Eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia are now so well researched and understood as to barely be considered taboo topics any longer. But while these deadly illnesses are increasingly recognised by health professionals many thousands of us are letting food control our lives in much more surprising ways.

How often have you reached for a chocolate bar after a bad day at the office? Or absent mindedly polished off a family bag of popcorn whilst watching a movie? Perhaps you’ve scarfed down a large Big Mac meal after an argument with a friend or felt that the only thing that will get you through the afternoon is that huge piece of chocolate cake calling to you from the coffee shop. We’ve all heard of comfort eating but many of us just don’t realise how much our mood affects what we eat.

Those of us who eat to fill an emotional void or help us to deal with our problems are known as emotional overeaters. In contrast to anorexics, who often take control of their diet when they feel out of control in other areas of

their life, emotional overeaters can lose all control when it comes to food, using it as a comfort blanket when times are bad. But overeating and weight gain can often leave us feeling depressed or guilty…it’s a catch 22 situation as the low mood drags emotional overeaters back to the fridge.

Of course in a Western society driven by food where indulgence is available on every street corner and sweets are dished out to children as rewards and treats most of us are emotional eaters to a point. However when this emotional eating leads to regular overindulgence, unhealthy weight gain and begins to interfere with one’s happiness it’s time to take action.

The way in which an emotional overeater uses food as a crutch makes it extremely difficult to follow a traditional diet or to even cut back on portion sizes or between meal snacks. That isn’t to say that those who emotionally overeat are doomed to a life of feeling guilty after raiding the kids’ snack jar or spending a fiver in the work vending machine. In fact the key to breaking the cycle is to understand it. Keep a food diary detailing the when, why and how of your

overeating. What triggers a binge? Why did you turn to food before another solution? How do you eat (are you a fridge side snacker or a sucker for an unreasonably large portion for example…)?

Not only may a food diary help an overeater to find patterns in their behaviour but it will also assist them in coming to terms with the issues causing the unhealthy attitude towards food. It may be uncomfortable to face problems head on instead of hiding behind food but the best way to get away from emotional overeating is to accept the feelings and problems which are leading to the binge and find more productive ways to tackle them.