Ever caught yourself knee-deep in a bag of chips, overwhelmed by the stress of always having to deal with your stones? Or, let’s face it. Life in general? Life can be hard! As the guilt settles in, you’re left wondering why staying on a stone-friendly diet is just so challenging.

If this sounds like you, don’t worry! We’re joining forces with The Kidney Dietitian, Melanie Betz, to help you escape from the toxic cycle of stress eating.

Whenever I’m stressed, I can’t help but reach out for salty and sugary foods to cope with my feelings. Why do I stress eat?

Kidney stones can be a major source of stress for many of us. In fact, studies have shown that stone formers more likely to develop anxiety and depression due to their condition1.

When you’re stressed, your body produces high levels of cortisol – the stress hormone2. The release of cortisol triggers an increase in your appetite, as well as cravings for your comfort foods2. Having these foods activate the feel-good mechanisms in your brain, giving you a burst of energy and pleasure when you eat them3.

Simply put, having food cravings when you’re stressed is a normal response. Your brain is doing its best to cheer you up! So, don’t beat yourself up for snacking on some ice cream or chocolate when stone troubles arise.

How can I break my habit of stress eating?

Melanie: “It is crucial to stop thinking about certain foods as “bad”. When we label foods as “bad”, we put them on a pedestal and end up wanting them even more.”

A single cheat meal is not going to ruin any diet. On the contrary, you should embrace that eating to feel better is completely normal and OK! Stress eating only becomes a problem when that is your ONLY way to cope with stress. Most of the time, the crux of the problem lies with an unhealthy relationship with food and body.

After indulging in unhealthy foods to cope with stress, many stone formers often feel ashamed4. As you might have guessed, these negative feelings can lead to more eating, fueling a harmful cycle of stress eating4.

Melanie: “When we tell ourselves that we are “bad” for “stress eating” or eating certain foods, it just makes it harder to live in peace with food and our bodies. This can lead to bigger issues like binge eating, disordered eating behaviors and weight cycling – all of which are more harmful to health than staying at a higher body weight.”

I just had a big meal and I’m feeling awful about it. Did I just ruin my stone prevention plan? What should I do next?

Melanie: “You also absolutely did NOT “ruin” your kidney stone prevention plan. Step one is to work on removing that guilt and making peace with food. Food is morally neutral.No food is “good” or “bad”, and having some chocolate cake is certainly not a wrongdoing! Yes, some foods have more added sugar or more salt than others. This is 100% ok! This doesn’t make those foods “bad”. Nutrition for ANYONE is about learning what feels good in YOUR body and making food choices based on that and what you learn is good for your health.”

Plus, no one develops stones from a single meal! Kidney stones are formed from months, or even years, of poor dietary habits. If you’re feeling guilty for overeating, you should step back and look at the bigger picture. Remember, no matter what you had in this meal will not take away from the improvements you’ve made to your overall diet!

If you’re still worried, put your mind at ease by drinking more water. Make sure you’re drinking enough to make 3 liters of urine daily5! The more you drink, the more dilute your urine will be, which is the most effective strategy to fend off your stones5.

Melanie: “Remember that even if you had a big meal, you still deserve to eat the rest of the day. Your body still needs fuel! Just move on to the next meal or snack. Most importantly, don’t look back.”

Should I try out any detox diets after having a big meal, to rid my body of the excess food I ate?

Melanie: “Stone formers avoid any sort of “detox” or “cleanse” regimen.  They provide no benefits at all. In fact, popular trends like juice cleanses can be harmful, especially for stone formers.”

Juices can contain high amounts of oxalate and vitamin C, especially those with various fruits and vegetables in it. Having these megadoses of vitamin C may trigger your liver to produce more oxalate, which causes more oxalate to be excreted in your urine6. Without sufficient calcium to offset this, you’ll be at a higher risk of forming calcium oxalate stones7!

There’s no need to hop on any detox diets. In fact, your body already has a robust detoxification system. Your liver and kidneys will naturally remove toxins, waste products and excess fluids from your body8,9. As long as they are healthy and working right, you should just sit back, relax and trust them to work their magic!

When I’m stressed out, I often opt for the most convenient meals which always tend to be unhealthy. Are there convenient meal options that I should look into?

As a stone former, the best way to take charge of your diet is to have more homemade meals. However, cooking and cleaning up after a meal is the probably the last thing you’d want to do when you’re stressed.

Here’s an alternative: check out home delivery meal services in your area! It is a great opportunity to explore new meal options and try out different cuisines. Most importantly, it takes away the hassle of constantly deciding what to eat.

Just remember to look out for the sodium content when ordering your meals, opt for lower-sodium options if you can. Currently, there are no meal delivery services that’s tailored for stone formers. However, Melanie has some great recommendations.

Melanie: “I recommend Seattle Sutton’s home delivered meals. These meals are not only healthy, well-balanced, and low-sodium, they are specifically crafted by registered dietitians to make healthy eating easy. If you’re keen to try it out, you can enjoy $20 off your first order of Seattle Sutton’s home delivered meals using my coupon code: SSHE-FIRSTKDOFFER.”


Life can be stressful, and dealing with stones can certainly add to it. To break the cycle of stress eating, you’ll first need to realize that you’re not alone!

Eating to relieve stress can be healthy and is 100% normal. Just be mindful that you have multiple ways of relieving stress in your life – not just food. Most importantly, , start by identifying what’s causing the stress in the first place and work on at least reducing that stressor!

Above all, be kind to yourself and remember, food is NOT your enemy!


  1. Néill, E. N., Richards, H. L., Hennessey, D., Ryan, E. M., & Fortune, D. G. (2023). Psychological distress in Patients with urolithiasis: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Journal of Urology, 209(1), 58–70.
  2. Chao, A. M., Jastreboff, A. M., White, M. A., Grilo, C. M., & Sinha, R. (2017). Stress, cortisol, and other appetite-related hormones: Prospective prediction of 6-month changes in food cravings and weight. Obesity, 25(4), 713–720.
  3. Gibson, E. (2012). The psychobiology of comfort eating. Behavioural Pharmacology, 23(5 and 6), 442–460.
  4. Sominsky, L., & Spencer, S. J. (2014). Eating behavior and stress: a pathway to obesity. Frontiers in Psychology, 5.
  5. Prevention | Kidney Stones. NHS.,tea%20and%20coffee%20also%20count
  6. Knight, J., Madduma-Liyanage, K., Mobley, J. A., Assimos, D. G., & Holmes, R. P. (2016). Ascorbic acid intake and oxalate synthesis. Urolithiasis, 44(4), 289–297.
  7. Sorensen, M. D. (2014). Calcium intake and urinary stone disease. PubMed, 3(3), 235–240.
  8. Grant, D. M. (1991). Detoxification pathways in the liver. Journal of Inherited Metabolic Disease, 14(4), 421–430.
  9. Dubourg, L., Michoudet, C., Cochat, P., & Baverel, G. (2001). Human kidney tubules detoxify chloroacetaldehyde, a presumed nephrotoxic metabolite of ifosfamide. Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, 12(8), 1615–1623.

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