What are the stages of eating disorder recovery?

stages of eating disorder recovery

What to expect during recovery

 

There is no one-size-fits all approach to recovery, just as there is no singular experience of an eating disorder. That being said, there are some general stages most people go through when recovering from an eating disorder. In this post we will discuss these stages and what they involve.

Recovering from an eating disorder is rarely a straightforward path, your readiness and experience of the journey will be changing and that’s okay. We have an article on preparing for recovery and knowing you’re ready – as well as accepting that this may involve a degree of change.

It should be noted that recovery might be a lifelong journey, and there are many angles with which to approach recovery – the below stages are one of many models of recovery.

 

Stage 1: Denial and Isolation

In this stage, the person suffering might not want to admit they have a problem. This can be through hiding eating habits from friends and family or denying there is anything wrong. In the stages of change model this is referred to as pre-contemplation, where the benefits an individual believes the eating disorder provides, such as control, outweigh the cost of the disorder3.

This stage has the same name as a stage in the grief model, and for some this can be seen as the loss of self within the eating disorder. Self-efficacy, self-directedness and self-concept have been found to be lower in those with eating disorders than healthy controls4 and the creation of a new self-schema for recovery to occur.

Eaton5 points out that for some their eating disorder is internalised, and therefore seen as integral to both their identity and their survival.

The disorder acts like a life jacket for everyday life, and understandably the person suffering doesn’t want to part with it.

Research2,5 tends to indicate eating disorders may escalate to a pinnacle before the ‘turning point’ that initiates the start of recovery, whether this point is a person or event related to or separate from their eating disorder. For example, one individual experienced a car crash and appreciated the value of life2, initiating recovery as opposed to an eating disorder side effect.

This can be a difficult stage to move forward from and support from loved ones is important at this point. Feeling isolated and unsupported, as well as misunderstood, shamed or blamed increases an individual’s need to remain trapped in their eating disorder5.

 

Stage 2: Awareness and Acceptance

The person may realise they have a problem, and they need to take action to recover. This stage often occurs when individuals acknowledge the negative consequences of an eating disorder, particularly medical2 such as increased heart rate, or light headedness.

In regard to the stages of change model this may encompass contemplation, determination and action3.

  • Contemplation: Wanting to change but conflicted between the safety of current eating disorder behaviours and changing.
  • Preparation: Deciding to change, no action implemented yet but initial steps to seek help and support may be taken. The individual may still be undecided.
  • Action: The initial engagement with treatment, this leads into treatment and recovery.

 

Stage 3: Treatment and Recovery

The person seeks out professional help to recover, and say goodbye to their disorder – “I had to cut the rope to what had been my life jacket 5

The definition of recovery varies, with some individuals using the DSM-5 criteria for the eating disorder in question and seeing if they continue to meet this criterion. Often there is also a specific weight gain goal for those with various disorders, but in recent years there has also been a focus on psychological and behavioural changes as well4.

In this phase, individuals start to gain control and re-join society2,5 by connecting with not only professionals but friends and family members. They commit to valuing life outside of their eating disorder, embracing the freedom that comes with this and establishing their identity free from the disorder5.

The road to recovery is not linear and although this newfound freedom leads to feelings such as “getting better is worth it” 1, disappointment is also common with necessary side effects such as gaining weight, or their post-recovery life not meeting their expectations.

Individuals may experience relapses and re-enter recovery, and it is seen as a cyclical process which can be re-entered and started from baseline.

“I wandered through 2-3 years in a fog, so it’s great to recover step by step”1

 

Stage 4 and onwards: Life after recovery

At this stage individuals will have coping strategies in place to support life after recovery and have built a support network – whether it be friends, family, or an eating disorder professional.

“If you can recover from an eating disorder, there’s not much you can’t do”5

The most important aspect of recovery is for an individual to feel supported and understood. At Embody Health London, our team of dietitians specialise in helping people restore their relationship with food and normalise their eating habits.

You can contact us at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com to request a free enquiry call to chat about how we can help you to improve your relationship with food and your body.

