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7860 Mission Center Ct, Suite 209
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At The Center for Stress and Anxiety Management, our psychologists have years of experience. Unlike many other providers, our clinicians truly specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of anxiety and related problems. Our mission is to apply only the most effective short-term psychological treatments supported by extensive scientific research. We are located in Rancho Bernardo, Carlsbad, and Mission Valley.

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Read our award-winning blogs for useful information and tips about anxiety, stress, and related disorders.


Filtering by Tag: emotional eating

Mental Health Awareness Month: Fitness #4Mind4Body

Jill Stoddard

by Annabelle Parr

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Every year, Mental Health America designates a particular theme for the month to highlight an important aspect of mental health. This year’s theme is Fitness #4Mind4Body, and it focuses on acknowledging the connection between mental and physical wellbeing. #4Mind4Body explores the role of nutrition, exercise, the gut-brain connection, sleep, and stress in our overall wellbeing and examines the ways each of these areas impact our functioning. Below is a summary of the topics covered in the Mental Health Toolkit from Mental Health America.

Diet and Nutrition


Eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet is an integral part of health. Diets high in processed, fried, and sugary foods can increase the risk not only for developing physical health problems like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer, but are also linked to mental health problems, including increased risk for depression symptoms. A healthy diet consists of a variety of fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fish, nuts, and olive oil. Maintaining a balanced, nutritious diet is linked with a lower risk for depression and even an improvement in depression symptoms.


Regular exercise not only helps control weight, increase strength, and reduce the risk of health problems like high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and some cancers, but it also helps boost endorphins and serotonin, among other important proteins and neurotransmitters that impact mental health. Endorphins serve to mitigate pain in the face of stress and increase pleasure in the body. Serotonin affects appetite, sleep, and mood, and is the target of SSRIs, a class of antidepressant commonly used to treat anxiety and depression. Just thirty minutes of exercise per day can help improve mood and mental health.


The Gut-Brain Connection

The gut, also known as the “second brain,” communicates directly with the brain via the vagus nerve and via hormones and neurotransmitters. The communication goes both ways, so anxiety, stress, and depression can impact the gut and result in gastrointestinal symptoms, but changes in the gut microbiome can impact the brain and mood, exacerbating or even resulting in symptoms of anxiety and depression. Eating a nutritious diet that includes prebiotics and probiotics is an important part of maintaining a healthy gut and a healthy mind. 


Quality of sleep impacts the immune system, metabolism, appetite, the ability to learn and make new memories, and mood. Good sleep for adults means getting between 7-9 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep per night. Problems with getting good quality sleep can increase the risk of developing mental health symptoms, and symptoms of anxiety and depression can negatively impact sleep, creating a negative cycle. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia (CBT-I) can help clients reestablish healthy sleep patterns through addressing negative thoughts and worries as well as behavioral patterns that are impacting sleep habits.


Stress is a normal part of life, and the body is equipped with a fight or flight response designed to help mobilize internal resources to manage stressors. After the stress has passed, the body can return to its regular equilibrium state. However, when stress becomes chronic, it can cause inflammation, impaired immune system functioning, muscle aches, gastrointestinal problems, sexual dysfunction, changes in appetite, and increased risk for heart disease. Too much stress can also impact mental health.

Mental health involves a complex interplay between numerous factors, including but certainly not limited to the areas listed above. Furthermore, though maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise routine, good sleep habits, and utilizing stress management techniques can help prevent or improve existing mental health symptoms, if you are struggling with mental health issues, it can be difficult to attend to these areas.

If you are struggling with anxiety, stress management, depression, chronic illness, or insomnia, seeking professional assistance can be helpful. Evidence based therapies like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) can help to address problematic thoughts and behaviors that are contributing to emotional distress. Therapy offers a warm, supportive, safe environment to explore painful issues. A therapist can also provide support in helping the client to develop good self-care habits, like those mentioned above.

This year’s mental health awareness theme reminds us of the importance of recognizing the multiple avenues through which we can approach mental health, and the variety of tools we have at our disposal to improve overall wellbeing.


If you or someone you love might benefit from cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) or acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) for anxiety, depression, stress, PTSD, insomnia, or chronic illness, or if you would like more information about our therapy services, please contact us at (858) 354-4077 or at


Mental Health America. (2018). 2018 Mental Health Month Toolkit. Retrieved from

Emotional Eating: My Temporary Escape

Jill Stoddard

By: Sarah Bond

Can you recollect the last time that you indulged in your favorite comfort food?  Maybe you were nervous about an upcoming interview, a project at work, or the health of a family member.  You are definitely not alone!  When we feel stressed or anxious, many of us turn to foods that were given to us for comfort by our early caregivers during childhood (Cherylynn Glaser, M.A., personal communication, May 2013).  Although eating food may feel soothing and provide short-term relief, dealing with our emotions this way can be detrimental.  In fact, it can lead to an unhealthy cycle of eating that provokes us to eat more due to the associated guilt we feel after eating something that we regret (Cherylynn Glaser, M.A., personal communication, May 2013). 

As a result, many of us gain weight and desperately turn to “crash” diet plans and supplements in hope of instantaneous weight loss results.  Despite the great intentions and efforts of dieters, research suggests that most diets are ineffective in the long-term.  It is reported that two-thirds of Americans are overweight and/or obese (Ogden, Carroll, Kit, & Flegal, 2012).  Unfortunately, this epidemic leads to many health problems that can significantly impact quality of life and happiness.

Although it is recognized that there are many social, cultural, and genetic factors that can influence an individual’s body weight, the problem of emotion regulation is often overlooked.  Emotional eaters eat more than they would normally eat in response to negative emotions (Wallis & Hetherington, 2004).  Research indicates that this behavior is not partial to individuals who are overweight.  Rather, emotional eating is also prevalent among “chronic dieters” and healthy individuals (Evers, Stok, & Ridder, 2010). 

It is speculated that this overeating occurs as a means of escaping stressors.  It is believed that individuals avoid dealing directly with their stressors by focusing their attention on food (Wallis & Hetherington, 2004).  Thus, the underlying reason why overeating takes place among emotional eaters is because individuals do not have the psychosocial resources needed to properly cope with their feelings. 

The good news is that cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) are evidence-based treatments that have been demonstrated to be effective methods of treatment for problems associated with emotion regulation.  If you or someone you know suffers from emotional eating professional support is available. If you are in the San Diego area and would like to speak to a professional at CSAM who specializes in CBT and ACT, please contact us.     



Evers, C., Stok, F., & Ridder, D. (2010). Feeding your feelings: Emotion regulation strategies and emotional eating. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(6), 792-804.

Ogden, C. L., Carroll, M. D., Kit, B.K., & Flegal, K. M. (2012). Prevalence of obesity and trends in body mass index among U.S. children and adolescents. Journal of the American Medical Association, 307(5), 483-490.

Wallis, D.J., & Hetherington, M.M. (2004). Stress and eating: The effects of ego-threat and cognitive demand on food intake in restrained and emotional eaters. Appetite, 43(1).

Tags: emotion regulationemotional eatingobesityoverweightbinge eating