How can I stop comfort eating and lose weight?

Jane mugshot for JQAMy hus­band died two and a half years ago, and I have had many emo­tional prob­lems since. I have put on a lot of weight and I still keep eat­ing for com­fort. Because of my weight I have got very unfit. I am des­per­ate to do some­thing about it, but I can’t get motiv­ated.

It can be a long struggle to put your life back together after such an emo­tional cata­strophe. If you have not already done so, you might con­sider bereave­ment coun­selling – there’s no time limit to how long griev­ing lasts and even after quite a while it can help to talk to a sym­path­etic pro­fes­sional. Your GP should be able to give you con­tact details.

I men­tion this because you say you are “com­fort eat­ing”, so it is a good idea to try and tackle the “com­fort” bit (which is about your emo­tional upset) as well as the “eat­ing” bit of the prob­lem.

To lose the excess weight and get fit, you will need both to eat dif­fer­ently and do more. Use all the help you can to keep your motiv­a­tion high.

Join a weight-​watchers’ group or team up with a friend who also ser­i­ously wants to shed the pounds. Many people find it easier to fol­low a set of rules and it’s extremely use­ful to have someone to talk to in those moments when your resolve is wob­bling.

Make your­self a few mini-​goals every morn­ing – just for that day. These should include a food goal and an activ­ity /​exer­cise goal. It’s really import­ant to appre­ci­ate that simply by doing more you are using up cal­or­ies, even if it’s not “exer­cise”. Whether it’s ama­teur dra­mat­ics or lan­guage classes, bridge even­ings or coun­try dan­cing, more activ­ity fills up time, takes your mind off your prob­lems and ener­gises you.

If you can afford it, hire a per­sonal trainer for three months. This is the best pos­sible way of keep­ing your exer­cise dis­cip­line and motiv­a­tion high, giv­ing you a ter­rific jump start.

If that’s not pos­sible and the gym doesn’t appeal, con­sider com­munity exer­cise classes. Your local council’s leis­ure depart­ment or web­site should have details (includ­ing weight man­age­ment classes). Swimming is another bril­liant calorie-​burner and gets you fit without mak­ing you feel really uncom­fort­able. You can tick off the lengths in the calm­ing atmo­sphere of the pool.

Find reas­ons to go up and down­stairs at home and walk every day (can you offer to walk your neighbour’s dog?). Each day, make your goal just a little more than the pre­vi­ous one.

Once you have worked out a routine for your exer­cise ses­sions (at least three a week), stick to it reli­giously and let noth­ing get in the way.

Results will not come overnight, but they will hap­pen. And here’s the most import­ant tip: if you lapse, wake up the next morn­ing as though it didn’t hap­pen. No recrim­in­a­tions, no regrets — just keep on track and refuse to let little slip-​ups knock you off-​course. Good luck!

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