5 Eating Habits That Are Stressing Out Your Body

by JJ Virgin on May 25, 2023

You’ve likely experienced a time when you ate too much. The digestive aftermath was far from pleasant, right? Likewise, skipping a meal might have left you feeling lethargic, cranky, and unfocused. In other words, you’re aware of how bad eating habits can stress out your body.  

I’m talking about the negative repercussions that poor eating habits can have on your physical and mental well-being. Practically speaking, you don’t feel so well. But as you’ll see, the effects can be more far-reaching, and they aren’t always immediate or obvious.  

1. Overeating 

Have you ever had one of those days where you couldn’t stop eating? My bet is that you were having a stressful day, and food provided solace. Studies show that when you’re stressed out, you’re more likely to overeat and pay the digestive consequences (along with putting on weight).1 

Overeating encompasses a wide range of behaviors, including eating when you’re not hungry, mindless eating, and eating too much food.2  

Chronic stress isn’t the only reason that people overeat. An imbalance in hunger hormones, including leptin and ghrelin, can also lead you to reach for seconds or thirds, even when you’ve physically had enough.3  

When you sleep terribly, you‘re also more likely to eat beyond comfort the next morning,4 and studies show it’s common to go for sugary, processed, empty-nutrient foods, too.5 You’re not going to eat 10 apples, but you can easily eat the equivalent of those calories and sugar in cookies or chips. But even healthy foods can become unhealthy if you overeat them.  

The results of overeating go beyond gas, bloating, and other digestive miseries. In the bigger picture, overeating can increase your risk of chronic disease. Your hunger-regulating hormones fall out of balance, your brain doesn’t function as well, and you may get drowsy during the day (bye-bye, afternoon productivity!).6 

2. Eating Too Quickly 

Our fast-faster culture practically encourages multitasking when you’re eating: grabbing something quick on your drive to work or shoveling down lunch while working at your desk. 

Eating too quickly can cause stress on your digestive system. Your body may not have enough time to properly break down the food. As a result, you swallow more air, creating digestive issues like bloating and gas.7  

Because it takes about 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full, eating fast means you’re more likely to overeat.8 Plus, let’s be honest: when you’re wolfing down food like you’re trying to win a contest, you’re not taking pleasure in it. The opposite of eating too quickly is mindful eating.  

“Mindful eating is feeling the food in your stomach and experiencing pleasure—or whatever you feel—from eating it,” says Susan Albers, PhD, in Eating Mindfully. “When you are watchful, you notice how your stomach expands and feels fuller while you are eating. You experience each bite from start to finish. You slow down every aspect of the eating process to be fully aware of its different parts, and to feel connected to it.”9 

3. Skipping Meals 

When I talk about skipping meals, I’m emphatically not talking about intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating, which provides many benefits including maintaining a healthy weight.10 What’s the difference? When you do intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating, you’re mindfully planning when you will and won’t be eating.  

Skipping meals, on the other hand, often means you’re blowing off eating because you’ve got something more urgent to deal with or you’re in a time crunch.  

You know the drill: you hit the snooze button four times, realize you’re late for work, chug a bunch of coffee to get moving, and suddenly it’s 1 pm and you haven’t eaten a thing.  

Unfortunately, those plans often backfire. Skipping meals can send your blood sugar in a tailspin, creating a spike-and-crash cycle that creates hunger, cravings, and overeating.  

Consider breakfast. I want you to break your overnight fast between 1.5-3 hours after you wake up with a loaded smoothie. Then, you’ll eat by the plate at lunch and dinner. When you close the kitchen after dinner and nudge breakfast slightly forward that next morning, you’re creating a 12-15 hour overnight fast that gets great results.  

That scenario is very different from skipping breakfast because you woke up too late and rushed around the morning, which sets you up for bad decisions throughout the day. One review of 45 studies confirmed what I’ve found working with clients for four decades: skipping breakfast increases the risk of significant weight gain.11 

4. Grazing 

While more experts are recognizing the benefits of intermittent fasting, I still see someone occasionally suggest that we should constantly eat throughout the day to fuel metabolism, prevent muscle loss, or lose weight.  

Nonsense. Grazing is a one-way ticket to overeating, making poor food choices, and negatively impacting gut health. 

When I say grazing, I’m talking about the habit of snacking and eating mini-meals throughout the day. You’re not usually eating because you’re hungry. Instead, you’re reaching for a handful of this or a few bites of that because it’s in front of you.  

Grazing keeps your digestion on a 24/7 work schedule. Over time, that onslaught of constant eating can tax your digestive system, impairing its ability to break down food, leading to issues like gas and bloating, and potentially setting you up for food intolerance.  

When you graze, you’re also keeping your fat cells bolted. Why? Because every time you eat, your body releases insulin to help regulate your blood sugar levels. If you’re grazing frequently, you’re keeping this hormone constantly on guard, and insulin does one thing very well: store fat. The practical repercussions of grazing include taking in way more calories than your body can handle, which also makes you store fat.  

When you eat by the plate every three to four hours, you won’t feel the need to graze. Your blood-sugar levels stay balanced, you optimize your metabolism, you eliminate hunger and cravings, and weight loss becomes much more manageable. 

5. Emotional Eating 

Emotional eating means using food to soothe or cope with unpleasant feelings like stress, anxiety, sadness, or boredom. In other words, you’re not eating out of genuine hunger. Most people aren’t emotionally eating things like wild salmon and spinach. They’re gravitating to high sugar-impact foods that provide a modicum of relief at a massive metabolic cost. 

