We reveal four common mood-related triggers for why we overindulge – and how to avoid them

You want to celebrate

Surprisingly, positive emotions are more likely to cause overeating than negative ones, according to food and psychology expert Dr Brian Wansink. In a poll, he discovered 86 per cent were likely to turn to their favourite foods when they were feeling happy.

Ways to beat it

– Mark the occasion with a non-food treat For example, you could celebrate Friday with a bunch of flowers instead of a takeaway, or enjoy a small glass of bubbly in a hot bath and an early night watching TV rather than a gut-busting meal out.

– Go for quality not quantity Another option is to spend the same amount on better quality food but to enjoy less of it. For instance, you might have a small taster of smoked salmon rather than fish and chips, or enjoy one glass of decent wine rather than a bottle of something cheaper.

You feel sad

Eating may provide a temporary mood boost when you’re a bit low, but it can actually increase the blues in the long term if you begin to dislike yourself for not having more self control/

Ways to beat it

– Find the underlying reason You need to take the cause of your unhappiness first. Talking things through with a good friend or practising assertiveness may help or, for relationship issues, contact Relate for support.

– Avoid the weepies In a study where people were given buttered popcorn and a DVD to watch, they ate nearly a third more during a tear-jerker than an upbeat film. If you don’t want to ditch sad films, do your calorie homework first. People who read the nutritional information for the popcorn before the movie ate less of it.

You’re stressed and anxious

Feeling uptight is a common cause of grabbing something immediately gratifying, such as a chocolate bar. And very stressful days may drive you naturally towards sweet foods as you try to boost your energy levels.

Ways to beat it

– Step away from the biscuit tin Research that tracked frequent snackers found that those who went for a brisk five-minute walk when they felt frazzled were much less likely to reach for something sweet than those who continued to sit at their desks. A brisk walk can lift your mood and put things back into perspective.

– Take up yoga Overweight women who started daily relaxation activities, such as yoga, lost an average of 10lb after 18 months without consciously dieting, a study found. Meditation or even just writing in a diary every day had similar effects. Lifestyle medicine specialist Dr anne Nedrow, who carried out the research, believes relaxation techniques help serve as a buffer to stress, making overeating less likely.

You’re bored and in a rut

Most boredom-snacking occurs in the evening when you’re winding down and in relax mode. Or it can catch up with you when you’re having a day off or struggling through mundane tasks.

Ways to beat it

– Keep busy It sounds obvious, but being occupied will take your mind off eating. Make a list of the activities you could do instead – reading or updating your Facebook page, for example. Or go to bed earlier – several studies have shown a link between obesity and too little sleep.

– Work for your food treats Choose snacks you can’t eat quickly or mindlessly. Shell-on pistachios are an ideal option, or go for individual chocolates over a whole bar.

For further information on our diet club, and to get a free 7-day membership, go to Woman’s Own Diets