 

Kacie Shoulders, ANutr

Team EHL

 

References

Keski-Rahkonen and Tozzi 2005, The process of recovery in eating disorder sufferers’ own words: An Internet-based study https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/eat.20123

D’Abundo and Chally 2004, Struggling with Recovery: Participant Perspectives on Battling an Eating Disorder https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1049732304267753

National Eating Disorders Collaboration, Stages of Change https://nedc.com.au/eating-disorders/treatment-and-recovery/stages-of-change/

Bardone-Cone et al 2010, Aspects of Self-Concept and Eating Disorder Recovery: What Does the Sense of Self Look Like When an Individual Recovers from an Eating Disorder? https://guilfordjournals.com/doi/epdf/10.1521/jscp.2010.29.7.821

Eaton 2019, Eating Disorder Recovery: A Metaethnography https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/1078390319849106

 

Is there a relationship between negative body image and Instagram use?

social media bad body image

Instagram and negative body image

Is there a relationship between negative body image and Instagram use?

Over the years, social media usage has taken off massively. It took Facebook just three years to grow to a 50-million user base, and many are aware that this tech giant now owns other big names in the social media world, including WhatsApp and Instagram. 

Whilst these apps are intended to link us with our individual networks of friends and family, they may also inspire new connections, introduce us to thought-leaders and ‘influencers,’ and even spread subconscious messages and standards, particularly when it comes to beauty and health.

However, there is still much controversy about the benefits (or threats) of using social media regarding body image, dieting and physical activity.

You may have previously read our blog on body image and social media use. This article will cover body image impacts, focusing specifically on Instagram.

Fitness and diet influencers on Instagram have been criticised for sharing misinformation about nutrition or triggering those with histories of an eating disorder, reinforcing destructive eating patterns in those most vulnerable. This impact on body image can lead to low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety – negatively affecting the user’s mental health.

Subconsciously, Instagram may be putting out messages on how society should eat, look, and dress, but this isn’t always representative of different sizes, ethnicities, and cultures. It arguably has reinforced unrealistic beauty standards. Little regulation exists on Instagram, meaning that airbrushed and photoshopped bodies and faces are often the norms, and little is done to control or avoid this. 

Survey-based research has indicated that higher Instagram usage when following health food accounts is associated with a greater tendency towards orthorexia nervosa. (1)

Influencer anecdotes of ‘how cutting out dairy and gluten cleared my skin’ and ‘what I eat in a day’ posts can be easily misleading and lead healthy audiences to restrict eating and eliminate food groups, often with no guidance from a healthcare professional. Not only could this harm body image perceptions of ourselves, but it can be dangerous from a physical health perspective, too. 

How does Instagram affect body image negatively?

A 2021 review comparing social media platforms and body image impacts found that more visual platforms, i.e. Instagram, were more dysfunctional for body image than text-based ones such as Facebook and Twitter. Positive comments and reactions (likes) intensified these negative consequences. Disclaimer captions and ‘fitspiration’ content did not show any positive effects on body image. (2)

A 2017 questionnaire on 259 women aged 18 – 29 years, measured Instagram and Facebook use with body image outcomes. It was found that appearance-focused use of these apps – engaging in photo activities on Facebook and appearance-focused Instagram accounts were most associated with thin-ideal internalisation, body surveillance and a drive for thinness. Neutral accounts, however, were not associated with any negative body image outcomes. (3)

A 2018 study measured the effects on body image when viewing ‘highly-liked’ Instagram posts of thin-ideal or average bodies. The cohort of 220 female undergraduate students was seen to have a greater body and facial dissatisfaction when looking at the thin-ideal images compared to the average. (4)

A further study on 138 female undergraduates showed either celebrity, attractive ‘peer’, or travel images found that exposure to celebrity and peer photos increased body dissatisfaction in contrast to the travel images. This concluded that exposure to images of attractive celebrities or peers could be detrimental to women’s body image. (5)

When focusing on the effect of captions, two studies showed that when comparing photos with either no caption, a body-positive caption, or a disclaimer caption, all three may increase body dissatisfaction and decrease body appreciation equally. 

No significant effect was found regarding the presence of captions and their content – implying that captions do not serve to improve women’s body image or mitigate any negative impacts caused by viewing these photos. Both studies, therefore, concluded that on social media, visual imagery remains the most potent contributor to body image effects than any accompanying words. (6,7)

Many of us may also be able to relate to increased phone usage during the COVID-19 pandemic and the various lockdowns we may have had to endure. A questionnaire on 2601 Spanish women aged 14 – 35 years showed that this significant increase in social media usage was particularly harmful to women following appearance-focused Instagram accounts – correlated with greater body dissatisfaction and a drive for thinness. (8)

What role does Instagram play in the way women see their bodies?

Women have often been the focus of these studies; however, body image impacts from social media aren’t all limited to them, either. With increasing pressures for males to stay ‘on trend’ with a lean, muscular body, no one is exempt from the unrealistic appearance pressures of today’s society. 

