Norman Regional Health System

Friday, March 5, 2021

If you have experienced the “Quarantine 15” or the “COVID 19” — terms used to describe weight gain during the pandemic — those extra pounds may be the result of emotional eating.

Emotional eating occurs when you consume excess food in response to negative emotions like stress, anxiety, sadness, anger or loneliness. When you are feeling bored, you may also eat more than normal, especially foods high in fat and sugar. If you are an emotional eater, you may reach for certain foods automatically — sometimes without thinking — when you experience these emotions, whether you are hungry or not. 

If you are an emotional eater, learn more about what may be triggering these habits and what you can do to make a change and improve your overall health.

Step 1: Identify Your Triggers

The first step on your journey to ending emotional eating is to understand your possible triggers. This may include:

  • Money troubles
  • Relationship problems
  • Loss of a loved one or friend
  • Health concerns
  • Excessive tiredness
  • Personal or professional stress
  • Too much time indoors (could lead to inactivity or feelings of boredom)

Step 2: Break the Habit

Once you determine your emotional eating triggers, it’s now time to break the habit. After all, excess eating does not help alleviate whatever is causing your stress and may actually add increased anxiety if it leads to weight gain.

Here are a few ways you can control your emotional eating:

  • Keep a diary of what you eat and drink. Make sure to document when you are eating/drinking and how much you consume to get a clearer picture of your habits. It may be a good idea to log whether you were hungry or what feelings you were experiencing at that time. Review the diary frequently to see if there are any trends between what you are eating, when you eat and your mood.

  • Think before you eat. Before you reach for a snack or another helping of food, determine whether you actually feel hungry or if you are eating for another reason. Make sure you are drinking enough water because dehydration can sometimes feel like hunger.

  • Swap out the treats with healthy snacks. In order to avoid temptation, you may want to remove certain foods or drinks from your fridge or pantry that are your go-to picks when engaged in emotional eating. Try replacing them with healthy options like plenty of fruits, vegetables and snacks low in fat and sugar.

  • Stay active. Try to exercise 20 to 30 minutes or more per day to boost your mood and overall health. Get outside (even if cloudy) for some natural light therapy and for a change of scenery.

  • Break the boredom. Find fun activities you can do with members of your household or through virtual visits with friends and family. Ideas include playing games, having a movie night and doing craft projects.

  • Get plenty of rest. [JH1]Good overall health includes getting plenty of sleep. Adults should get seven to nine hours of sleep per day. The amount of sleep recommended for children and teens varies by age.

  • Stay calm and carry on. It’s important to stay positive and find ways to calm yourself down in stressful situations. Start by taking a deep breath. Walk away and count to 10 before reacting when you feel angry. Also, try meditation, yoga or tai chi to relax and recharge. 

Step 3: Get Back on Track if You Start to Derail

No one is perfect. Don’t be too hard on yourself if you notice that you are falling into old ways. Simply regroup and review the list above and get back on track.

Step 4: Seek Advice From a Healthcare Professional

If you can’t break free from emotional eating or you are still struggling with your weight, Norman Regional Health System’s Journey Clinic may be able to help. The clinic features a highly trained team of providers who are dedicated to helping you create a weight-loss plan that works for you. This may include surgical or non-surgical weight-loss options.