How To Deal With Emotional Eating During Isolation

emotional eating
Elisabeth Shaw

Jun 11, 2020

During the isolation period of COVID-19, I’ve put on a lot of weight. I am an emotional eater and have been anxious. What are strategies to help deal with emotional eating?

The last few months have, for many, felt unhinging and somewhat out of control. All the normal checks and balances we have had in place to keep us on track, from the time we have to get up, to how many hours we put into work, and what we eat to keep ourselves going, have all been challenged.

It may be that you usually make a salad to take into work, walk to the bus stop and fit in a gym class after work under usual circumstances. Now you are walking from your bedroom to your study or living room table and sitting down, only having a break by going to the fridge!

emotional eating

The thing is if you feel like life has been swept out of your control, to let other things like eating, drinking, gambling or anything else that we know isn’t really good for us become the antidote, we will in the short term experience some comfort and very quickly after can feel even more out of control than ever. We need to find ways to gain control in a time when a lot of uncertainty exists.

Here are a few tips on how to regain a sense of equilibrium:

  1. Identify the anxiety. What is it really about? Let it be a problem that can be solved, not fed. Take direct action if you can.
  2. Talk it out with others. Fears can tend to crash and burn on the outside, but stay alive and get increasingly embellished on the inside. If you don’t have someone wise to turn to, reach out to one of Relationships Australia NSW’s professional counsellors for a free and impartial reality check. Call our Time 2 Talk hotline on 1300 022966 and develop a plan that suits you.
  3. Routine is key. Get up at a regular time, tackle some morning exercise before you start work, even if it is 15 minutes around the block. Determine morning tea, lunch and afternoon tea breaks as you would play them out at work.
  4. Use breaks wisely. Make each one about movement, fresh air and sunlight as well as food replenishment. At lunch walk around the block (or further) again. Perhaps at every break, and while you do, ring a friend if you need some outside stimulation. Do that before eating or drinking anything. After exercise, you might feel charged enough to not feel the need for food.
  5. Healthy snacks and meal preparation. This is a simple way to avoid unhealthy food and overeating. If you eat a salad or sandwich for lunch, make it in the morning when you are full so it’s ready when needed – avoiding the temptation of eating whilst cooking.
  6. Get to bed at your regular time. Being overtired can mean that next day you are feeding your exhaustion and trying to stay awake to work.
  7. Don’t beat yourself up for a bad day. If you lose control and give in, just notice what you did do, whether it was get up on time or get your steps in. Start over the next day. Every challenge to the out-of-control feelings will help.

What you will find is that if you have a routine you can stick to, you will start to feel more in control. The circumstances no longer dictate whether you can put your own stamp on your situation; you are back in charge of yourself and your body. As you start to note the empowerment in that, you might be able to tackle even more aspects of your anxiety, whether that be work or relationship related, because you have more confidence in your own efficacy.

We can choose any day, any moment to start over. It is best not to wait for the “new normal”, such as a return to the office. The loss of confidence and morale that come with giving in to bad habits could affect your relaunch. Better to start now!


By Elisabeth Shaw

Elisabeth Shaw is CEO of Relationships Australia NSW and a clinical and counselling psychologist specialising in couple and family work.



The Carousel