Quick Guide: How To Stop Overeating During Lockdown 

 April 14, 2020

By  jennifer@thinkingnutrition.co.nz

Life at home during lockdown, means daily life with a pantry a few steps away. Hungry? Visit the pantry. Bored? Visit the pantry. Stressed? Visit the pantry. Tired? Visit the pantry.

Who knew the pantry was such a multi-tasking solution for all your home-bound woes?!

Well, me as it turns out.

I’ve been working from home for around 14 years. And trust me, I’ve done a lot of non-essential snacking in that time.

When I first started working from home in 2006 we lived in a cute little cottage, with 3 small bedrooms, and a big kitchen at the heart of the house.

Sitting in my little office a mere 2 metres from the kitchen, I only had to take a couple of steps from my office to literally reach the pantry. It was TOO handy for me and at that point of my life I was firmly living in the diet-mentality camp, with a full set of rules about when and what I could eat (and yes I was the dingus that set the rules, go figure).

Point is, I’ve been there done that and got the t-shirt.

And I get that being at home all day on lockdown can be a real challenge when you’re not used to being near to a pantry full of food.

Add to that the stress and anxiety of lockdown.

The lack of routine many of us are experiencing in lockdown….

And, well, you’ve got a perfect recipe for overeating.

So what’s the solution? To do that we need to analyse the different causes of overeating so we know what kind of solution we need. Let’s do it!

Solutions for 6 Different Causes of Lockdown Overeating

1. You’ve become a serial-grazer

Yes it’s easy to keep eating when food is so handy and never actually get hungry or sit down for a meal, because you’ve grazed so much.

It’s time to check in with your hunger and fullness cues. Your body is designed to eat, then take a break and come back to eating again intermittently throughout the day to top up your energy stores.

Grazing constantly on food stops you feeling hunger, so you never really know when you need to eat.

SOLUTION: Listen out for your hunger cues  – rumbling tummy, growling noises, light-headedness, difficulty concentrating, uncomfortable stomach pains, irritability, feeling faint, headache. Honour your hunger by eating when you feel comfortably hungry. Try a smartphone app like Nourishly to track your hunger and fullness around meals and snacks, so you become more aware of eating for physical hunger rather than grazing for entertainment.

2. You’re tired and sleep-deprived

It’s all too easy to stay up late watching that Netflix series when you know you don’t have to get up early to get the kids to school, or start your traffic-crunched journey to work during lockdown.

The problem is though, ditching your regular sleep time and staying up late can lead to tiredness. And a tired brain behaves like a hungry brain!

Brain scans have shown that the brain of over-tired adults get more excited about high sugar, high fat and high carb foods when they’re tired. You simply can’t fight your biology. The problem is not the chocolate or chips you’re eating, the problem is your lack of sleep. So fix the sleep.

SOLUTION: Create (and stick) to a regular sleep schedule – make sure you’re getting a good quality 7-8 hours in bed each night. Try to go to bed at the same time each night.

3. You’re distracted while eating

Sure Dr Phil is on during lunch-time, and yes you could watch another episode of Ozark while you eat your lunch – the joys of working from home during lockdown! But if you’re continually distracted while eating, you’re not going to notice when your tummy tells you it’s full.

Notice how your kids can’t hear you speaking to them when they’re engrossed in watching the latest youtube video? That’s you, when your tummy is trying to tell you it’s full…

“Hello? Is anybody there? We’re full! Stop sending food down!”

Only you don’t hear it, cos you’re watching Netflix, reading, surfing the net or distracted in some other way.

SOLUTION:  Practice eating mindfully at one main meal or snack each day – without TV, phones, books or other distractions around. Get your whole family to do it with you too (if you can).

4. You’re stressed or anxious about lockdown

For good reason. This is a super-weird time we’re living in. And we’re all doing an amazing thing by working together to lockdown and stay home, and allow essential workers to do their job.

But it’s definitely a stressful time. And it’s not uncommon to find ourselves turning to all those delicious snack foods when we’re feeling stressed. Turns out that eating high fat and high sugar foods (or better still, a trifecta of high fat, sugar and carbs) in stressful times helps to mask the effects of stress and make us feel more relaxed.

That could explain why you find yourself turning to the pantry more often during this pandemic and lockdown.

So the solution is not to focus on the food you’re eating, but rather to focus on the stress that’s causing the change in your eating habits.

You can’t resolve the source of the stress – the pandemic and lockdown are out of our control (unless you’re the prime minister?).

What you can do is reduce the effects of the stress so it doesn’t impact your eating.

SOLUTION: Get yourself up and ideally out of the house for a 30 minute walk each day (if your lockdown rules allow it). If you can’t get out, or can’t walk, any type of physical activity each day is still fantastic. Exercise reduces levels of your body’s stress hormones (e.g. adrenaline and cortisol), so it’s physically changing the stress response in your body. Exercise also stimulates the production of endorphins – the feel good chemical that is your body’s natural painkiller and a mood elevator.

5. You’re drinking more alcohol during lockdown

Errr… I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But if you’re drinking more alcohol, you’re going to eat more food.

Alcohol is a ‘disinhibitor’ and it completely messes up your body’s ability to listen and respond to your fullness cues.

So if you’re drinking more alcohol, you can safely expect to eat more food – the two go together, like Batman and Robin.

And judging by the alcohol buy-up that happened prior to lockdown, and the number of posts I see in our local community group looking for alcohol sources, I’m guessing that alcohol intake is up (a lot) for some people.

It’s ultimately your choice, but there’s no point trying to fix the overeating if you don’t address the real cause – alcohol.

SOLUTION: Cut down your alcohol intake – aim for a couple of alcohol free days each week, and try to limit how much you drink during the days you do drink.

6. You’re an emotional eater.

Let’s face it – there’s plenty to be emotional about right now. Our life’s have literally changed overnight. There is heartbreak everywhere, people unable to even go to the funeral of their loved ones, others sick in the hospital unable to be visited by their next of kin, maybe you’ve lost your job, or you probably know someone who has lost their job or is worried about their job. And everywhere there is talk about a major economic recession.

There is so much uncertainty about what life will look like for us tomorrow, let alone next year. So yes, a lot of us are feeling emotional.

And let’s face it, emotional eating works. You can push down all those horrible negative emotions while you eat something delicious.

The only problem is, as soon as you finish eating those emotions pop back up again like weeds.

There’s no point in feel guilty about emotional eating, so please don’t give yourself a hard time. But if you do want to upskill yourself and find other ways to deal with this stuff (other than just eating food), now is as good a time as any to add more tools to your emotional coping toolbox.

SOLUTION: Find a more beneficial way to cope with negative emotions. Ask yourself: 1) What am I feeling right now? 2) What do I really need right now? Check out my blog post How To Stop Emotional Eating In Two Easy Steps for some help with this.

Do you think your overeating is caused by one of these 6 reasons? Or is it something else?

Love to know your thoughts,

Jennifer xo.

P.S. If you want more help with overeating, check out my free PDF, The Ultimate Guide: How To Stop Overeating – 16 Reasons Why You Overeat & How To Fix Them




Hey, I’m Jennifer. I help women transform their relationship with food, their body and weight, so they can ditch the guilt and shame, and focus on more important stuff - like living a happy and healthy life!

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  1. I actually liked these suggestions. My eating has been out of control during the lockdown, but the advice I found online is too clichéd. This post is more helpful and breaks down the trigger factors in a clearer way.

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