A study that quantitatively analysed 1,000 posts from male Instagram accounts showed that high levels of muscularity and leanness posts attracted significantly more likes and comments. However, posts were more related to training to be healthier rather than appearance-related (training to look attractive), and dietary behaviour was less focused on the physical activity itself. (9)

Although this sounds more promising and ‘health focused’, it is potentially still harmful to men’s body image and continues to set an unrealistic standard on how men should look, behave and present themselves in the world. 

What’s the verdict?

We can see that image-based social media, such as Instagram, is most negatively associated with positive body image. As discussed, the main risk factors from Instagram that may negatively impact our body image perception are heavily related to the content consumed and the duration of this. Captions and disclaimers are often overlooked and unimpactful in comparison to the image itself. 

Other factors, such as the user’s health history or overall mental health state, should, however, not be dismissed, as these could also make one more vulnerable to negative consequences of Instagram use.

And finally, are Instagram and social media truly the only ones to blame here? For years, portrayals in advertisements, media and television have abided by similarly unrealistic beauty standards, and this constant exposure may even be a catalyst to what is then posted on social media. 

Perhaps, the fact that individuals like you and I can sign up to a platform and post content that has the potential to reach millions is arguably more ‘realistic’ than the entertainment sector, over which the general public has little to no control. But, of course, this is still dependent on the content posted and how authentic and representative it is. 

Ways to address the issue of negative body image online and off

Of course, the obvious thing to say here would be out of sight, out of mind.

However, we know the importance of apps like these in many people’s lives, and so instead it can help to learn to work with the app in the most mutually beneficial way.

These are our top tips when using Instagram to protect your wellbeing:

  • Manage your time spent on the app, setting a limit on your phone and sticking to this.
  • Limit your use of the ‘like.’ Button. Research shows that greater investment in Instagram likes can be associated with more appearance comparison and facial dissatisfaction. (4)
  • Unfollow accounts that make you feel negatively about yourself. They’re not paying rent in your head – so don’t allow them to take up that space for free!
  • Follow fewer accounts of ‘strangers’ and people you don’t know, and more of the people you do know. Studies show this can positively impact our mental health, reducing potential depressive symptoms associated with high Instagram use. (10)
  • Follow positive role models who have a healthy relationship with their bodies – check out these six body liberation and self-care activists we think you should check out!
  • Follow accounts that genuinely make you passionate about what you enjoy or are interested in. There are so many great non-diet related Instagram accounts out there: puppies or other animals, travel inspiration, news updates, educational – such as language learning, and so much more!
  • Be more mindful of consumption. It’s easy to tell ourselves we will quit social media, only to find ourselves on it a moment’s later – and that’s okay! Instead, why not consume more mindfully? When something makes you feel uneasy or vulnerable, try to realise this and perhaps even journal or reflect on your experience—strengthening these connection and awareness within yourself will enable you to better know your triggers and how to avoid them or know that they are not always worth ruminating over. 
  • Get out in the real world. Remember the days when life was more than a bunch of screens and shiny objects? Why not pick up a hobby or activity you have been curious about and use the opportunity to make friends and live in the moment. It can be so refreshing to switch off from socials for an afternoon or evening; we promise you won’t regret it!

We hope you enjoyed this article. We know you are making incredible and continuing progress on your healing journey. Stay focused and keep showing up for yourself every day. You are worth it.

Priya Chotai, BSc, ANutr  

EHL Team x 

References

Turner PG, Lefevre CE. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eat Weight Disord. 2017 Jun;22(2):277-284. doi: 10.1007/s40519-017-0364-2. Epub 2017 Mar 1. PMID: 28251592; PMCID: PMC5440477.

Vandenbosch L, Fardouly J, Tiggemann M. Social media and body image: Recent trends and future directions. Curr Opin Psychol. 2021 Dec 14;45:101289. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2021.12.002. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 35030460.

Cohen R, Newton-John T, Slater A. The relationship between Facebook and Instagram appearance-focused activities and body image concerns in young women. Body Image. 2017 Dec;23:183-187. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2017.10.002. Epub 2017 Oct 19. PMID: 29055773.

Tiggemann M, Hayden S, Brown Z, Veldhuis J. The effect of Instagram “likes” on women’s social comparison and body dissatisfaction. Body Image. 2018 Sep;26:90-97. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2018.07.002. Epub 2018 Jul 21. PMID: 30036748.

