Eating so-called "comfort foods" (carbohydrate-rich fare such as cookies, bread and pasta) may help you feel calmer in the short term, but proceed with caution "Beware of 'Comfort Carbs'"). Over time, the price you'll pay for trying to reduce your stress with low-fiber, high-carb (and high-calorie!) foods is more abdominal fat.
In her most recent study, Epel found that men and women who overate in response to stress had higher levels of both insulin and cortisol, elevating their risk for more-serious diseases, including diabetes.
The nutrients that show the most promise for long-term stress relief are the Mediterranean Diet's keystone: the omega-3 fatty acids. As odd as it may sound, getting more of these "good" fats has been associated with a reduction in body fat, including abdominal fat. Several recent studies show that eating omega-3 fats can reduce output of another stress hormone, epinephrine (aka adrenaline).
While experts do know that high cortisol levels contribute to abnormal accumulation of abdominal fat and the subsequent development of life-threatening diseases, they haven't yet come up with a magic nail to permanently deflate your spare tire. In the long term, adopting habits such as regular exercise, relaxation techniques and a Mediterranean-style diet are the keys to creating a healthy, happy life -- and not just the antidote to ab flab!