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Practical tips for avoiding emotional eating and keeping your wellness in check

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Between stress around uncertainty, working from home, and reduced social interaction, emotional eating might be particularly prevalent in the coming weeks, according to the experts at habit-changing programme, Second Nature.

"Emotional eating occurs when food is used to soothe or suppress negative emotions such as isolation, anger, boredom, or stress," they say. "Often comfort or emotional eating ignore feelings of physical hunger that come from an empty stomach. The most common foods craved are usually ultra-processed, such as biscuits, crisps, chocolate, and ice cream. These foods are to quickly target the pleasure receptors in our brains."

Most of us experience emotional eating at one time or another. However, when emotional eating happens frequently, and food becomes the primary coping mechanism for a stressful situation, it can affect our health and mental wellbeing.

We are super anti-dieting at GLAMOUR HQ but if you're looking to maintain healthy habits during the isolation period to keep your wellbeing in peak condition, we asked the experts to share their practical steps.

1. Know your trigger

Keeping a food diary of what we eat, how much we eat, and what we’re feeling when we eat can help us identify what triggers comfort eating. For some people, it’s boredom, whereas for others it’s stress, anxiety, or sadness.

2. Find a new outlet for emotion

Once we know what triggers our emotional eating, we can find other simple activities at home to manage these without food.

The best tasks to do to take our mind off food are cognitively challenging ones. This means going for a walk, meditation, or taking a bath may not be effective ways to distract ourselves. However, something that engages your brain can be a better distractor, such as sudoku puzzles, crosswords, brain training apps, chess or scrabble, calling a friend, playing a board game, listening to a podcast.

3. Be prepared

We can prepare for when we feel compelled to emotionally eat by noting down some ‘if/then’ scenarios. For example:

If I’m bored and feel the urge to buy unhealthy snacks, then I will do a crossword puzzle for 10 minutes

If I feel lonely and start craving crisps or chocolate, then I will call my friend for a quick chat

If I feel anxious and overwhelmed, then I will pause and read my book for 10 minutes.

We can also prepare our environment, by avoiding having large amounts of ultra-processed foods (e.g. crisps, biscuits, ice cream, chocolate) in the house.

Instead, buying healthier wholefoods to snack on will mean we’re less likely to overeat and they’ll keep us feeling more satisfied. Stock up on things like:

Unsweetened peanut butter

High-quality dark chocolate (85%+)

Frozen berries

Natural yoghurt

Plain Ryvita crackers


Mixed nuts





Hard cheeses

4. Take away the guilt

It’s important that we don’t harbour feelings of guilt when we do experience an episode of emotional eating. One way to do this is to avoid labelling foods as ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘treat’ or ‘sin’. This can foster a negative relationship with food and create an ongoing cycle of comfort eating. Instead, we can class foods as foods that we enjoy every day and foods that we enjoy less often.

At the end of the day, it's totally up to you how you structure your isolation wellness plan but hopefully these practical tips will help you live your healthiest life during this uncertain time. We also asked the experts for their best immune-boosting tips and recipes.

This article was originally published on GLAMOUR UK

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