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Posted on 20 Jun 2020 Views 8252 Comments 53

Dieting during emotional stress

Losing weight is a challenge for anyone – let alone those of us struggling with emotional stress or those of us who would call ourselves ‘emotional eaters’.

Whether it’s financial stress, relationship strain, work challenges, or just the usual ups and downs of life, we all have to deal with emotional stress at some point. However, many people have found their emotional stress levels to be through the roof due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Maybe you are feeling stressed at having to juggle work with homeschooling… perhaps you have lost your job and have no idea how you’ll make ends meet… maybe having your partner working from home is straining your relationship… or perhaps your anxiety levels are simply heightened because you’re worried about catching the virus…

This article aims to provide you with some tips and strategies to get you through those emotional days when you feel drawn to those unhealthy foods you’ve been trying to avoid.

Distraction not reaction

If you’ve ever used distraction techniques to help avoid a kid’s tantrum, you probably know that this can really work… But did you know that this can work for us adults too?! Trying to distract yourself in the moment may help. Some ideas you could try include:

  • Move (physically) from your current spot – go for a walk around the house or garden; go and get a drink; have a bath or shower
  • Put some music on – this could be relaxing music or something upbeat to suit your mood. Why not have a little dance too?
  • Doodling or colouring – getting creative can help to take your mind off things and also can give you a sense of achievement when you’ve created something beautiful
  • Meditating/focus on your breathing – there are a wealth of apps you could try to help you focus on your breathing and stay calm. This is also a great technique to help you get to sleep if you’re struggling with this. Even if you only have three minutes, you could still fit in a short meditation
  • Get support – talk to your partner or kids about this and ask them to help distract you when you are having a moment. Perhaps you could go for a walk or play a game together.


Mindfulness is all about encouraging yourself to live in the moment, become more aware of what you’re eating and take a pause between your triggers (or feelings) and actions. It can be really helpful for emotional eaters. It involves asking questions like “Am I really hungry?” “Am I feeling full?” and “What is making me feel like I want to eat right now?”. The following tips may help you:

  • Pause before grabbing that unhealthy snack – start by pausing just one minute, and ask yourself how you’re feeling. Initially, you may give in, but over time, being in touch with your feelings may help you do it differently next time
  • Accept your feelings – rather than beating yourself up about why you’re feeling what you are feeling, learning to accept your feelings is helpful. Even negative feelings, such as feeling powerless in the situation, are helpful to acknowledge. Write them down and see if you notice any particular recurring themes. Writing down the thoughts that lead to certain food behaviours can also be helpful

Knowing your ‘triggers’

Identifying your triggers can be an important first step. Often, it’s things like stress, certain emotions (e.g. loneliness, resentment, anxiety), boredom or childhood habits (or a combination). If you have major issues in this area, seeking counselling would be a logical step forward. You could also try the following ideas:

Feeling / emotion Alternatives to try
Lonely or depressed Zoom, phone or message a good friend or family member; someone who always makes you feel good or feel better about yourself or your situation. Looking through your favourite mementoes or photo albums can help you feel better about the good times and what life could be like again.
Anxiety Taking a brisk walk around the block, changing the environment by moving to another room or doing something with your hands, e.g. cooking, reading or colouring
Fatigue or exhaustion Allow yourself to have some time out or time just for you. Make a cup of tea and have a warm bath with some scented oil or candles. Tell the kids you’re having some ‘you time’
Boredom Do something else, or change your immediate environment; read a book, take a walk, go for a cycle, do some craft

Boost your mood

There are a variety of things that can help boost your mood in the general sense. If you are feeling calmer, more in control and more balanced, you will probably be less likely to feel the stress and give in to unhealthy cravings later in the day. Consider the following things:

  • Don’t skip meals – missing meals, especially breakfast can leave you feeling weak, tired and irritable. In the same way, don’t skip packs thinking it will quicken your weight loss – it won’t!
  • Include a range of different vegetables – vegetables are a great source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. Try to ‘eat a rainbow’ to get a good variety
  • Learn something new – this can help improve your mental wellbeing, as well as keep you occupied during times when you may be tempted to go off-plan. There are lots of things you could do during lockdown, with a wealth of free online tutorials to help you – how about learning a new language, a new craft or dusting off that old violin that’s in the loft? Learning something new gives you a sense of achievement that can really boost your mood.

Exercise not extra fries

Exercise is great for busting stress and anxiety and lifting the mood. It releases natural chemicals called endorphins into your body – these are often referred to at the ‘happy hormone’ because they can give you a natural ‘high’! If you don’t already do some regular exercise, start small and build it up, aiming for 30 minutes of ‘huff and puff’ exercise at least five times a week. This includes brisk walking, running (build up with something like couch to 5k), cycling, or a HIIT or aerobic workout (DVD or online video).

