Indulging a bit in your favourite food when something upsets you is OK, and everybody is likely to do it from time to time. But comfort eating may be a problem if you are regularly feeling sad, angry, hopeless, bored or lonely and are using food to cope with these feelings.
If this is the case, it may be a good idea to talk to someone about your feelings and look at other ways of managing them. If you’re eating when you are not hungry, and having feelings of guilt after eating, it may also be a good idea to talk to someone. This may be your local doctor, a psychologist or dietician. Check out face-to-face help for more information about how these people can help. The Bodywhys website or your local phone book should have the contact details for these people in your local area.
Managing your eating
If you’re concerned about always over-eating and comfort eating in response to certain emotions, there are a number of things you can do to help manage it.
Be aware of what makes you eat
It is helpful to look at your eating patterns and try to work out what is causing you to eat. It may be that you are eating because you are feeling sad or stressed. It is also important to be aware of how often you have these feelings. If it is happening regularly, then you may need to look at other ways of managing these feelings. Keeping a diary about what you eat and how you feel before and after you eat can help you to see what triggers your eating.
Comfort eating involves eating to help you deal with how you are feeling. There might be things you could do to help you deal with your feelings in a healthier way. Try exercise, chatting to a friend, drawing or writing – everyone’s different, but if you keep trying you’ll find something that works for you.
Dealing with boredom
It’s not uncommon to eat when you’re bored. If you find yourself doing this regularly, think of some things you can do instead. Ring a friend, do some exercise like kicking around a football, dancing, running, going for a walk, or reading a book. Get involved with something – volunteering in your spare time can work really well, as you can keep busy and meet new people at the same time.
Eating healthy food
If you’re using food to cope with your feelings, it may be something you’ve been doing for a long time. It might take take time to start using other ways to manage your concerns or stress, so when you are eating, try to eat healthy foods most of the time rather than those that are high in fat.
Talk to someone
By talking to your local doctor or a counsellor you should be able to work out some of the reasons why you might be comfort eating and different ways to manage it. If you’re not sure what you’d say or how it could help, read up on the benefits of talking to someone. See the Bodywhys for some more information around eating problems.
Thanks to Anne Connolly for contributing this information from her psychology research. Edited by Headstrong