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Are Anxiety and Fear Making You Fat?


Dr. Sheila Forman


health, fitness, and beauty

Dr. Sheila Forman, a former practicing attorney, has PhD in psychology, and is a one of the first qualified Mindfulness Based Eating Awareness Training (MB EAT) Instructors in the world. Often characterized as having the mind of a lawyer and the heart of a therapist, Dr. Sheila has devoted over twenty years to helping people address weight and food issues by focusing on the emotional aspects of overeating.

In our COVID filled world of shutdowns and isolation, many people turn to food as a way to get through the fear and anxiety they feel during the pandemic. What we once mused as the “Quarantine 15” has for some become the “Quarantine 50.”  Anxiety and fear do not have to lead to excess eating and weight gain. Learning to manage these feelings can not only prevent the need for a larger size, managing these emotions can make your whole life work better.


1.      To feel fear is to feel frightened. Fear can be a physical “alarm” or warning of danger. You can be frightened of a lot of things—spiders, dogs, thunder, lightning, or the dark. Some people are frightened of disease, needles and doctors.


2.      Anxiety is specifically a fear of the future. When you are anxious, you are afraid of something you anticipate will happen in the future.


3.      Typically, anxiety is created by the thoughts that you tell yourself in response to a particular situation or occurrence. It is a way of explaining things to yourself that scares you.


4.      When you feel fear or anxiety, here’s what you can do instead of eat:


  • Thought-Stopping: Identify a thought that is making you anxious or frightened. Say, “Stop,” either silently to yourself or aloud (if you are alone). Think of a different, more encouraging thought. Hold the new thought in your mind for a count of ten. Repeat the new thought each time you catch the original anxious thought popping into your head.
  • Systematic Muscle Relaxation: Another approach to dealing with anxiety is to learn to relax by practicing a relaxation technique, called Systematic Muscle Relaxation. Lie down, take a few breaths and beginning with your feet, slowly move up your body relaxing each body part as you come to it. Once you have relaxed your whole body, enjoy the peaceful feeling you have created.
  • Improve Daily Habits: Include physical activity and meditation into your routine. Both can diffuse anxious feelings and make it easier to get through the day without excess calories. Also, eliminate caffeine (whose stimulating effects can cause an increase in anxious feelings.) Can’t go cold turkey? Start with half-caf and keep reducing your caffeine until you don’t miss it.

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