How to Cope with Emotional Eating during social isolation

If the fridge and you are unable to stay two meters apart from each other, then it might be the case that some emotional eating is going on.

And that’s to be expected. These are odd times we are living in, and guess what? Food is comforting. Shocker!

This blog post is here to help you if you are thinking:

“What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I stop eating?”

and

“I just don’t know how to manage all this emotional eating right now!”

I’m going to paint a picture of what’s happening to you right now, and why it’s all going down for you right now.

Alright – first off, how do you know you are eating emotionally?

Here’s a clue: You feel something strongly, and then shortly afterwards you find yourself with chocolate-spread around your mouth sitting in the corner wondering how the jar is empty already.

Emotional eating doesn’t have to mean you are crying over your pizza (although you pineapple haters out there might do this now and again).

Yes, you might be aware that you need comfort and you are going to the fridge more often.

But emotional or comfort eating might also mean that you are not really sure why you are eating more than you normally would, in a fashion that feels a bit out of hand.

Emotional eating is all about trying to feel something different than what you’re feeling right now, because what you’re feeling right now is difficult to manage.
 

That there is the crux of the matter.

Emotional eating is a symptom of an intolerance to difficult emotions.

 (And that’s okay).

 

 

In the past (like, last month) you might have had a routine of being busy at work, then being busy with home-stuff in the evenings and then being busy meeting friends on the weekend, or busy with planning for the summer.

Basically – too busy to feel anything. And with so much busyness – you don’t need to feel a damn thing! Just keep being a zombie to your emotions whilst you tick off all the right boxes in the human world outside of you.

Now, all of a sudden – it’s just you, four walls, and your inner self. Oh yes, your inner self. That part of you that you might not have the best relationship with. What with all the wants, and needs, and emotions and feelings! Damn! Why can’t you just shut it up with a shopping trip, a meeting where you look in control or a good outing with the family?

It follows almost logically that putting food in your mouth is the next best distraction. And hey, it comes with the added bonus of feeling annoyed, regretful and with an almost hopeful zest of having a new problem to deal with.

“I’ll lock up my food!”

“I’ll fast for 10 hours!”

“I’ll sort this problem out one way or another – anything to give me a project to focus on rather than having to sit with my damn inner self!”

And I’m here to tell you – chill out.

Literally – chill, out. Like, right now.

What’s the worst thing that’s going to happen if you sit with yourself in silence?

Oh, yeah, I know, it’s weirdly horrible. Boredom is something much of the human race can’t stand at all – so much so there’s almost a physical shuddering retching reaction to the idea of doing jack sh*t.

Let’s take this slow. Step by step.

You are going to be absolutely fine. I used to be an emotional eater par excellence and I can tell you that it’s really not the worst thing in the world.

What makes it bad is our inability to show some kindness to ourselves when we need it most.

So, hey – you now have a great opportunity to spend some time making friends  – with yourself! Come on, that sounds like fun, doesn’t it? You’re always less than two meters away from yourself so what else you gonna do?

Blimey, is this the sentence of the month or what:

You can’t socially distance yourself from yourself.

Or what about this:

You can’t isolate yourself from your own mind.

Or what about:

You can’t isolate your inner demons, fears and anxieties by getting jiggy with the ice cream and the left-over frozen cheesecake from the back of the freezer.

Too far?

You are going to come out of this ‘experience’ with a new found joy for being with yourself. You’ll enjoy a jigsaw puzzle without listening to a podcast.  You’ll enjoy your one state approved walk a day, without earbuds in your lugs.  You’ll enjoy feeling your breath fill your wonderful lungs and feel nothing but a simple pure joy for being alive in your own skin with so much gratitude it’s almost indecent.

And how do you get to this state of being best buds with yourself and not with the takeaway menu?

First things first: Please give yourself permission to eat. The more you berate yourself and harshly criticize yourself with draconian rules for eating – the more you miss the chance of actually moving through this with the ability for balanced eating.

Balance don’t come from criticism.

So – you gonna allow yourself to eat the whole fridge if you feel you need to.

That was step one. Pretty easy, wasn’t it? (No, not really – I know. Allow yourself to eat, like what the actual f***? But I have loads of content here on this ‘ere blog for you to go through which goes through this first bit in more detail).

The next step is to sit down with yourself and greet your emotions once a day like a foreign dignitary. Suit up and greet all the stuff inside with politeness.

This is anger. This is sadness. This is the frustration that the neighbour just threw a tissue over the fence into your garden. This is pain. This is the bundle of stuff left over from that break up that still comes to the surface. This is fear that you’re not good enough.

I mean. What. A . Hoot.

A cuppa tea and a bundle of pain. It’s really brilliant, and I bet you can see why the ice-cream calls your name now. Right?

But you don’t gotta sort out these things. They aren’t problems.

That’s right, you heard me – my next best quote from this post (if I do say so myself) is:

Feeling aren’t problems.

The only thing you got to do is: notice them. Notice them like you wish your parents had noticed you as a child.

Ouch – so sorry. Didn’t mean to drop that pain bomb in there – but you getting some bang for your buck today my friend.

But let me make that point a bit bigger. Adults are crap at holding childrens’ emotions.

“Don’t cry!” “Be happy! Here’s a toy!” “Stop moaning!” “Shut up!” “I don’t care about that boring piece of information!”

Kids are told regularly that a) they shouldn’t feel the big stuff because the adults FREAK out and try to fix ‘em all away.

And b) they are often told that what they really feel isn’t true for them. Parents often say “No, you’re not hungry.” “No, you’re not cold!” “There’s no reason to be sad – I’ll buy you a new rabbit!”

If a kid feels something – then that is a true and real feeling for them.

And if you feel something now as an adult, and you don’t know what to do with it, it’s probably because you were never told to hold it.

Just bloody hold that feeling! Don’t have to fix it. Don’t have to solve it. Don’t have to push it under. Don’t have to justify it. Don’t have to blame someone else for it.

You just have to hold your feelings.

And that means.

  1. You recognize there’s a feeling to be felt.
  2. You are aware that it causes a whole lot of stuff for you (that you might seek professional help for, by the way).
  3. You don’t try to get rid of it, but say “Yes, you can stay here, difficult one”.

This is all very vulnerable – and a lot bigger than what you might think this blog post was going to be.

If you want quicker tips, check out yesterday’s post on overeating during lockdown, which might give you some quicker tools.

Today is all about understanding why you are now emotionally eating when you might not have done it before, and giving you a really fun introduction to the fact that you gotta learn to deal with some sh*t.

The thing I want you to take away from this is: Emotional eating isn’t really a problem to be fixed, but a sign to be noticed.

What does it mean for you? Do you care enough to ask? Be a friend to yourself now, and know that it’s okay to eat emotionally. We all do it, all the time anyways. It’s annoying and makes you feel sad, I know. You wish you were different, better, more in control. But that’s why you’re emotionally eating, because you need to learn to accept yourself as you are.

You’re very welcome. I hope you found your time here illuminating.

Hey, if you need some help, I’m available for a chat via a video call. You can check out these offers to see if there’s something that can help you with more tailored approaches.

Look after yourself, stay safe. Big virtual hugs,

Rebecca x

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