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Managing Stress Without Emotional Eating

One of the most frustrating aspects of the current COVID-19 outbreak (aside from feeling a bit stir-crazy and cooped up at home) is that the information and advice pouring in seems to continually change and be conflicting at times. Constant change increases the anxiety levels in both adults and children, and many people may find themselves using any means necessary to manage their stress. Stress affects each person differently, but the CDC is reporting that common manifestations during this outbreak include increased fear for familial health, changes to sleep and eating patterns, worsening of chronic health problems, and increased use of alcohol, tobacco, or other drugs. For this reason, emotional eating in response is a likely reaction many families will be facing in the coming weeks. So, how can you positively manage your own stress, and the stress of your family, during the outbreak?

Confront the Feelings– When you notice you or your family slipping into unproductive patterns associated with stress management, such as binge eating or constant movie marathons, it’s probably time to take a step back and digest what is happening under the surface. By identifying when and why actions are happening, you can better understand your stress and redirect your efforts to positive stress management techniques.

Be Intentional- Set a schedule, complete with planning healthy meals, clean your environment, and create sustaining?? exercise habits that help you stay positive all day long. Plan ahead so your day is full of different productive stress management techniques. Focus your time on fueling your body with positive energy.

Get Active– Nothing feeds your stress like an idle mind and body. Fight boredom with a variety of stimulating activities for both your physical and mental needs. This can include anything you and your family love to do together, but if you need some help you can start here:

  • Meditate
  • Take a Walk
  • Have a Dance Party
  • Paint
  • Read a Book
  • Go Outside
  • Do Yoga
  • Complete a Puzzle
  • Journal

Join Your Community– While it may seem impossible to keep your friends and family close, in the digital age we have the great advantage of being able to stay connected online. Play a board game on video call or join a Facebook Group around your favorite activity or hobby. There are tons of ways to use technology not to distract us, but to connect us.

Be Honest– Hiding your feelings from your family, or from yourself, is counterproductive, as it can actually increase your stress levels. Set up check-in times so you can support each other as you navigate this outbreak. By sharing your experience, you will not only feel more supported, you may help your family feel less alone.

CHEAR, based at UC San Diego, is dedicated to developing and providing evidence-based treatments for San Diego residents who struggle with weight and eating, including binge eating, overeating, and obesity. No-Cost Treatment Studies provided by CHEAR include:
  • FRESH-DOSE & ReFRESH for children ages 7-12 and a qualifying parent
  • FRESH TEEN for adolescents ages 13-16 and a qualifying parent
  • PACIFIC-FIT for adults ages 18-65
  • CHARGE for US military veterans ages 18-65

In addition, the CHEAR Clinic offers outpatient therapy for children, adolescents, and adults. We provide services on a sliding scale and accept many insurances. CHEAR clinic also offers an intensive daily binge eating and weight loss program.

If you are interested in exploring your weight loss treatment options, or to determine your eligibility to participate in our no-cost programs, please visit or contact us at 855.827.3498 or