Brown Z, Tiggemann M. Attractive celebrity and peer images on Instagram: Effect on women’s mood and body image. Body Image. 2016 Dec;19:37-43. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2016.08.007. Epub 2016 Sep 3. PMID: 27598763.

Brown Z, Tiggemann M. A picture is worth a thousand words: The effect of viewing celebrity Instagram images with disclaimer and body positive captions on women’s body image. Body Image. 2020 Jun;33:190-198. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.03.003. Epub 2020 Apr 11. PMID: 32289571.

Tiggemann M, Anderberg I, Brown Z. #Loveyourbody: The effect of body positive Instagram captions on women’s body image. Body Image. 2020 Jun;33:129-136. doi: 10.1016/j.bodyim.2020.02.015. Epub 2020 Mar 6. PMID: 32151992.

Vall-Roqué H, Andrés A, Saldaña C. The impact of COVID-19 lockdown on social network sites use, body image disturbances and self-esteem among adolescent and young women. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2021 Aug 30;110:110293. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2021.110293. Epub 2021 Mar 2. PMID: 33662532; PMCID: PMC8569938.

Gültzow T, Guidry JPD, Schneider F, Hoving C. Male Body Image Portrayals on Instagram. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2020 May;23(5):281-289. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2019.0368. Epub 2020 Apr 15. PMID: 32286866.

Lup K, Trub L, Rosenthal L. Instagram #instasad?: Exploring associations among Instagram use, depressive symptoms, negative social comparison, and strangers followed. Cyberpsychol Behav Soc Netw. 2015 May;18(5):247-52. doi: 10.1089/cyber.2014.0560. PMID: 25965859.

What is disordered eating and what are the key warning signs?

disordered eating warning signs

What leads to disordered eating and how to spot it 

 

Eating disorders are a key concern in the modern world, with an estimated 1.25 million people in the United Kingdom living with an eating disorder1. But what if you’re in the middle of the eating behaviour spectrum – not experiencing a healthy relationship with food and your body, but not at the point of a diagnosable eating disorder? This is where disordered eating may come in.

We have previously written about the distinction between disordered eating and eating disorders in a previous post which details the two definitions. The main distinction to make here is that disordered eating does not yet have a clinical definition and is rather a group of behaviours that can be included under the umbrella term.

It is difficult to estimate how many people currently experience disordered eating, although it is becoming seen as a “normal’ part of many people’s lives to experience its symptoms.

Have you ever felt guilty or anxious when it comes to food to the point that you’re dieting often, setting yourself food rules and/or tying your self-worth to your body shape/weight?

Today’s blog post explains what disordered eating is, the causes and relevant consequences, and how you can get help to heal your relationship with food.

 

What causes disordered eating?

Disordered eating can be caused by the feeling that our body is inadequate. This causes us to embark on a diet and pursue weight loss as an ‘easy fix’ to liking our bodies. Food restriction is common in dieting, leaving us feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. When we inevitably come off the diet and reintroduce ‘banned foods’, we may experience guilt or shame for breaking food rules imposed by the diet.

These feelings contribute to the initial feelings of inadequacy that led to the diet to begin with, and soon we will try a new diet or mechanism to deal with these feelings – mechanisms that can be seen as disordered.  

This diet cycle as it is known feeds into disordered eating and has been around for a long time. Diet culture can be traced back to Ancient Greek society, so if you have found yourself sucked into the world of quick fixes and #bodygoals you are the latest in a long line. And the Ancient Greeks didn’t have social media!

There is a sociocultural model of disordered eating which states that when we internalise the ‘thin ideal’ we compare and become dissatisfied with our body, inevitably leading to disordered eating.

Saunders and Eaton noted that whether you’re using social media for work or actively looking for dieting / body image posts you are likely to encounter things that will engage with this model, especially if you spend more time on social media. Those who use social media to post updates relating to their image, exercise, food etc. are more likely to engage with posts that do the same2.

In the last few years, the COVID-19 pandemic has also contributed to the increase in disordered eating.

Increased stress, financial worries and abrupt changes in our lives and their schedules have all contributed to this increase in disordered eating, with some individuals losing their appetite and others “eating to cope”.

In a study of young adults there was a marked increase in eating disorder symptoms with one individual commenting that not gaining weight was extremely important to them during the pandemic and led to them restricting and trying a new diet, another commented that COVID-19 stress led to reduced appetite and not eating4. If you’ve found your relationship with food changing in the last few years know that this is common and has been experienced by many individuals.

