Week 4

Relationship between food and mood

In week 4 we will look at the link between your mood and eating patterns, and learn about mindful eating

Welcome back to week 4 of our 12 Week Weight Management Programme. You are now a third of the way into the programme, well done on reaching this milestone.

Weekly check-in

How did you get on last week? Were you able to be more physically active?

Did you achieve the goals you set yourself last week?


Have you been keeping your lifestyle diary, journal, app or taking photos over the last week?

If not, it might be helpful to think about what is getting in your way. Keeping a diary or journal will help you be more open with yourself about what you’ve eaten and how active you’ve been.

Wellbeing review

This is one of the weeks we’d like you to think about your longer term wellbeing target and how well you’re progressing towards this.

Look back at the wellbeing target you set in week one and the measurements you took then. Retake these same measurements and write them down. We would suggest that you check your weight this week.

Mood and food

We know that how we feel affects not just what we eat but also how we eat. We also know that what we eat and how we eat affects how we feel.

This week we’re going to think about the link between how we’re feeling and what we eat, the link between our food and our mood.

The relationship between our mood and food is complex. We all have our own personal relationship with food. Our own personal reasons why we have the relationship with food that we do.

We can eat to feel better or because we’re lonely and sometimes we eat to block out what we’re feeling. For many people food is associated with being comforted, as a way to deal with unpleasant emotions.

Eating patterns

Our eating patterns can develop in childhood, for example, when we hurt our self as a child we might have been told:

  • “there, there have a biscuit and you’ll feel better”
  • “you’ll get no pudding until you’ve cleared your plate”?

We also learn from a young age to use food as a celebration such as at birthday parties or a chocolate from the teacher for doing well in class. This shows us that the relationship we have with food, how it might have been developed and how far back in our life it has developed: it can all be quite complex.

Do you recognise the different reasons that you eat? When you next eat, try asking yourself “Why did I just eat that?”, was it because you:

  • were hungry
  • were bored
  • were feeling lonely
  • couldn’t resist it
  • were celebrating

All of this information can be captured in your daily diary or journal. Once you’re aware of these links and triggers to your eating you can develop alternative ways of dealing with how you are feeling.

Learning how to develop your awareness of the triggers to eating is a major step to learn ways to manage your mood.

What about snacking?

We snack for different reasons, sometimes it’s a form of eating without even thinking about it.

Snacking in itself isn’t unhelpful, in fact, it can be a positive thing. Having a snack will help to keep you satisfied between meals so that you don’t overeat at your next meal. There are also ideas and suggestions for healthier snacking. We’ll return to this next week when we look at something called the hunger scale. 

Mindful eating

Mindful eating is when we’re fully aware of our behaviour when we’re eating, rather than being distracted or multi-tasking on other activities.

Eating without thinking is something we all experience but we don’t realise that we do it and it’s often the way we eat a snack. We know times when we go to have another bite or mouthful only to find that it is already finished. “Where did it go?” we ask our self and “Oh, I don’t remember eating that biscuit.” that is us eating without thinking.

It’s easy to see how this can happen when we’re having a snack, but it’s something we want to work on and change. Snacking without thinking can become an unhelpful habit if not managed and monitored.

In week 8 we’ll show you a mindful eating exercise, if you feel like it you can jump forward and try this now.

Recording your lifestyle

We have looked at why and how to record your lifestyle in week 1. If you haven’t started recording yet then this week is a good week to start and get yourself into the habit.

You could download our diary, use a journal or an app on your phone. In our lifestyle diary we have added a column this week for recording ‘How I am feeling’.

Goals become habits

As we get further into the programme you may find that some of your goals have become a habit – a behaviour you do without thinking about it.

When you feel comfortable that a weekly goal has become a habit, you may wish you stop setting this as a goal. Move on and set a new goal around a different behaviour.

If you feel at any point during or after the programme that your old behaviour starts to come back then take some time to consider:

  • how you managed to make changes before and kept them going
  • setting a new achievable goal to help you kick start this behaviour again

Setting your goals

When setting your weekly goals you should:

  • decide which day next week you will be coming back to this programme, this will be the day you can review your goals
  • consider the areas for change we have discussed this week
  • look at your lifestyle diary/journal/app/photos and choose areas where you feel you could make a small change over the next week
  • ask yourself what you can do more of, what you can do less of and what would help you me make these changes
  • add 1 or 2 new goals – we recommend 3 to 4 weekly changes goals are the most you should ever set yourself

You may need to keep your targets the same as last week, review them and make them more achievable or build on them. If you don’t meet your goals every day, that’s ok. It’s important to keep returning to what you’ve written down. We’ll review them next week.

Your can use our goal-setting tool to record your goals for the week, or print out our blank weekly journal (PDF, 42KB) to fill in yourself.

Set goals for the week ahead, for example eat a piece of fruit at work instead of my morning biscuits and go for a 30 minute walk on 3 different days.

All fields have a maximum character limit of 140.

For next week

During this week you should:

  • consider which of your current behaviours you feel ready to change and set realistic goals for this week
  • continue to monitor your goals by keeping your lifestyle diary or journal, app or take photos
  • record your how you’re feeling
  • ask a friend or family member to try a new physical activity with you
Logo of Public Health Scotland (PHS)

Source: Public Health Scotland

Last updated:
18 May 2020

The BMI scale uses your weight and height to calculate roughly how much body fat you have.





Ethnic group

Black, Asian and other ethnic minority groups with a BMI of 23 or more have a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and other long term illnesses