We all do it. Eating to cheer ourselves up. And during the winter months is when we are at our worst. It’s so easy so snuggle up on the sofa with a box of biscuits and a steaming hot cup of tea. Your mouth waters at the thought as you can feel quietly excited about your little treat.
And then once you’ve indulged, you feel instantly guilty; resolving to do better tomorrow. But there are ways of beating the comfort eating cycle – and we’ve 10 top tips to help you stop.
Stress is probably one of the biggest reasons people comfort eat. Imagine: the kids are going wild and you’ve got all the ironing to do, you’re just about to have tea and the baby throws up. Or your new boyfriend dumps you out of the blue. Or your boss gives you too much work yet again. A quick feel-good sinful snack hits the spot. But it doesn’t leave you feeling good for long. Try to recognise the triggers and when you’re heading for the fridge to cheer yourself; stop and think what you could replace the comfort food with – a glass of water, a piece of chewing gum, a cracker. Try it, your ability to begin some self control will make you feel good – well into the next day.
2. Break the habit
Think of when you comfort eat the most. Sitting watching EastEnders? Having a coffee at work? Make small changes to other areas of your life and you’ll break the comfort-snacking habit. According to the No Diet Diet: Do Something Different, (Orion, £9.99), if you alter automatic behaviour like what side of the bed you sleep on or the way you walk to work, then you are becoming more flexible, more self-aware and less likely to stick to poor eating habits.
3. Enjoy yourself more
Do you do enough things that make you happy? Or do you feel you are constantly on a hamster’s wheel? It’s time to focus on yourself and what makes you feel better. Is it a monthly facial, a shopping trip or a night at the flicks? Find out what makes you feel good and factor it into your life. This way you’ll be less inclined for the quick-fix chocolate hit. Read Eating, Drinking and Over thinking (Piatkus, £10.99) for other ways to work fun into your life.
4. Emotional upset
The Priory Clinic – where A-list stars go to get ‘fixed’ – carried out a survey that suggests that over 40 per cent of adults in the UK admit to comfort eating when they feel anxious, lonely, or sad. Research has suggested that some foods and snacks, such as chocolate, encourage the production of serotonin, the feel-good hormone and that this helps to make us feel happy again. But just for a short time.
5. Don’t buy it
You can only eat it if it’s in the cupboard. So the next time you’re doing the shopping, don’t buy the chocolate or the biscuits or the wine. If it’s not there, it can’t tempt you and you can’t eat it. Fill up on healthy albeit boring snacks like raw carrots, fresh peppers and celery. Nothing comforting about those, is there?
6. Get moving
Exercise is great for lifting your mood naturally. A 30-minute walk or a run if can muster the energy, will not only curb your cravings but will make you feel more alert and healthy. It’s hard to exercise in the winter months, but with the spring in sight, you should be able to work a little work-out into your day.
If you keep your body healthy and in balance, you shouldn’t actually crave any goodies. So a visit to the health food shop is in order. Pop in and chat to the assistants about what you crave and if they can recommend anything. The B vitamins are great balancers, but seek professional advice from the assistants.
8. A little of what you fancy
While you’re trying to knock comfort eating on the head, it’s important to remember that you do need the odd treat. If you are going to indulge, make sure it’s just a small piece of the cake or a couple squares of your favourite chocolate. Waif-like Kate Moss buys a bar of her favourite chocolate every day and eats just two squares and throws the rest away.
9. Brush your teeth
This is a great trick to remember if you are at home and you’re in need of a little comfort. It’s not the same as a nice bowl of chocolate chip ice cream, but the minute you want that tasty treat, brush your teeth and not only will your mouth feel all fresh, you won’t want the sweet taste as your mouth will feel too ‘spearminty’.
10. You are not alone
Even the stars do it. Britney Spears, Liza Minelli and Natasha Richardson have all admitted to comfort eating. So don’t be too hard on yourself, take comfort that you’re only human and occasionally, you’ll slip up.