As we come out of lockdown and find a way back into a world filled with temptation, it may be a good time to address the things we eat and the problems that can bring – weight, health etc.

It is thought that emotions, rather than lack of willpower, are the biggest blocks to weight loss. SOUTH WALES LIFE investigates why.

Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are now so well-researched and understood as to barely be considered taboo topics. But while these deadly illnesses are increasingly recognised by health professionals, many of us are letting food control our lives in much more surprising ways. How often have you reached for a chocolate bar after a bad day at the office? Or absentmindedly polished off a family bag of popcorn whilst watching a movie? Perhaps you’ve scarfed down a large Big Mac meal after an argument with a friend or felt that only the huge piece of chocolate cake calling to you from the coffee shop can get you through a tough afternoon. We’ve all heard of comfort eating but many of us just don’t realise how much our mood affects what we eat.

Your mood can affect what and how you eat

Losing Control

Those of us who eat to fill an emotional void or help us to deal with our problems are known as emotional overeaters. In contrast to anorexics, who often take control of their diet when they feel out of control in other areas of their life, emotional overeaters can lose all control when it comes to food, using it as a comfort blanket when times are bad. But overeating and weight gain can often leave us feeling depressed or guilty. It’s a catch 22 situation as the low mood drags emotional overeaters back to the fridge.

What Triggers a Binge?

Of course, in our society where food indulgence is available on every street corner and sweets are dished out to children as rewards and treats, most of us are emotional eaters to a point. However, when this emotional eating leads to regular overindulgence, unhealthy weight gain and begins to interfere with one’s happiness, it’s time to take action. The way in which an emotional overeater uses food as a crutch makes it extremely difficult to follow a traditional diet or to even cut back on portion sizes or between meal snacks. That isn’t to say that those who emotionally overeat are doomed to a life of feeling guilty after raiding the kids’ snack jar or spending a fiver in the work vending machine. In fact, the key to breaking the cycle is to understand it. Keep a food diary detailing the when, why, and how of your overeating. What triggers a binge? Why did you turn to food before another solution? How do you eat— are you a fridge-side snacker or a sucker for an unreasonably large portion for example?

A diet diary can help focus your mind

A Diary Can Help

Keeping a food diary can help an overeater find patterns in their behaviour and assist them in coming to terms with the issues causing the unhealthy attitude towards food. It may be uncomfortable to face problems head on instead of hiding behind food, but the best way to get away from emotional overeating is to accept the feelings and problems which are leading to the binge and find more productive ways to tackle them.

If you feel the problem is out of control consulting your GP is always an option, or speak to the NHS who have fantastic support information.

To find out more, take a look at our Weight Loss feature HERE.