Emotional eating can take a toll on your physical and mental health. You may be familiar with the aftermath of devouring three chocolate brownies to numb feelings. What usually results is guilt, shame, and low self-esteem. Researchers find that depression and emotional eating often go together. They also find that people who don’t sleep well and emotionally eat are especially vulnerable to weight gain.12 

Managing emotional eating can be challenging, especially if you’ve long used it as a crutch to deal with unpleasant feelings. But when you address underlying emotions and find healthier ways to cope with them (such as meditation and the right kind of exercise), you cultivate a new level of physical and mental health that no comfort food can provide.  

Developing Smart Habits to Support a Healthy Metabolism 

Over time, overeating, skipping meals, and other unhealthy eating behaviors can take their toll on your metabolism, stalling fat loss and making optimizing your body composition a struggle. To repair the stress that these habits create, you’ll want to heal your metabolism. 

My Metabolism Rescue Program offers a comprehensive Metabolism Rescue Guide, covering the mistakes you may be making that are stalling your fat loss, the most important needle movers for boosting your metabolism, how to measure and monitor your progress, the best foods and herbs for achieving optimal results, my four-step Metabolism Rescue workout plan, plus a seven-day meal plan including nutritious, easy-to-prepare meals and loaded smoothie recipes. 

For even more support, you’ll also receive my exclusive Metabolism Rescue Masterclass to help you repair damage from chronic dieting, lose fat, and keep it off for good. 

For optimal results, I bundled three science-supported supplements (All-In-One Shake, Metabolic Reset™, and Collagen Peptides Powder) that help balance your hormones so you keep your appetite in check, build strong muscle, and improve your fat-burning ability.* 

The Metabolism Rescue Program is unlike any other program… because I’ve addressed unhealthy eating patterns and created a sustainable plan that helps you reach your weight-loss and overall health goals.  

Learn more about the program here. 


  1. Razzoli M, Pearson C, Crow S, Bartolomucci A. Stress, overeating, and obesity: Insights from human studies and preclinical models. Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2017 May;76(Pt A):154-162. doi: 10.1016/j.neubiorev.2017.01.026. Epub 2017 Mar 11. PMID: 28292531; PMCID: PMC5403578. 
  2. Long EV, Vartanian LR, Herman CP, Polivy J. What does it mean to overeat? Eat Behav. 2020 Apr;37:101390. doi: 10.1016/j.eatbeh.2020.101390. Epub 2020 May 3. PMID: 32434120. 
  3. Lindqvist A, de la Cour CD, Stegmark A, Håkanson R, Erlanson-Albertsson C. Overeating of palatable food is associated with blunted leptin and ghrelin responses. Regul Pept. 2005 Sep 15;130(3):123-32. doi: 10.1016/j.regpep.2005.05.002. PMID: 15964641. 
  4. St-Onge MP, McReynolds A, Trivedi ZB, Roberts AL, Sy M, Hirsch J. Sleep restriction leads to increased activation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;95(4):818-24. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.027383. Epub 2012 Feb 22. PMID: 22357722; PMCID: PMC3302360. 
  5. Hall KD, Ayuketah A, Brychta R, Cai H, Cassimatis T, Chen KY, Chung ST, Costa E, Courville A, Darcey V, Fletcher LA, Forde CG, Gharib AM, Guo J, Howard R, Joseph PV, McGehee S, Ouwerkerk R, Raisinger K, Rozga I, Stagliano M, Walter M, Walter PJ, Yang S, Zhou M. Ultra-Processed Diets Cause Excess Calorie Intake and Weight Gain: An Inpatient Randomized Controlled Trial of Ad Libitum Food Intake. Cell Metab. 2019 Jul 2;30(1):67-77.e3. doi: 10.1016/j.cmet.2019.05.008. Epub 2019 May 16. Erratum in: Cell Metab. 2019 Jul 2;30(1):226. Erratum in: Cell Metab. 2020 Oct 6;32(4):690. PMID: 31105044; PM 
  6. Healthline: 7 Ways That Overeating Affects Your Body 
  7. Northwestern Medicine: Quick Dose: Is Eating Too Fast Unhealthy? 
  8. HuffPost: We Found Out If It Really Takes 20 Minutes To Feel Full 
  9. Albers, Susan (2012-05-02T23:58:59.000). Eating Mindfully. New Harbinger Publications. Kindle Edition. 
  10. Varady KA, Cienfuegos S, Ezpeleta M, Gabel K. Cardiometabolic Benefits of Intermittent Fasting. Annu Rev Nutr. 2021 Oct 11;41:333-361. doi: 10.1146/annurev-nutr-052020-041327. PMID: 34633860. 
  11. Ma X, Chen Q, Pu Y, Guo M, Jiang Z, Huang W, Long Y, Xu Y. Skipping breakfast is associated with overweight and obesity: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Res Clin Pract. 2020 Jan-Feb;14(1):1-8. doi: 10.1016/j.orcp.2019.12.002. Epub 2020 Jan 7. PMID: 31918985. 
  12. Konttinen H. Emotional eating and obesity in adults: the role of depression, sleep and genes. Proc Nutr Soc. 2020 Aug;79(3):283-289. doi: 10.1017/S0029665120000166. Epub 2020 Mar 26. PMID: 32213213.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern.