nervous eating?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created August 22, 2013 at 12:58 PM

i'm generally a very anxious person that thinks a lot and i find that i tend to eat when i'm thinking/nervous/anxious. i eat whatever is close by (junk food is most appealing)and i eat until i am uncomfortably full. I actually find that level of fullness comforting. i'm starting to think this is somewhat of a problem, and its something ive done since i was very young. i feel that its thwarting my progress with paleo, and i'm also wondering is this an addiction to junk? or is it a bad habit? or both? i can't get rid of junk completely 'i live with people who love it) but has anyone any ideas on what i could do to stop this?



on August 22, 2013
at 01:22 PM

well, pretty much any junk like bread, cheese, potato chips, chocolate, crackers, biscuits, cereal, icecream etc.. and lots of it.. i especially love crunchy things.


on August 22, 2013
at 01:10 PM

What exactly are you eating, and how much? Just using the phrase "junk" doesn't tell anything.

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4 Answers



on August 22, 2013
at 01:38 PM

i feel that its thwarting my progress with paleo, and i'm also wondering is this an addiction to junk?


well, pretty much any junk like bread, cheese, potato chips, chocolate, crackers, biscuits, cereal, icecream etc.. and lots of it..

How is it possible that you committed to trying paleo, and yet have enough garbage junk food around you to sustain a junk-food, nervous eating habit?

Before you even try to figure out if you have some sort of mental issue regarding your relationship with food, try to expunge junk-food (and non-paleo food, if you want to try paleo) from your life, and especially from your home.

If you wake up in the middle of the night twitching, scratching your arm, for that next fix of crackers and cheez wiz, you may have a problem. But if you leave the stuff in your home, sit around, eventually get hungry, and eat it, you're simply doing yourself a disservice.

You haven't failed - you haven't even started yet!


on August 23, 2013
at 01:52 PM

I thought I'd add another perspective, since most of the people here have successfully banished their cravings with a paleo diet (and kudos to them!).

I transitioned to a primal way of eating in March 2012 and successfully lost 40 pounds, leaned out, gained muscle and improved my overall health (I had serious digestive/skin issues before I went primal, and most of them went away after a few months of clean eating). Life was great. I was able to manage my weight effectively and effortlessly, and I was able to go for long periods without experiencing cravings or serious hunger pangs.

Then, sometime in May (2013), I started slipping a little. I hated my job, and was very anxious that I was going to get fired because I didn't think I was good enough to "cut it". I realized that I needed to do something different with my life, but didn’t know what! I was lost. I don't know where the desire to eat junk came from, but I gave in to it. With increasing frequency. I told myself that I "deserved" all of the treats I was having, and that I would go back to primal/clean eating tomorrow. I started with gluten-free and primal treats (dark chocolate, yogurt with berries, raw milk cheeses, almond flour cookies, etc.), and then gave up and started eating gluten again.

I would buy treats for myself during the day, and hide them in the house. My treats of choice were chocolate, cheese, and oddly enough, cinnamon buns (those things are DELICIOUS!). Like you, I was eating until I was completely stuffed. I found the feeling comforting, and I realized that the last time I felt like this, I was eating the standard North American diet (lots of grains, sugar and processed food). In my mind, there is a connection between anxiety, comfort and food. And unfortunately, the connection is to the wrong food.

Interestingly, this twisted “experiment” I was performing on myself proved to me how amazing the primal lifestyle is, and how good it is for my body. When I was eating junk, my skin problems (eczema) came back, my allergies came back, and MAN did my stomach cause me problems.

What would I recommend to you? Like everyone else here, I would also recommend transitioning to a low-carb paleo/primal diet and lifestyle. But I will also caution you that not everyone loses the cravings as easily as others, and so you may need to develop other strategies to cope with your cravings. Changing your diet will help, but how will you get through the transition? It can be tough, especially if you're still unable to deal with or remove the source of your anxiety. Even more importantly, how will you stick to it once you’ve reached any goals you set for yourself? If you lose weight, gain muscle, get healthier, sleep better, then what? How do you motivate yourself to continue to work hard to be healthy? This is a question that I still struggle with, and I think that deep down, so do a lot of other successful paleo eaters.

The way that I turned my poor eating habits around was to make a list of reasons why I stress eat. Really sit down and ponder that for a while. Are you anxious about what will happen tomorrow? Do you overeat because you have a poor body image, and you are punishing yourself by eating? Are you concerned that your life is going nowhere? (I'm not projecting here - these were the things that I still struggle with, and cause my issues with overeating).Once I finished the list, I wrote down why I should be eating (hint: it’s to fuel your body and promote general good health). Then I wrote down other things that I could do to comfort myself, or reward myself for doing something well. This list includes things like taking a nice walk, enjoying an evening with a good book, relaxing in the sun somewhere, enjoying a glass of wine with my boyfriend. Write down all of the relatively healthy things that you enjoy, and try to do one of those instead of reaching for that bag of crunchy things.

The other thing I would recommend is to track any of your health symptoms – closely. Write down what you eat every day, and whenever you feel crappy, indicate what happened. Did your stomach hurt the next day? Did you develop a cold? Did you have a splitting headache? Doing this will give you concrete reinforcement that you’re doing the right thing for your health. And if you slip again, you’ll know exactly which foods set you off. Interestingly, this was the way that I was really able to prove to myself that gluten sets me off, and that eggs and dairy can be problematic for me. The only thing I will note about this is that the initial transition to low-carb can be hard for some people, and can induce what is commonly known as the “low-carb flu”. Google it before you change your eating habits, so you can be prepared to deal with the symptoms if they arise.

Good luck! I know how hard it is to make the change you’re contemplating, but I think you’re on the right track!


on August 22, 2013
at 04:05 PM

First of all, if you go Whole30 or strict paleo for a few weeks you will greatly reduce your cravings. Yes, it is hard but you need some self control. It gets much easier as the time passes. Also, I highly recommend doing meditation and Qigong! You would be surprised at how much meditation helps out with anxiety, depression, stress, and self control.

Qigong and internal alchemy techniques can also turn your energy and intent for cravings into other types of energy. Basically it is like smoking, drugs or other addictions. When you have these cravings you can obviously feel the urge as a sometimes overpowering energy built up in your body. It is possible to harness this energy or convert it into something else like ambition, or even actual physical energy. Again I would suggest Spring Forest Qigong, Lam Kam Chuen, or 8 Brocades.

One other thing that helped we was exercise. Whenever I would start to have cravings, I would just go for a short jog, walk the dog, do some pushups or situps, p90x, ect.


on August 22, 2013
at 03:20 PM

I can relate to your problem, because I used to eat like that as well.

The first rule for changing your diet to paleo (or any other diet for that matter) is: Don't have the stuff you are not supposed to eat in your house. If you are just transitioning to paleo, then having a lot of junk like bread and chocolate (I assume it's not 70%+ dark chocolate?) or cereals around is not a very good idea, because you will crave them. Therefore, you should put as much distance between you and those things as possible. The cravings might have to do with your blood sugar. You could try things like L-glutamine. I don't have any experience with it, but it is often used to reduce cravings. A lower-carb paleo diet might also help you to get your blood sugar under control faster.

I am personally on a low-carb (and currently ketogenic) paleo diet (although I do eat dairy) and I haven't had any problems with cravings for these things since going low-carb. Even if you don't intend to stay low-carb or ketogenic, it might help you to go low-carb or ketogenic for only a few days to eliminate blood sugar rides, which should help with cravings. You can then transition to a "full" paleo diet. You can always go back to low-carb/keto if you notice that the cravings return and you don't know what to do.

On a low-carb or ketogenic diet, the only situation where I will get something like a "craving" is when I am really hungry. Fortunately, the craving then is far weaker than it used to be before low-carb/keto/paleo and it is gone once I have eaten. So another advice I can give you is to eat regularly. And try eating something paleo in case of you get cravings. This might reduce the severity of the craving, which makes it easier to get past it.

The beginning can be tough, but it sure is worth it.


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