Dear Charlotte,

I’m desperate to eat healthily and lose weight, and I keep overeating and breaking my diets. I feel frustrated that I can’t use this lockdown time more productively, and I’m gaining weight and feeling even worse about my body. Do you have any tips for managing eating issues?

I feel stuck!

Dear Feeling Stuck,

What you’ve described is the story for so many of us during this time period especially. There’s a German term, Kummerspeck, which means emotional eating – it’s so prevalent. Most of us are bored, anxious and dispirited, and we want instant gratification and comfort. It’s so easy for us to reach for food and eat mindlessly. We don’t have much to do, places to go, and food keeps us company, even if it feels more like a frenemy than a nourishing friend.

It sounds like you’re putting far too much pressure on yourself for how you think you should be using this time. You want to emerge from lockdown feeling better about your body, and maybe you imagine that if only you could lose weight, you’d feel like you’ve achieved something valuable during this very dark and difficult time. But lockdown is impossibly hard anyway, and adding restrictive diets, breaking them, and beating yourself up, seems punishing and unkind to yourself. In the words of the Federal Trade Commission, “The dieting industry is the only profitable business in the world with a 98% failure rate.” Most diets simply don’t work, the ups and downs are punishing, and it can be an addictive cycle. See if either or both of these diagrams resonate for what you’re going through:

If you’re caught in either of these vicious cycles, awareness is the first step. It’s worth considering a more attuned approach to eating, but this is a process, and something to pursue with self-compassion and support.

It’s worth exploring and understanding your relationship with eating and weight. Your feelings of stuckness may be about food and weight in some ways, but I also wonder if your struggles with food illustrate feelings and beliefs you have about yourself. It sounds like you may be trying to fix yourself in some way. Try to be self-compassionate and well done just for getting through this time period.  

Warm wishes,

Do you have a question for Dear Therapist? Send it to [email protected] with Dear Therapist in the subject line and Charlotte Fox Weber or Kelly Hearn will get back to you.

Further reading

Dear Body, a love letter

3 tips if lockdown has triggered disordered eating

How to create a trigger-free environment if you have a difficult relationship with food

My journey in body awareness

Shame, guilt and your relationship with food

9 ways counselling can help you overcome an eating disorder