Many of us turn to food and drink to soothe ourselves when we feel anxious, stressed or sad. The downside is that comfort eating often leaves us feeling worse, as the original problem hasn’t gone away and we can also then feel guilty or ashamed for overeating.
At Slimming World, we have a deep understanding of the psychology of slimming. We know how emotions can affect our weight loss success, and we have lots of support tools and advice to help you identify your triggers and develop alternative coping strategies. You’ll find our expert tips at the end of this blog post.
If you find yourself turning to food for comfort, this slimming story is for you. Tansy Arnett conquered comfort eating and lost over 7st with Slimming World – and now she’s been crowned our Miss Slinky 2021.
Although I’d always felt self-conscious about my size, I really started to struggle with my weight a couple of years ago, when my youngest son, Harry, now two, was born. I loved being a mum, but caring for a newborn, as well as looking after my twin 10-year-old sons, Charlie and Keegan, now 12, was exhausting.
More and more, food became my comfort. When I met other mums for a coffee, I’d order a big slice of cake and wash it down with a caramel latte. Later, when the boys were tucked in bed, I’d be too shattered to cook, so I’d put a frozen pizza in the oven or order a takeaway and settle on the sofa with my partner, Jay.
My emotional eating began when I was a teenager. I used to feel so tired by the time I finished school, I’d spend my pocket money on sweets and fizzy drinks to boost my energy. We lived in a pub at the time, and I enjoyed plenty of dinners from the kitchen – burgers, fish and chips, roast dinners… if it made me feel good, I’d eat it.
Over the years, I comfort ate my way to 18st and my self-esteem plummeted. I avoided looking in mirrors and hid my figure beneath shapeless cardigans. Jay was always loving and supportive, but I became increasingly insecure. If he put his arms around me, I’d wriggle away because I didn’t want him to feel my lumps and bumps.
Overcoming my emotional eating
While a few of my friends had lost weight with Slimming World, something held me back from joining myself. I’d tried countless diets over the years – fasting, shakes, calorie counting – but any weight I lost soon went back on again, and then some.
Deep down, I was worried about another failed slimming attempt. Eventually, I shared my worries with my sister. “You could go for a week and see what it’s about,” she suggested. “You might be surprised.”
As I sat in group for the first time, listening to the Consultant, Vicky, explaining how I could fill up on pasta and potatoes, I realised Food Optimising wasn’t like the restrictive diets I’d tried before. Back home, I studied the new-member pack and planned my week’s meals.
With four hungry boys at home, I was impressed by how family-friendly the recipes were – I made sausage casserole, sticky chicken and cottage pie, and every time the plates were licked clean! I was loving the meals I was making, too, and at the next weigh-in, I’d lost 5½lbs.
Vicky was incredibly inspiring and she helped me to discover so much about myself and my relationship with food. With her support, I realised how stress and tiredness could ‘trigger’ my emotional eating, and she helped me to put a plan in place to change my habits. I learned to snack on fresh fruit when my energy levels felt low and found new ways to make myself feel better, like having a relaxing bath or going for a run.
Finding my confidence
Within a few months, I’d lost 3st and I began to see the difference in myself. My legs were more toned and I felt less self-conscious about my neck and cheeks. Jay noticed the change in my confidence, too. We started going for runs and even joined a gym together. And when he pulled me close for a cuddle, I’d smile, no longer worried about how my body felt.
Of course, there are times when I struggle – I’m only human, after all. When that happens, I know my fellow members are there to help me out. Even while we’ve not been able to meet in person, we’ve come together virtually. I always come away from group feeling motivated, and I’m excited at the thought of getting back to real-life groups so I can see everyone again.
Losing 7st 3lbs has changed my whole outlook. As well as having greater control of my emotional eating, I feel more energetic and confident. When restrictions allow, I’d love to take my family on holiday. I can’t wait to stretch out on a beach in a size-10 swimming costume – without any worries about my body. I feel like I’ve regained a beautiful part of myself that was gone for so long, and I’m ready to show it off!
4 ways to conquer comfort eating
Treat yourself with kindness
Kindness is the touchstone of emotional wellbeing. Choosing delicious, nourishing food – which you’ll naturally be doing when you’re Food Optimising – is one of the best ways to show yourself some love.
Enjoy an active lifestyle
Whichever Body Magic activity you choose – and you’ll find lots of activity ideas to suit all fitness levels on the blog – you’ll boost your physical health and emotional wellbeing as those feel-good endorphins surge.
Have a back-up plan
When you really want something tasty and hearty to eat, depriving yourself will only make you more likely to go off track. That’s when comforting Food Optimising recipes – like cheesy chips with gravy – come in handy. You could keep a stash of your favourite dishes in the freezer for when you need a mood-boosting meal in minutes.
If you find yourself turning to food when you’re stressed, bored or sad, we’re here to help. Slimming World Consultants understand how to help you get off the emotional-eating roller coaster, and you’ll find extra support on our exclusive members-only website – including a quiz to help you understand which triggers might be leading you to seek comfort in food.