Are you an emotional eater?
Are you an emotional eater?

As I write this something is curled up rather endearingly on my lap. It’s not a dozing cat or a cute puppy, it’s my belly!

The tummy seems to have burgeoned out of the blue just in time for summer and now I have to find suitable roomy clothing to accommodate it.

It’s a bit like having a pet. Belly perches on my thighs when I sit down and lies beside me in bed. I have never been this podgy before. It feels a bit like the invasion of the body snatchers, I no longer feel like me while I’m carrying Betty the belly around (yes I’ve actually named her!).

I felt embarrassed by my fuller figure as I sat in the doctor’s office and he checked my BMI (body mass index.) He warned me about my rising cholesterol levels and the importance of losing some weight.

Secretly, I was rather pleased to see the young, male, GP who was trying to indoctrinate me into a life of muesli and speed walking, had a rather sizeable little Thomas the tummy himself.

Practice what you preach I thought, as I nodded my head solemnly looking suitably chastised for my unhealthy lifestyle, as he told me to cut down on saturated fat.

I left his office absolutely determined that I would do my Davina McCall exercise DVD every morning (it’s still in the cellophane wrapper and has been keeping a rather wobbly coffee table leg stable since January) and to eat less.

I know all the things to eat to make me healthier but quite frankly a bowl of cabbage soup or an apple doesn’t call to me in the same way as a cream horn does when I’m in need of comfort.

Since suffering a bereavement, eating for me these days is rarely about hunger, it’s about finding consolation and distraction from unpleasant emotions and feelings that I’d rather not entertain.

It’s difficult to even identify sometimes what the emotions are that drive some of us towards the biscuit tin or the chip shop. It usually is fatty and sugary foods we seek out when it’s our emotions and not our hunger that’s driving us to eat.

There are good biological reasons why these kinds of foods are more attractive to emotional eaters than fruit and vegetables. Fatty and sugary foods release endorphins and dopamine, the body’s feel good chemicals, which induces a natural high after a good old binge.

Experts say for 1.3 million people in the UK, a treat can turn into a full blown binge. Recent studies have highlighted that overeating are attempts to control an overwhelming internal anxiety state.

Emotional eating is the number one cause of obesity in the Western world.

In her book Eating Less Say Goodbye to Overeating author Gillian Riley says if you want to manage your addictive desire to eat at the time it’s happening, the way to get through your addiction is not by denying it or trying to avoid it, but by experiencing it.

She advises that in a nutshell, to get rid of addictive eating you must think to yourself ‘I have an addictive desire to eat, I have the freedom to eat. I can either choose to satisfy this addictive desire and face the consequences (e.g. regret, fatigue), or I choose to acknowledge that I have this desire to eat but not feed it, in order to gain the benefits of being in control (e.g. esteem, energy).’

Basically beating emotional overeating is all about accepting that the desire to eat is there but not going with it. Easier said than done! It’s a tall order not to give into the desire to turn to food for comfort when uncomfortable feelings arise, especially when you’re not even sure of exactly what’s eating you.

I laughed with recognition recently when Betty and I were curled up on the sofa and a clip from the TV series Episodes came on. In it Matt Leblanc’s character was upset and devouring an enormous piece of chocolate cake.

Tamsin Greig’s svelte character turned to him and said: ‘Can I just say, that eating your feelings is not the way to go’. Matt replied: ‘Oh I finished eating my feelings a long time ago, I’m eating your feelings now!’

It’s hard to cut back on comfort eating when you’re feeling slightly overwhelmed by life. I tried starting a diet after leaving the doctor’s surgery, but the deprivation felt torturous, it was the worst 30 minutes of my life!



I looked at the photo my son had snapped and I couldn’t believe it was me. It had been taken in the strong sunlight and my hair was positively platinum in parts. Long gone was the sun-streaked look that I had started out with years ago. Down both sides of my face hung horribly over-processed white-blonde hair like Spaniel’s ears, while the underneath layer of my hair appeared black. I looked like Cruella Deville! I booked an emergency hair appointment and explained my dilemma. I am now ‘bronde’ and I love it! I used to think the blonder the better, but ‘bronde’ is the hottest new hair colour being sported by the likes of model Gisel Bundchen. It’s the ideal combination of brown and blonde tones. The colourist help me pick two colours, one a brown tone very close to my natural hair colour and the other a blonde shade. She painted the two colours on my hair and after a bit of time hey presto, I was a bronde! The deeply unfortunate Jimmy Saville hues I had developed over the years, which were far from flattering, are thankfully a thing of the past. This will also be easier to maintain than the bright lights. I like this cross over to the dark side. If you’re thinking of experimenting with the look this summer I highly recommend it. Hubby says he’d rather have my darker locks too, it appears gentlemen prefer brondes!