Does Stress Cause You to Binge-Eat? – Dr. Lisa Ortigara Crego

Does Stress Cause You to Binge-Eat?

Weight Control Therapy

My Weekend Getaway Gone Wrong….

Early one morning on my way to the west coast of Florida, with Oliver my parrot and Grace  my White Swiss Shepard as traveling companions, we were off to a lovely long weekend self-induced retreat. All was good.

We were off to great start making excellent timing. Hunkered down in the car for a pleasant four hour drive, Oliver chatting and repeating laughs, coughs, sneezes and anything familiar he heard on the radio while sweet Sage was poking her nose from the back seat inching as close to me as she good without hopping all the way to the front, which was her preference. All was good.

I was clipping along making excellent timing passing through Alligator Alley (Interstate 75) so happy to know I had a lovely four day weekend to write, read, relax and also make an important meeting with the contractor at 6:00 that evening. I left plenty early laughing and singing with Oliver the whole way until the flashing light said Sunshine Bridge was closed ahead.

I figured since the sign was a good 40 minutes from my destination surely the problem would be resolved. Wrong!

I passed similar blinking signs and continued to ignore until the road was blocked minutes before the bridge and all traffic was rerouted. Now this may seem like a small problem but I’m directionaly challenged with no internal compass whatsoever and my phone battery was down to 30% and the phone charger was nowhere to be found as I felt around frantically in the glove compartment to no avail.

Traffic went from 75 miles per hour to a crawl then in a nanosecond a complete stop.


Stress began to take over…heart pounding not knowing how long I’d be stuck. An old familiar gnawing took hold—I began to think about what I had in the car to eat.

Nothing! I had nothing.

I’d finished my prepared foods thinking I would eat lunch when I reached my destination not planning on a disruption.  My mind began to think about my trunk and the freezer bag filled with foods for my four-day weekend.

I could jump out since we were at a standstill I thought and then get something from the cooler bag. As I was about to jump out of the car reality set in and I stopped and regrouped asking myself some simple questions.

What to Do to Stop a Binge

  • Am I hungry?
  • When did I last eat?
  • What would food do to change the situation?
  • What could I do instead?

As I ran through my questions I realized I definitely was not hungry as I just ate a few hours before. Eating anything would not change my situation. I would still be in traffic with a parrot and a wiggly dog both of which wanted to get to our journeys end.

What could I do instead?

Ten Quick Fixes to Stop a Binge:

  1. Take a deep breath, breathing in peace and tranquility, exhale all the stress, strain of the moment. Repeat 3 times
  2. Visualize something pleasant to remove yourself from where you are (like me in the hot car—as I turned off the engine due to low gas!) I imagined sitting on a blanket near the seashore, nice cool breeze… taking in the sweet salt and ocean smells, seagulls chirping in the distance, etc. I’m there!
  3. Squeeze and tighten all muscles then relax. Repeat several times. By tensing and releasing your muscles you are temporarily removing yourself from the situation.
  4. Place hand over forehead pressing gently with eyes closed. This is a motherly, warm and fuzzy that instantly brings a sense of calm.
  5. Place your hand over your heart. Feel the heart beat…focus on the warmth of your skin. Add slow deep breaths slowly and evenly. Feel your chest expand as you inhale and fall as you exhale. As you slow your breaths notice your heart beat is slowing down. Notice your thoughts are less about the situation at hand and more about your gentle beat of your heart.
  6. Put on calming music. In my case I began to listen to spa radio (Pandora) and immediately began to feel better. Music is soothing if it is spa-like music. If you put on hard rock or something loud it may have the opposite goal making you nervous and more agitated.
  7. With eyes closed cup your face with your hands. Slowly move your hands across your face feeling your jaw moving up your face to your eyes all the way to your scalp. Begin to massage your scalp. Notice instant relaxation settling in.
  8. Start a mini meditation. Studies show meditation can promote relaxation and feelings of well-being. Find something to stare at and keep your fixation on that spot.
  9. Think about what is making you upset. Is it the situation at hand or perhaps something else and you are displacing your anger at the immediate situation.
  10. Let it go. Sometimes when you let it go—turn it out to the universe it is immediate calm that follows. Remind yourself you will never be able to control everything.

Yes, I ran through my quick ten steps right there smack in the middle of a road shutdown which lasted 30 minutes then began a crawl towards the nearest exit where all were rerouted. The bridge taking me to my destination was completely down.

I had never ever taken another route outside of over the bridge and around the bend

Sometimes Plans Change 

I had to take a new route. As panic almost resurfaced again I saw the helicopter ahead lowering down to the cleared road. Someone was being life-lifted. Immediate sadness for that person overtook my hurry to get where I was going. My situation seemed quite small compared to those injured or possibly dead.

I bowed in prayer thankful to be alive and safe and prayed for the person(s) not so fortunate. A little inconvenience was a small price to pay, giving the police, ambulances and helicopter the clearance they needed to save someone’s life.

The goal in the ten steps is to remove yourself from the stressful situation with your mind.

Because I was trapped in the car I didn’t have the opportunity to go for a small walk or to take on a full body stretch, take a warm bath, or read a book because I had to pay attention to the traffic. But you could assuming you are ambulatory and can move away from your stressful situation.

Also, if you are in a situation where you can call someone and talk about what you are feeling it often takes away the stress knowing you are not alone.

Looking at pictures is also an excellent way of taking you away from the stressful situation.  Perhaps you went on a lovely vacation recently. Simply revisiting through your photographs transports you mentally to that wonderful time giving you relief from your stress.


After being rerouted it took me an additional four hours to get to my destination. I was only 35 minutes before the traffic stopped.

Food was no longer on my mind after running through my simple yet powerful steps. Years ago I might have stayed fixated on the idea of binge eating as that was my “go-to” when I was stressed. I would have found a gas station as I needed gas but also I would have stocked up on candy and other junk food choices. I suffered from food addiction and binge eating disorder plus bulimia through over exercising.

Times have changed.

Today, I may think about a binge but never act on it. I have learned to work through it.

Binge Eating Disorder

Binge Eating Disorder has become the fastest growing of all the eating disorders. In fact, according to The Fix  its more common than schizophrenia, HIV and breast cancer.  Though when one thinks of an eating disorder the first to come to mind usually is Anorexia or Bulimia but most common disorder is binge eating hands down.

According to Eating Disorder Hope, Binge Eating Disorder (BED) is commonly known by compulsive over eating or consuming abnormal amounts of food while feeling unable to stop and at a loss of control.

Do you binge eat? Have you found stress triggers your binges? What steps do you take to shut it down?

Talk to me…share your thoughts…

I care!


Dr. Lisa

About the Author Lisa Ortigara Crego

Speaker, writer, licensed clinical psychotherapist, PhD in addiction psychology, eating disorder professional, hypnotherapist changing the view about compulsive eating one addict at a time.

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