how to beat emotional eating during quarantine

Written by Emily Fultz, MS, RD, LDN

Many people have found themselves emotionally eating throughout this time of quarantine. Emotional eating is a term that our society uses to describe eating for emotional reasons, instead of hunger. You may be bored, lonely, or anxious and find yourself turning to food as a coping mechanism. If you find yourself snacking more or visiting the kitchen more frequently than usual, you are not alone.

First things first, it is important to understand that there is not always harm in this. We are currently living through a pandemic, and there is a lot of unknown. If food helps you survive this emotional time, then so be it! Surviving the pandemic and coming out stronger than ever should be the ultimate goal, and some people may have different journeys to get there. The concerns are if (1) you realize that turning to food is the only way you cope, (2) you have a history of an eating disorder, (3) you feel extreme guilt afterwards, or (4) your food choices are negatively impacting your health.

Acceptance is the first step to improving this relationship with food. Once you clearly see that you are turning to food during this stressful time you can take some action to overcome this.

Here are some tips that may help you:

Set a schedule.

Social distancing has affected all of our routines in some way or another. Making meal time a priority and setting times to sit down and eat can help the day feel a little more normal.


Grocery stores are crazy right now, so if you do not go in with a plan then your cart may be filled with a strange assortment of foods. Make a grocery list and have a back up plan set if your items are out of stock.

Make sure you are not under fueling.

A common reason people end up overeating or possibly binging is due to not eating enough earlier in the day. Skipping a meal may increase your hunger and may cause you to increase your portions, grab that extra bag of chips, or eat too fast. Has this happened to you? If so, do not fret. Accept that you may have eaten more than usual and get right back into your routine. DO NOT try to skip meals to make up for it, as this will just lead to a vicious cycle.

Find distractions.

Maybe food does not have to be the only way that you overcome a stressful time. What else helps you to relax? You could take a walk, take a bath, read a book, take a nap, turn on a movie, or maybe start a new craft. Find the tasks that help you unwind.

Have self compassion.

Beating yourself up over eating what you consider to be too much might just increase the distress you are feeling. Talk to yourself as you would talk to a family member or friend. Tell yourself that it is okay to be upset throughout this time and that you will get through it. So you ate 15 cookies in one sitting? No big deal. That does not change your value or worth as a person.

If you still feel lost, then contact me today!

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