Has this lockdown seen you balloon a little? Winter and early spring can feel like the longest months and to add insult to injury we are still shut indoors. Emotional eating is a very popular term right now but what exactly is emotional eating? I like to describe it as eating for a reason other than for physical hunger with the following feelings and behaviours likely occurring:

• Boredom

• Eating food to avoid certain feelings

• Eating when you’re lonely, upset, when you are distracted (watching TV, when at your laptop)

• Eating when for urgency (you just gotta have that biscuit now!) or

• Even choosing food as a celebration

• And on the flip side, if you are not feeling the need for food (rumbling or emptying stomach)

If any of the above sound like you, then chances are you are an emotional eater and your mind is creating the desire for certain foods. Eating from an emotional place rather than a place of hunger is a habit we can all fall into and I have a few tips that will help you to recognise what is emotional eating and what isn’t. Quite a lot of the time, emotional eating hits when we are burnt out, tired or exhausted and you just need that quick fix.

Firstly, take a pause and ask yourself ‘am I actually hungry right now?’ This can be all you need to bring you back into the present moment and realise that the food is a want rather than a need.

A lot of the time you can feel hungry when in fact you’re thirsty, so drink a pint of water and see how you feel in five minutes.

If you still feel physical hunger then go ahead and eat.

If you can, have a nap.

If that’s not possible then open a window for fresh air or go for a walk to get you moving and more alert.

If you find you reach for food when you’re upset, try writing down your feelings instead of reaching for food. This creative expression of getting it out and onto paper can really help with stress and emotional episodes. It distracts and engages your mind as well as gives you something to do with your hands.

If choosing food to celebrate, look at other ways this may be possible. Buy a small, non-food related gift to yourself, document your cause to celebrate by video of journal, give your friends a call and let them know your great news.

Urgent eating is quite a big one. Wanting to eat that piece of cake because you know it’s there and it’s calling you! In this instance, breathe! Just breath and check in on yourself. What are you feeling, what is going through your head and what are you feeling in your heart? Tune into it and feel those emotions, sit with it for five minutes. Chances are the urgency will pass and you will be able to carry on your day.

If you do still reach for food, then enjoy it and each mouthful SLOWLY with curiosity and not judgement. Be curious of your choices and be aware of any patterns forming – trust me there is always a pattern!

About The Author

Margaret Bell is an emotional eating specialist who works with women who have an inner struggle with body image and emotional eating. With personal experience of overcoming emotional eating, Margaret now focuses on setting women free from the diet trap, so that they can live a life that isn’t dictated or governed by food or feelings of guilt. As well as working with women individually and in group coaching sessions, Margaret’s first recipe book: True Taste is available now and can be ordered here