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Test Your Sensitivity to Stress to Control Your Emotional Eating

By Marion Holt April 18, 2023 Mindset

Have you ever found yourself rushing to food after a difficult day at work or learning some bad news? Sensitivity to stress is your ability to resist or, on the contrary, to generate severe reactions to stress depending on the situation you have to deal with.

Because emotional eating is a coping mechanism activated when faced with difficult situations, the more intense the stress you feel, the more you will feel the urge to eat.

Test Your Sensitivity to Stress

Please rate every situation in the following questionnaire from 1 to 3, depending on the level of stress this situation would cause you if you were confronted with it just now. 1 stands for “no or very moderate stress”, 2 for “average stress”, and 3 for “high stress.”

You are running late during your morning commute.
Your manager left you a message saying they need to talk to you, without saying more.
You are assigned a new task at work.
After work, you have to run some errands before going home.
You argue with your partner/spouse.
You become aware of the critical responsibilities of your job.
You struggle with financial issues.
You feel like you’re not doing your job well enough.
You find a notarized letter from the IRS in your mailbox.
You feel like you might have Covid / a bad flu.
You witness a bad car accident.
You are trying to focus on important and urgent work… but your phone keeps ringing.
Your TV dies right in the middle of your favorite movie or show.
Your partner/spouse has just lost their job.
It’s late at night and you have not started preparing your important presentation for tomorrow yet.
You are feeling increasingly dissatisfied with your job/work conditions.
You feel like you’re competing with another person.
You need to prioritize your tasks, but you can’t put anything off.
You wake up at night and can’t go back to sleep despite your fatigue.
Your boss asks you to work overtime.
You need to work overtime to finish an important project and must cancel several personal commitments/vacations.
You feel trapped in others’ expectations of you.

Your Score

Let’s evaluate your results and analyze your total score.

From 22 to 36 points

Either you have a gift for approaching all life situations with hindsight and pragmatism, which allows you to avoid unnecessary tensions, or I need to hear what you are doing to achieve this level of serenity! You probably do not need the help of food too much to face your everyday routine.

From 37 to 51 points

You are under stress, but you still have control, even if you are very demanding of yourself. You probably need to eat comfort food occasionally to find some relief.

From 52 to 56 points

You probably eat your emotions on a regular basis to face your normal routine. You need to learn to let go and stop pushing your limits as much. You are not responsible for everything and not everything can always be perfect.

Manage Your Stress to Control Your Emotional Eating

Please remember we are not equal when it comes to stress sensitivity. If this small test gives a fairly clear vision of your reactivity to stress, you also need to keep in mind your results cannot be compared with someone else’s. What triggers your emotional eating can leave someone else impassive, and vice versa.

Also, what triggers your emotional eating today might not be such a stress factor in the future. You can test yourself regularly, in order to pinpoint what drives you to eat when not hungry at different moments of your life.

Your stress sensitivity also depends on many physiological and psychological factors. If you sleep poorly the night before taking the test or worry about a loved one facing a difficult moment in their life, your assessment can be very different, and small events can suddenly feel like insurmountable obstacles.

Please go back to your test and the situations you rated as highly stressful. Can you see a repetitive pattern? Do those situations happen mostly at work? At home? In specific circumstances? If you notice that, over time, the same repetitive situations keep stressing you out to the point you need to turn to food for comfort, it is time to challenge your routine.

Regular practice of a relaxation activity, such as breathing exercises, can help you regulate your stress and emotional eating when the source of your stress is punctual and occasional. In this case, taking a few minutes to practice your exercises, or to meditate, can really help you stay away from food and manage your stress. This bubble of calm will give you the necessary awareness to regain your calm and resist your urge to eat.

But if the same stressful situations keep occurring in your life and you cannot take a break from the stress they create in another way than turning to comfort food, it is time to consider making changes in these areas of your life. Everybody deserves to be able to find peace without using coping mechanisms to simply “manage life,” should it be food or any other one.

If you need to specifically focus on the areas of your life that currently generate the most stress for you and trigger your emotional eating, you can take my free online quiz here.

Let’s Have a Conversation:

How much did you score on your test? What are the stressful situations that instantly create the urge to eat for you? How do you usually calm down? Let us know in the comments!

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The Author

Certified professional coach Marion Holt has been an emotional eater since childhood. No longer. In her workbook series, Never Eat Your Emotions Again, she shares specific behavioral expertise and techniques for efficiently recovering from emotional eating. She’s helped many others going through their own journey to a healthier relationship with food – and a much more fulfilled life.

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