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10 ways to stop comfort eating when you're angry, bored or stressed
10 ways to stop comfort eating when you're angry, bored or stressed
When we’re feeling depressed, angry, bored or stressed, many of us turn to food to give us comfort. But if you’re developing a serious chocolate habit, here’s our WM guide to help you put a brake on eating bad mood-food
YOU’RE at home after a bad day at the office and grab a chocolate biscuit. You’re bored, there’s nothing on the TV, so you eat a packet of crisps. You’re lonely, fed up or a relationship is on the rocks, but you never reach for the bag of salad sitting in the fridge, you have a burger and chips instead.
Most people turn to food to bolster their emotions; it’s a great way to dull the ache of a broken heart and often provides a security blanket if you are stressed or worried. But, unfortunately, what we call comfort food is usually loaded with saturated fats and sugary carbohydrates.
Welsh model Imogen Thomas recently revealed how she binged on comfort food after tabloid revelations and it’s not uncommon for women to manage their moods by feasting on a packet of biscuits.
David Brookes, who compiled DVD Stop Comfort Eating Now, says: “We all comfort eat from time to time. Often when we feel stressed, bored or lonely or we just want to cheer ourselves up. Most of us do it without even being aware of it.
“That extra biscuit with a cup of coffee. That naughty bar of chocolate at the supermarket checkout. That temptation to have that extra helping because we’ve enjoyed the first one so much. Most of the time we comfort eat when we’re not really hungry at all.
“Comfort eating is something that is instilled in us from birth. When we were babies we cried and our mothers comforted us with their milk. As we grew older we were given treats for comfort or when we hurt ourselves. We were rewarded with sweets or the occasional ice cream when we were good.
“We were learning the lessons that food could make us feel better. And the early lessons in life always stay with us. But, unfortunately for many of us, these comfort eating lessons often come back later in life and cause weight loss havoc. When we feel under pressure or when we get upset or worried, those old comfort eating buttons get pressed and no food is safe.”
But, although these foods taste good, they are often hugely calorific.
Dietician Priya Tew says: “Although emotional eating can make you feel better, it’s a temporary fix and leads to eating too many high-calorie foods. The good news is you can take steps to regain control of your eating habits.”
Here are WM’s top 10 tips on how to stop dialling out for pizza after a hard day at work.
1. ANALYSE YOUR DIET: Keep a food and mood diary. Try writing down everything you eat for a week and jot down what you were feeling before you ate it. Try to pinpoint what it is you need and aren’t getting. It may be approval, security, love, or even just a hug.
2. TRY MOOD-BOOSTING FOODS: It’s important to remember that not only doughnuts can make us feel good. There are other foods that work much better. There is growing evidence that a Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fruits, vegetables and olive oil, is associated with less depression. Also, try eating more omega-3 fatty acids, like those found in tuna, salmon, herring and walnuts, as they are supposed to help the mind as well as the body.
3. THINK ABOUT YOUR FOOD: Eat mindfully and take time to relax and enjoy food. In our fast-paced society, multitasking often results in eating quickly to manage stress. Try making every meal a special occasion. It only takes a few more minutes to eat in a relaxed way. Turn off the TV, switch off the laptop and pay attention to all the wonderful aromas and textures of a healthy meal.
4. PLAN AHEAD: It’s easy to opt for a packet of crisps if it seems there is nothing else to munch on. Don’t order so many “naughty” foods when you shop online, and pick tasty fruit and vegetables that you can slice to provide healthier snacks. If the chocolate isn’t in the cupboard, you’ll look for something else. And you are more likely to eat some celery, peppers or carrots if they are nicely chopped and sitting at the front of the fridge.
5. FIND A NEW COMFORT: If you are eating because you are bored, find another way to amuse yourself so you don’t always reach for the biscuit tin. Try going for a swim, or even a walk. Exercise is a natural mood-enhancer. If you’re feeling sad or anxious, try short bursts of any type of activity. Climb the stairs to burn some calories and it might even release some tension too.
Music is also a powerful mood-changer. Put something upbeat on if you are feeling a bit stressed, dance around the house and create some playlists that make you feel good. If you have just broken up with someone, the last thing you want to be listening to is a sad love song. It’ll only lead you to the biscuit tin.
6. DISTRACT YOURSELF: Keep yourself occupied – de-clutter that room you’ve been meaning to sort. Make a list of all the jobs you need to do in the house or garden and put it somewhere you can keep going back to and revisiting. If you feel peckish, but suspect it might be because you are bored, read a book, put a CD on or watch your favourite film – and plain popcorn is not too naughty so you can even have a bowl if you feel like munching on something. Many of us feel peckish late at night, but try having a long soak in the bath, rather than eating another packet of crisps.
7. DON’T DEPRIVE YOURSELF: Don’t cut out comfort food altogether as this kind of deprivation can led to binge-eating, which will only make you feel more guilty. It’s perfectly healthy to eat the foods you crave but try to eat slightly less. Go for a two-finger KitKat instead of four, or one doughnut instead of two.
8. KEEP TALKING TO YOURSELF: Find a mantra that you want to stick to. Keep telling yourself that you won’t fit in those jeans or eating that second biscuit will only make you feel guilty. Or make a list and put them on the fridge or biscuit tin. Having the willpower to avoid the cravings will ultimately lift your mood.
9. TRY THE WAITING GAME: If you are really craving some comfort food, try waiting 15 minutes before you reach for the burger and chips. It will give you time to evaluate whether you really do want it and the craving may subside.
10. EXPECT AND ACCEPT THE INEVITABLE: We’re only human. Sometimes it’s just too difficult not to give into temptation. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do reach for that comfort food just a little too often. Know that you can start afresh tomorrow. Try to work out what is bothering you. If it’s a work problem, see if you can sort it out. If it’s boredom, take up a new hobby.
• by Rachel Mainwaring, Western Mail