There may be many reasons someone develops disordered eating behaviours, and just like eating disorders, those affected can be of any race, age and gender. If you or someone you know is experiencing disordered eating, know you are not alone, and it is not a conscious choice you have made.

 

Why are disordered eating habits dangerous?

A study in 2017 found that disordered eating in young adults can lead to long term health consequences, both in terms of physical health and psychological health, both of which can greatly affect your quality of life2.

Experiencing disordered eating can be stressful psychologically, but it can also act as a predictor of future psychological distress and any ensuing physical illness.

Physically, disordered eating often includes deprivation and taking away key food components from your diet. This has the potential to lead to nutrient deficiencies as well as fatigue, headaches, and gastrointestinal problems. Physical symptoms of disordered eating increase with the scale of disorder and vary according to whether the individual is restricting, binging or purging.

Disordered eating is also a risk factor for developing an eating disorder, especially if behaviours such as purging, or binging are present. Whilst disordered eating habits aren’t immediately life-threatening, eating disorders such as Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa absolutely can be, and are much more difficult to deal with once they manifest. The earlier someone can access help and start recovering from such behaviours, the greater their chances of full recovery.

 

How to identify disordered eating

Disordered eating is a spectrum as opposed to one disorder. Whilst Bulimia Nervosa and Anorexia Nervosa have quite narrow criteria for diagnosis, many behaviours fall under the disordered eating umbrella. Some examples of disordered eating behaviours include a strict approach to food and eating with a focus on dieting, fasting, or detoxing – sometimes restriction or binge eating can also occur. Compensating for calories eaten through exercise or behaviours such as vomiting or laxative use can also be considered a disordered eating behaviour.

A preoccupation with food and body image are also indicators of disordered eating. Much of the recent research focus is on the mental health aspect of disordered eating, with some professionals classifying disordered eating as a mental health condition. If you’re experiencing symptoms of anxiety or depression around food this may mean you’re experiencing disordered eating. Making a note of how you’re feeling around food such as a mood and food journal can be a useful self-monitoring tool to identify disordered thoughts around food.

 

How to get help with disordered eating

If you are experiencing disordered eating know that you’re not alone, disordered eating has been on the rise since 19985 and it is estimated that 1.25 and 3.5 million people in the UK may be affected by an eating disorder6 – not including those that do not meet the clinical threshold for diagnosis. Any of the symptoms of disordered eating can majorly affect your quality of life and it may be time to seek support to help your relationship with food and your body.

It can be easy to think that as these behaviours aren’t classed as an eating disorder you don’t need help, but you are worthy of support. The most important thing is that you seek support from a practiced health professional. At Embody Health London our team of dietitians specialise in helping people restore their relationship with food and normalise their eating habits.

You can contact us at hello@embodyhealthlondon.com to request a free enquiry call to chat about how we can help you to improve your relationship with food and your body.

 

Kacie Shoulders, ANutr

Team EHL

 

References

  1. Beat Eating Disorders, Statistics for Journalists. Available: https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk/media-centre/eating-disorder-statistics/
  2. Kärkkäinen,U et al 2017, Do Disordered Eating Behaviours Have Long-term Health-related Consequences?, European Eating Disorders Review, 26(1)
  3. Saunders and Eaton 2018, Snaps, Selfies, and Shares: How Three Popular Social Media Platforms Contribute to the Sociocultural Model of Disordered Eating Among Young Women, Cyberpsychology, Behaviour and Social Networking, 21(6)
  4. Simone et al 2021, Disordered eating in a population-based sample of young adults during the COVID-19 outbreak, International Journal of Eating Disorders, 54(7)
  5. Mitchison et al 2012, Time Trends in Population Prevalence of Eating Disorder Behaviors and Their Relationship to Quality of Life, PLoS One, 7(11)
  6. Priory Group, Eating Disorder Statistics, Available: https://www.priorygroup.com/eating-disorders/eating-disorder-statistics

 

5 tips for managing emotional eating

manage emotional eating

When emotional eating becomes your main way to cope

 

Do you find yourself eating more than you intended to when you’re feeling emotional? If so, you’re not alone. Emotional eating refers to eating in response to environment or emotional cues as opposed to your internal hunger and fullness cues.

Many people turn to food for comfort, especially during difficult times.

Turning to food for comfort is not a bad thing- it’s a very normal thing to do.

We tend to associate emotional eating with negative emotions like stress or sadness, but it can be driven by positive emotions too, such as a childhood memory, nostalgia, or positive celebrations. Emotional eating is not a problem inherently, but it can become unhelpful if it is your only coping strategy.

