How to combat comfort eating

Nutritionist and Centre Manager at Bupa UK
21 April 2016
Young woman eating pizza

When you’re tired, bored, or stressed do you turn to food for comfort? If this is ringing any bells then you could be letting your emotions rule your eating habits, and using food as a way to deal with feelings rather than to satisfy actual hunger.

Identifying your triggers can help you to manage your emotions so that food isn’t your first port of call. Below are some of my quick tips to help you combat comfort eating.

Stress less

Feeling stressed can wreak havoc on our bodies. It leads to an increase in the hormone cortisol, which can make you crave fatty and sugary foods that provide instant energy and pleasure. If you’re worn out, stressed, and generally feeling run down, you’re more likely to eat as a result of your emotions and not be able to control the amount of food you eat. Learning how to manage stress levels can help guide you to a healthier waistline.

Tip: Try doing some exercise or gentle stretches. The release of chemicals called endorphins when you exercise can help to combat the negative effects of stress. If you’re at work, a peppermint or herbal tea might help you relax, and take your mind off needing a sweet treat.

When boredom strikes

So you’re trying to lose weight, but when boredom strikes is the fridge your best friend? If this sounds like you, you’re not alone: 76% of people in the UK have said that food can boost their mood. So when you’re feeling bored, the fridge may seem like a good option. And who can blame us when there is so much delicious food around?

Tip: Remove any temptation by only keeping healthy food in the fridge and at home. Rather than eating when you feel bored, do something to keep your mind occupied. This could be reading a book, going for a walk, starting a hobby, or even planning some health goals. If you’re unsure how to set goals, take a look at our step-by-step guide to setting goals and creating new habits.

Eat mindfully

Mindfulness is the buzzword of the minute, but for good reason. It can help you to become more present and aware of how you feel and what is happening around you. Where you can, try to become aware of the physical and emotional cues that cause you to overeat. It could be that having a hard day at work causes you to turn to the biscuit tin for a quick sugar fix. Being mindful and recognising these cues is the first step to changing the bad habits associated with them.

Tip: When you’re eating, limit distractions around you and focus on your food – you’ll be more aware of what you’re eating and when you’re eating it. You’ll also be more likely to register when you feel full. Doing this can help stop you overeating and allow you to manage your weight more easily.

I hope that you find these tips useful in managing your emotional responses around food. If you find yourself going off track, don’t worry. Just start back again – as soon as you feel able to – with building these healthy habits into your life. Remember the three main tips: stress less, manage your boredom, and eat mindfully. With them, you’ll be well on your way to not letting your emotions overcome you when around food.

Even healthy people become unwell sometimes. Health insurance can help you get prompt access to the treatment and support you need to help you get back on the road to recovery. Learn more with our useful guide to understanding health insurance.

Victoria Evans
Nutritionist and Centre Manager at Bupa UK

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