Emotional Eating, Hand in The Cookie Tin

Empty toilet paper roll with the phrase "don't panic"
Got toilet paper?

I have stockpiles of food and toilet paper. How about you?

In these unprecedented times during the COVID-19 pandemic, I find myself craving my chocolate chip cookie stash. Partly because I am at home, feeling bored, but also because it's stressful and I am emotionally snacking. Maybe you too?

I have heard so many similar stories. A close friend of mine admitted to finishing a box of ice cream sandwiches over the weekend. The previous week, her place of employment told her she had a few hours to get what she needed from her office and to stay home. So, this was her way of coping.

Being uprooted from our daily routines and thrown into a non-existent routine is overwhelming. Food is a common emotional coping mechanism - eating to fill the time when we're bored, to soothe anxiety, or to nosh out the frustration that the world feels like it's coming to an end.

If this sounds like your life the past couple of months, you're not alone. Many people are bored at home, feeling unmotivated due to stress, and doing everything they can to emotionally get through another day of quarantine.

These unexpected circumstances came on so quickly that it's normal to feel like you don't have the coping skills to deal with this situation. Food is an easy go-to for emotional support. And that's ok!

It's not uncommon for stress to trigger emotional eating. According to one study, it's also not uncommon for people who regularly try to control their weight through dieting may experience more emotional eating. This makes sense because dieting puts your body under physiological stress already.

A tin of chocolate chip cookies
Finding comfort in cookies

Food can serve a purpose in your emotional coping toolbox.

Evelyn Triole RDN and Elyse Resch RDN, co-authors of the Intuitive Eating Book and Workbook, recognizing emotional eating as a unique gift. It offers you an opportunity to recognize these emotional triggers (without judgment) and give yourself permission to feel satisfied with your food choices. This self-compassionate way of thinking can prevent you from falling into complete emotional fuck-it-eating despair.

So what happens once you recognize these emotional triggers?

Asking yourself these questions in the heat of the moment can be helpful

  • Am I biologically hungry? If yes, satisfy your hunger.

  • What am I feeling? If you are not hungry, this may be a good time to understand your feelings by either talking it out with a friend or writing out your feelings in a journal.

  • What do I need? A break? To move my body? To be creative? Or dance it out to your favorite tunes.

By taking the time to ask these questions, you can find a deeper understanding of what you really need in a time of stress and uncertainty and how your body wants to cope.

To learn more about emotional eating, especially during COVID-19, join our up-coming live conversation with Lesley Wayler MSW from Green Mountain At Fox Run, Saturday, May 16th, 1 PM EDT. Reserve your seat for this FREE event by emailing amanda@alpinenutrition.org


Talbot, L. S., Maguen, S., Epel, E. S., Metzler, T. J., & Neylan, T. C. (2013). Posttraumatic stress disorder is associated with emotional eating. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 26(4), 521-525.

Tribole, E., & Resch, E. (2012). Intuitive Eating. New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin. ISBN-10: 1250004047