As another lockdown begins, we can reflect on some of the challenges Covid-19 and the restrictions have imposed upon us in the past few months. It has been an incredibly stressful time for everyone, and naturally, our feelings and emotions are all over the place. For a lot of people, this has led to emotional eating – eating for comfort, boredom, or stress. We look at why this might be and explore how to cope with emotional eating during the lockdown.
Our eating habits are often linked to our emotions; whether we are feeling happy, angry, bored, stressed, or sad, we can turn to food for comfort and satisfaction. Emotional eating is when you use food to make yourself feel better.
In a lockdown, when we are unable to see our family, to socialise with our friends, and to do many of the other things we usually enjoy, it is natural to use food to fulfil our emotional needs. The stress of the situation, and the boredom, are understandably sending us to our fridges and kitchen cupboards more often than usual. It is important to point out that using food to cope with your emotions is a completely normal response, and there is no shame in emotional eating.
However, it will not fix your emotional problems. Often it can make you feel worse. Afterwards, not only does the original emotional issue remain, but you may also feel guilty for overeating. In the long term, it is necessary to address the feelings behind emotional eating. As lockdown looks set to continue for the foreseeable future, we have developed some ideas for how you can fulfil your emotional needs and cope with emotional eating whilst staying at home.
- Try to keep to a routine of having three regular meals a day. Plan your weekly shop and avoid buying foods you tend to crave and overeat.
- Enjoy food – spend time planning enjoyable meals, trying new dishes, and cooking in the kitchen.
- Allow yourself to snack but try to prepare healthy snacks like yoghurt and fruit, a small handful of mixed nuts, or vegetable crudities with hummus.
- Try to find alternative ways to address your emotional needs. If you are bored, try a new activity. If you are stressed, go for a brisk walk, or try some meditation. If you are lonely, call a friend or family member.
- Schedule in some time for self-care. This could be anything from sitting down with a cup of tea and a good book, to having a bath with some scented candles, or moving in a way that you find enjoyable.
Most importantly, try to avoid too many negative thoughts. You are living through a global pandemic – it is a really difficult time and beating yourself up about your eating habits is not going to help you feel any better. Accept that way in which you are eating may look a little different to normal and try not to feel too bad about it. Remember, things will get back to normal – the lockdown will not last forever. Try your best to stay positive, look after yourself, and stay safe.
For more ideas on how to look after yourself in lockdown, including some quick and easy techniques that can help relieve the stress and anxiety which often lead to emotional eating, please listen to our podcast 'New Year, New Lockdown' here.
BBC News (2020). Coronavirus: Should I worry about my lockdown eating? BBC News. Available from https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-52329529 [Accessed 17th May 2020].
Derbyshire Community Health Services (?). Emotional Eating. NHS. Available from http://www.dchs.nhs.uk/assets/public/dchs/llb/tools/tools_1-11/9_DCHS_A5_8pp_Emotional_Eating.pdf [Accessed 11th May 2020].
Help Guide (2020). Emotional Eating and How to Stop It. Help Guide. Available from https://www.helpguide.org/articles/diets/emotional-eating.htm [Accessed 12th May 2020].