glycemic nutrition stress Jul 17, 2023

Do you ever struggle with stress eating and unwanted weight gain? Watch the video below to discover the science behind stress eating and 2 powerful techniques to tack back control.


📖 Here's my book with the glycemic index food lists.


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Are you a stress eater?

Are you frustrated by stress eating and weight gain? Like when you leave that stressful meeting and there’s a tractor beam pulling you right towards the vending machine? Or you've just had that stressful, crappy week at work and there's a pint of Ben and Jerry's just waiting to make everything better?

Why does this happen? And how can you stop it?

Hi, I'm Jenny Evans. I'm a resiliency expert, speaker and an executive coach. And I also happen to be a certified nutritionist. I'm going to explain why stress creates these strong, urgent, powerful cravings for crap food that feel completely resistant to willpower and how you can take back control.

But before we jump into the how, we need to understand the why.

When you experience a stressful event, you are initiating the fight-or-flight response. And what’s pivotal to your fight-or-flight response is energy. Fuel. And the fuel control freak is cortisol.

When it comes to stress, cortisol makes us ravenously hungry. We just want more, more, more. It’s like your grandma on double coupon day at the Piggly Wiggly. Or like some of you during COVID with the toilet paper.

Do you ever notice you never crave broccoli or kale when you're stressed out? Cortisol knows that there is a lot of energy in fat and sugar, so we are hard-wired to crave them and search them out.

A good example of how this whole process can affect us is pretty much my entire college experience. It was a super stressful time of my life and I had no clue how the physiology of stress actually worked. I had no clue what was happening or how to stop it.

  1. When we're stressed, cortisol is produced and research shows that cortisol makes us crave highly processed carbohydrates, which are high glycemic. (And we're going to get into why this is a problem in just a moment.) But how this would manifest itself is that College Jenny, would make lunch or dinner that really just consisted of those cornbread twists that come out of that tube that pops and scares the bejeesus out of you, dipped into raspberry jam. Or I would eat an entire box of Nilla wafers. And I blew through so many bags of licorice. (And of course, all of these were fat free foods because it was the 90s.)
  2. One of the problems with eating high glycemic foods is that it causes a spike in our blood glucose levels, which is then followed by a crash, which then makes us crave more of these processed carbohydrates. So the more of these foods I ate, the more of them I wanted in excess amounts.
  3. And oh yeah, research shows that stress depletes our willpower. So it made it doubly, triply...I don't know we're probably at quadruply hard at this eat a moderate amount of food and eat the right amount of foods.
  4. And oh yeah, stress and cortisol puts our body into fat storage mode, specifically around our midsection. During college I was not really happy with my level of body fat. (Shocker!) During this process it actually created more stress because I was gaining weight and I just felt like I didn't have any control over my food choices. I actually went to Overeaters Anonymous during this time because I could not control the foods that I was wanting and eating, in addition to how much of those foods I was eating. I thought there was something mentally wrong with me. What I didn't understand was this was all physiological.

In a nutshell, you’re in this downward spiral, you don't know how to stop it, and it's really hard to stop it. It just sucks you in and it makes you frustrated, weak, and powerless. It makes you pretty dang stressed out!

There are two really pivotal things that you can do to get yourself off that stress rollercoaster.

The first one is to eat foods that are low glycemic. I have an entire list of glycemic index foods and more of an explanation on this in my book, which you can find at

But I want to teach you how to figure out the glycemic index of a food. Three things make a food low glycemic: The more fat, the more fiber and the more protein a food has, the lower its glycemic index. This means glucose is released into the bloodstream more slowly over time, so we don't get that stressful spike and crash.

So you can also do a little bit of reading of the labels or thinking about what's in a food when you're on the fly. For instance, apple juice is high glycemic because when you look at the label, there's no fiber, there's no fat, and there's no protein. So that makes it really high glycemic versus an apple that has a good amount of fiber. So the glycemic index of an apple is going to be lower than that of juice.

Something like an energy, I'm not saying that these bars are healthier than each other, but just simply how their glycemic index is going to affect you. In something like this, there's only 3.5 grams of fat, only 1 gram of fiber and 1 gram of protein. So they’re going to be pretty high glycemic. Whereas something like this has 7 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein. And this heavy hitter here has 9 grams of fat, it has 5 grams of fiber and 12 grams of protein. So really low glycemic.

Things like pretzels are basically just salt and wheat. There's only 1 gram of fat, 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein. So they are high glycemic. Same thing goes with something like a rice cake. In this serving size, there's 3 grams of fat, no fiber, and 1 gram of protein.

Any kind of a dairy product is typically lower glycemic because it is full of protein and often times some fat. Most dairy products don't do great on fiber, but for example, this cottage cheese has 2 grams of fat, no fiber, but 13 grams of protein.

Again, I'm not telling you not to eat these things based on how healthy or not they are, but just understanding what they can do to your blood glucose levels, which then can create stress in the body.

Other examples of low glycemic foods include the flesh of an animal (sorry, vegetarians and vegans) – things like chicken, turkey, fish, beef, pork and anything that an animal produces are high in protein along with some fat. Dairy is low glycemic. Eggs are low glycemic. Vegetables like peppers, broccoli, and tomatoes. Fruits like apples, grapefruit, and grapes. Grains like quinoa, wild rice or barley.

Other foods that fall into the high glycemic category are things like bagels, white bread, cakes, candies, cookies, chips, a lot of processed snack foods or fast foods, french fries, and potatoes. A lot of cereals are high glycemic, as are sports drinks.

Let's say that you have some serious cravings and don't want to mess things up. Here’s how you kind of have your cake and eat it too: if you're really craving a high glycemic food, you can pair it with a low glycemic food and that moderates the glycemic index.

For example, let's say you're totally jonesing for some chocolate. Well, have some chocolate covered nuts, because nuts are low glycemic. Maybe you just really want pretzels. You want that salty, crunchy goodness. You could combine it with some cheese or some hummus. Maybe what would really delight you is a bagel. You can totally have it, but maybe what you add is either some peanut butter, cream cheese, or sliced turkey.

If you’re jonesing for something sweet, I love to do vanilla yogurt and throw in some frozen chocolate chips. Another one that I like to go to is some oatmeal with peanut butter and brown sugar. (Yes, it’s an old lady snack, but I love it.)

And the second way to get off that stress roller coaster, is to actually rid your body of cortisol, which is what’s making you hungry for those high fat, high sugar foods in the first place. And if you know me at all, you know what I'm going to say…what science and research shows is the fastest and most effective way to rid your body of cortisol is through a Micro Burst.

And if you don't know what a Micro Burst is, watch this video to see how you can rid your body of cortisol in 60 seconds or less.


10 Micro Strategies to Boost Your Energy & Resilience

Instead of reaching for that candy bar or cup of coffee, here are 10 QUICK & EASY WAYS you can increase your energy and resilience by changing your chemistry and physiology.


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