In this blog post, we will discuss five tips for managing emotional eating.

 

Identifying Your Personal Reasons for Emotional Eating

A lot of the time when we emotionally eat, it can be to numb or suppress a feeling, so it can be hard to identify what it is you’re experiencing when your automatic reaction is to emotionally eat.

The next time you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry, try to identify the emotion you’re feeling or reflect on the experience afterwards to identify what lead up to that moment. This could be boredom, stress, anxiety, loneliness, sadness, or anger.

Once you know what this trigger is, you can start to implement alternative strategies to help you to deal with this emotion.

 

Find Healthy Ways to Deal with Negative Emotions Instead of Turning to Food

If you struggle with emotional eating, it is important to diversify your coping strategies for dealing with these emotions. Managing your emotions in a healthy way can help to break the habit of emotional eating and improve your relationship with food and with yourself.

This might look like taking up a new activity or trying some exercise, journaling, or speaking to family and friends.

For example, if feeling lonely leads you to emotionally eat, you could call or meet a friend instead of seeking comfort through food. Similarly, if you find that stress leads you to emotionally eat, you might find that yoga helps you to relax.

 

Be Mindful of the Foods You’re Eating and How They Make You Feel

The idea of ‘comfort’ foods might make you think of foods that remind you of your childhood like your Nanas lasagne or Mums cottage pie, or foods which make you feel good, like chocolate or ice-cream. When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, it’s normal to crave ‘a hug in a bowl’, and typically we turn to carbohydrate rich foods.

Carbohydrates help our brain to produce serotonin, our happy hormone, so it makes sense that we reach for carbohydrate-dense foods like pasta or pie for comfort, or sweet foods like cookies and chocolates for a mood boost.

Other foods have mood boosting properties too, such as foods rich in omega 3, like salmon, seeds and nuts, and foods containing flavonoids, which have been shown to promote brain health (1), such as dark chocolate.

Food rich in B vitamins help to support the release of serotonin. Low levels have been linked to mood disorders, such as depression (2), so foods like meat and fish, beans and pulses, oats, eggs, yogurt, avocados, and bananas are great to include within the diet.

When you emotionally eat, you can overeat, as you are not eating in response to your hunger or fullness levels in the moment. This can result in feeling quite sluggish or bloated afterwards, rather than energised. This can further contribute to the cycle of emotional eating because you may feel low within yourself or experience guilt for eating when you weren’t hungry.

There is never a need to feel guilt for eating, regardless of whether you were hungry or not, and having these beliefs can lead to poor self-esteem and thus sustain the cycle of emotional eating. If this sounds like you, try to identify the types of food you tend to turn to for comfort or to pick you up, as you might find that you have certain ‘rules’ around these foods.

Having food rules can lead to emotionally eating too because food becomes moralised. For example, because you think cake is a ‘bad food’, you may feel like you are ‘bad’ for eating a slice of cake, and this can cause you to turn to food for comfort later in the day as you feel low and ashamed.

 

Avoid Eating When You’re Feeling Stressed, Anxious, or Bored

Eating when you’re feeling stressed, anxious, or bored can lead to mindless eating. Instead of eating when you’re not hungry, try to find other ways to deal with your emotions or something that can serve as a distraction. This might include getting out of the environment that is causing the urge to turn to food, exploring some relaxation techniques, or talking to a friend or therapist.

Ensure that you are getting enough sleep too, as this plays a vital role in our ability to manage our emotions and regulate our appetites. When we’re tired, we’re more likely to overeat and reach for more high-sugar foods.

 

Seek Professional Help if Emotional Eating is Causing Serious Problems in Your Life

If you feel really stuck in a rut with emotional eating and find it is something you do regularly, then it is time to seek professional help. This can include talking to a therapist or speaking with a dietitian. Professional help can provide you with the tools you need to manage your emotions in a constructive way and overcome emotional eating.

If you or someone you know struggles with emotional eating, we are here for you! Book your free discovery call to see how one of our compassionate dietitians can support you on your way to food freedom.

 

Elle, R.D, BSc, MSc

Team EHL x

 

1.Scholey, A., & Owen, L. (2013). Effects of chocolate on cognitive function and mood: a systematic review. Nutrition reviews71(10), 665–681. https://doi.org/10.1111/nure.12065

2.Kaplan, B. J., Crawford, S. G., Field, C. J., & Simpson, J. S. (2007). Vitamins, minerals, and mood. Psychological bulletin133(5), 747–760. https://doi.org/10.1037/0033-2909.133.5.747