Overeating in Times of Crisis: How to Disconnect Your Food from Your Emotions

Why do I keep snacking when I feel horrible about doing it? It’s a question I get a lot from my clients, especially during these crazy times of COVID-19 and quarantine.

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Why do I keep snacking when I feel horrible about doing it? It’s a question I get a lot from my clients, especially during these crazy times of COVID-19 and quarantine. To be truthful, I used to get that too. When I felt bored, I’d run to the fridge or order takeout. That’s until I discovered that it wasn’t exactly the food I craved, but — the emotion attached to it. When we are stressed or afraid we eat so we can feel happy again. While that feeling of satisfaction can make us feel a false sense of happiness — it doesn’t last!

We’ve all heard about comfort foods, but comfort foods are different for different people because they are attached to a particularly happy time or event from the past. Subconsciously, then, when we are feeling sad or stressed, we’ll crave the food that we connect with feeling happy. Sometimes we just connect food in general with happiness.

Ellen, a client of mine, remembered that “Dinner was the only time for our family to be together. All day we were busy, and every night we rejoiced with food. With each mouthful and each chew, I was enjoying my family time. I wanted it to last forever, so I went on eating and eating.” By bringing that memory to consciousness, Ellen could understand that it was really the happy memory of spending time with her family that she cherished, not the food itself.

By becoming conscious of your own emotional relationships with food, you, too, will disconnect the emotion from the food itself and become more mindful of why and what you are eating.

Become Conscious of What You’re Thinking

Since I’m all about using your mind to change your body and your life, I suggest that you check in with your subconscious to see whether you still harbor any of the following beliefs. To make sure you’re really focused and in touch with your thoughts, do the following deep-breathing exercise:

1.     Make yourself comfortable.

2.     Inhale deeply and hold the breath in for 3 seconds; exhale and repeat this process 3 times.

3.     Roll your neck gently forward and to the left side, then forward again and to the right side — not backwards, which would put pressure on the back of the neck. Repeat this 10 times. Breathe through your nose, inhaling as you move your head to the right and exhaling as you move it to the left. Repeat this exercise five times to each side.

Now, consider which of the following statements reflects your own beliefs:

· I feel tired; I need food.

· I know everything about exercising and eating healthy; I’ll start next week.

· I love food too much; I’ll never be able to stick with this diet.

· I have tried before and failed every time; I am not strong enough mentally.

· I will never be able to concentrate on my work if I have to starve every day.

· My husband (or my wife, or my partner) cooks so well, I can’t resist.

· We always go out to eat; it’s impossible to diet when you’re eating in restaurants.

· Weekends are times to eat. 

· I’ll start my diet Monday. 

· I am stressed, and it makes me eat more. 

· If I eat more today, I’ll workout more tomorrow. 

· I love my beers too much after dinner, when I’m sitting in front of the TV. 

· No way I will give up ice cream after dinner. 

· I travel for my job, and I have to stay in hotels and eat what’s available.

· I am overweight, but I am happy; why would I change who I am? 

Once you become aware of these thoughts and understand how they are causing you to behave, you can use start using diverting tools such as going for a run or using affirmations and meditation techniques to turn your mind around so that your body will follow.

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