P s y chol ogie s. C


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scarlett


johansson 

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P SYC H O L O G I E S   M AG A Z I N E  

105

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Amerley Ollennu is 



Acting Beauty and 

Wellbeing Editor. 

Find her on Twitter  

@AmerleyO.

 NExT mONTh: 

Amerley learns to 

balance her blood 

sugar levels. For more 

on Elaine Slater, visit 

elaineslater.com

Eating  


my words

My parents often recall my birthday party the 

first year I started school: when my mother asked me 

who I wanted to invite, I said, ‘everyone!’ twenty-

five years later, and I have a core group of really good 

people in my life, yet I often feel lonely. there can be 

a sense of shame around admitting to loneliness, as 

if there must be something wrong with you. as my 

friends get married and have children and I’m busier 

with work, it’s tricky co-ordinating schedules. When 

I’ve been working all week, I just want to stay in bed 

all weekend and relax until Monday. My body seems 

to need the rest, but come saturday night I feel like a 

single, lonely loser. Cue, raiding the cupboards.



The challenge

according to psychologist elaine slater, ‘loneliness 

creates feelings of sadness, frustration, depression, 

anger, emptiness, helplessness, low self-esteem, and  

a sense of being unwanted or not belonging.’ and it 

can lead to unhealthy escapes, like emotional eating 

– check. It was suggested to me that whenever I feel 

lonely and want to reach for the biscuit tin, I should 

try expressive writing instead. a groundbreaking 

experiment by the social psychologist Dr James 

pennebaker in 1986 indicated that writing down  

our feelings can enhance immune response, 

reduce recovery times, and promote 

physical, psychological, and social 

wellbeing. slater believes ‘journalling can 

be restorative, comforting and empowering, 

and allows us to realise our strength and 

courage in order to overcome difficult 

times and avoid negative and destructive 

behaviours, like emotional eating.’



The experience

I resisted at first. as a young adult I ‘journalled’ often 

until I found out a flatmate had read my diaries 

while I was out, making me fearful of writing again. 

also, the thing with using food as a ‘cure’ is that it 

tends not to stop you from watching a film or finishing 

your work, but when writing things down you have  

to focus, and tune into your feelings come what may 

– this was something I had, for so long, tried not to do. 

reluctantly, I started writing in the notes section of 

my phone, just words to describe how I was feeling. 

Later, I became more expressive and bought a 

beautiful notebook. I quickly learnt that being 

physically alone wasn’t always the problem, it was 

when I felt sad about being alone or ‘left out’. Usually 

this would trigger emotional eating; now however, I 

tried reaching for a pen instead of a slab of chocolate.

The result

Writing  has been freeing: it works like a bin for me. 

When I give words to that whirling in my belly and the 

pain in my chest, I feel like I’m healing myself. 

sometimes I read back over it, letting myself wallow 

in self-pity a little longer. But often I realise that the 

negative thoughts I’m feeling and writing just aren’t 

true. I’ll never meet someone is met with 



of course you will. and yes, there have 

been times when I have consciously 

eaten a chocolate bar because I still find 

food a comfort but ultimately I feel like 

I’m in control, and soothing myself with 

food isn’t my only option now. next 

time you  feel emotionally overwhelmed, 

why not give writing a go? 

Every month Amerley Ollennu challenges  

you and herself to road-test research and 

healthy strategies to help change the way  

we think about food once and for all

the boost

 } 


brain food

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