Jazz up your products

Annemarie Aburrow RD BSc (Hons) PGDipIf you’re already following a Slim & Save plan, don’t let yourself get product fatigue. Why not try some of the new recipes available on the website? There are lots of amazing recipes that our members have created and posted that will help give you some inspiration and extra variety. If you’re struggling to keep motivated, have you considered switching plans or trying new products to keep things interesting? You could also try experimenting with trying new products – we often hear about people who don’t think they’d enjoy a particular pack but try it and actually realise they really like it.

Written by Annemarie Aburrow RD BSc (Hons) PGDip, Slim & Save Dietitian.

3 Lucky Customers Will Win 12 Ready-Made Chocolate Shakes!

How are you coping with the stress of lockdown and COVID-19? Leave your comments below to be in with a chance to win a box of 12 ready-made chocolate shakes (new). Three Winning comments will be chosen on Thursday 25th June at 4 pm.

Comments on Dieting during emotional stress
Lucia Krivosudska 24/09/2020 19:44
This has been some rollercoaster. I have managed to do so well...kept going even during Corona lockdown and lost incredible 22kg...then my life return back to normal as lockdown was over, back to work, childcare stress and constant battle.back.and forth...

I gained 1st back...really sad..however not giving up... today was the day D...and I am back on alim and save.

My 1.5-2st I'm sure i can do it...for everyone who struggled like me... we can do it :) let's not lose yourself and push for better
Gill T K 28/06/2020 11:00
2nd day today, am so surprised at how easy I have found the plan so far, not hungry which is a big plus! Hardest part is there are do many cookery articles in newspapers and magazines on top of the TV to tempt you off-plan. Have taken up mindful colouring and jigsaws. My love is dark chocolate, so have even frozen my supplies to stop me eating the odd square. Also am being very strict on what food I have in the house. Feeling virtuous today, long may it last
Caron 24/06/2020 12:34
I'm not coping at all - my emotional eating has gone through the roof and I am getting fatter and fatter by the day. I say I'm following the plan but I'm really not - been isolated and alone since 16th March and it's very hard.
Amber Richings 23/06/2020 20:35
15 weeks in 31lb lost and still going strong (the scales don't show how much ive changed)

Put the kettle on is always my answer to stress. Failing that I go upstairs, sit on my bed and scroll through the slim and save facebook page. Being far away from the kitchen helps too!

I love the "excersize not extra fries". Can't wait to use that.

I've really enjoyed spurring my sister on to do this diet with me too; we are sooo much healthier already. Any hiccups we've had we keep calm and diet on.

Slim and save is changing me, my food choices are better and I am learning all the time.
nadra squires 23/06/2020 15:48
A really good article and very useful. I’ve had to structure my day and control myself before things even get into the house by reducing / stopping buying my trigger foods. Also trying to keep moving while binging on Netflix
Catherine Patmore 22/06/2020 19:34
This is a really great article. Being at home with three primary aged children, two of whom have complex special needs and working I’ve often reached for food even when I know I shouldn’t. This article has really reminded me about what I need and given me some really insightful tips to cope with stress and anxiety and to reset my mind around eating.
Emma Webb 22/06/2020 17:12
A great read, thank you! Very encouraging and cheerful!! xxx
Eileen Michalke 22/06/2020 14:01
Thank you from my heart S&S! Great article, with good tips. I started off lockdown baking lots of things, ignored the scales until I saw a photo of myself and a lovely friend on here referred me to this plan. I swapped baking, for growing lovely salads and veg in pots in my garden, so satisfying and time-consuming, a great distraction from eating! I’m now in control again on my Simplicity plan and can see the results of my weight loss even after only two weeks. I like the structure it brings and love all the different flavours and choices of meals.

BK 22/06/2020 12:15
Great blog to look back at when I’m struggling, I’m definitely an emotional eater. So informative thank you for sharing!

I started my diet April 13th as I wanted to be productive during lockdown instead of being stuck at home all day and eating! It’s been difficult due to the anxiety of lockdown and making sure me and my family are safe but lockdown has also helped me stay away from the food shops haha! Still going strong thankfully and a very supportive SnS team whenever I have any questions! Thank you SnS xx
Leanne Mitchell 22/06/2020 10:56
First day today ...Very excited but also nerves as i never stick to a diet but with a couple of my friends at work also doing it and 2 of them have already done so well..This has given me the push i needed .

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