We are all feeling the effects of the Coronavirus in some way, shape or form. Whether you are home quarantined with your family, live alone, or are continuing to work out of the home, we all have added stressors and uncertainties that are affecting our mood and the way we eat. Especially for those of you that are home so much more than you’re used to, it can be all too easy to turn to food when any emotion hits – boredom, anxiousness, depression, stress, or just plain comfort. Eating is one of the few “activities” we can do right now, and if you’re an especially anxious, type A person that thrives on being busy, it can quickly become a pastime that leads to weight gain, guilt, and a suppressed immune system.
Our “New Normal” at the Moment
Creating a new normal (AKA your quarantine eating schedule) is not easy, especially without warning. Daily routines and schedules have needed to quickly adjust accordingly. Small outings that we likely previously took for granted now seem like the best thing since sliced bread. I know I appreciate such simple things right now like getting fresh air, going for a drive, listening to music and picking up a latte at my local Starbucks drive-thru.
It’s okay if you feel uncertain. These are uncertain times and we don’t know how long they will last. The quarantine stress is real. Stay informed but try not to obsess. You can still lead a normal life right now and adjust. If you’re on social media 24/7 and following every Coronavirus case, it can further worsen your anxiety and feelings of overwhelm. If you notice this in yourself, take a break from it. It will still be there when you come back regardless.
If you need to take a social media and technology break, do it and check back the next morning. Take frequent breaks throughout the day to get fresh air and actually look around you, spend focused time with your family and be in the moment, or read a favorite book.
Feeling All the Feelings
I don’t know about you but I’m feeling all the feelings right now. I’m letting them sink in day by day as I adjust to this weird world we’re living in. I bring my kids outside and all my neighbors are so far apart from each other. It’s a strange feeling and it’s so quiet. I’m a very social, active person and do not do well in isolation. I’m trying to stay connected with people in any way I can.
Instead of texting, I’m calling EVERYONE. If you’re my friend, I want to hear your voice, even if that means hearing your kids screaming in the background. It’s okay to feel these feelings and be upset about it. Doing your best to improve the situation in any way you can will keep positive vibes flowing through your house.
You may be worried for your older family members and are afraid to see them. You may be nervous for your kids, your job security, or wonder how on earth you’re going to work from home and get all the things done (even the basic things like getting dressed!) with toddlers home with you 24-7. It’s normal to feel all these feelings when none of us has ever experienced this before.
This is a situation we didn’t have time to prepare for, and we’re all trying to handle it as best that we can to get through. If you find yourself turning to food to cope, perhaps “quarantine overeating” – you’re not alone! If you feel out of control with your eating right now, you can get it back.
How to Curb Emotional Eating
First things first, know that any emotion you’re feeling right now, they are all completely normal and nothing to feel guilty about! Food is a comfort and part of our upbringing. Food is so easily accessible and our routines are thrown out the window. It can quickly become a past-time and a crutch during a particularly challenging time.
Why You are Eating More Now
There are many reasons you may be eating more now. Here are some of the most common:
- You’re home more and you’re just plain bored.
- You’re anxious and feel that food is calming you down (at least in the moment).
- You’re home with little ones, it’s chaos, and you’re quarantine stress eating.
- You live alone and are feeling isolated or depressed. Food is temporarily making you feel better.
- You’re cooking and baking more, are enjoying it, but are not paying attention to your portions.
- You haven’t established structure to your day yet and so you’re grazing instead of having a structured meal schedule.
Especially for those of us who are already emotional or anxious eaters, it is even more likely that this will happen during a challenging time. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. Humans are so strong and adaptable. Think about how much we’re adapting right now, so quickly, because we have to. You are stronger and more adaptable than you think, and you can control your eating right now while still enjoying your food.
10 Ways to Control Overeating
- Create structure in your day. Even if you’re not going into work and everything feels chaotic, create a new routine. Get up around the same time every day, wash your face, and get dressed. Sitting in your pajamas all day is great once in a while, but if you’re doing it every day, chances are you’ll feel less motivated to work out and create structure.
- Create a quarantine meal schedule. Plan your meals and eat 3 meals a day. Skipping meals, not having balanced meals, or lack of planning leads to overeating. If you go too long without eating and things are scattered, you’ll find yourself constantly reaching for high-calorie, processed options that don’t fill you up.
- Don’t keep a large amount of your “trigger” foods in the house right now. Whether that’s pasta, cookies, or chips – hoarding them will make it so much more likely that you will eat too much. If you only have one container, you can only have so much. There’s no need to keep a year’s supply in your house, grocery stores are continuing to stock the shelves. Take a small handful and walk away. Don’t eat from the bag.
- Don’t leave your trigger foods within easy reach. Leaving them out on the counter will make it way too easy to grab when the emotions hit. Put them in the pantry, in the fridge and in a place where there are healthier foods in front of them. In doing this, you’ll have to put more thought into grabbing them. It will force you to take a breather and a step back to ask yourself, “do I really need this right now?”
- Replace emotional eating with a healthier habit. Whenever you’re trying to break a habit, it needs to be replaced by another habit in order for it to stick. Make a list of non-food activities that relieve your stress such as venting to a good friend, journaling your feelings, or listening to music that reminds you of when you were younger. Post this list on your pantry or refrigerator door so it’s in plain sight when you’re in that moment.
- Remember that stress eating only makes you feel good in the moment. Remember the negative feelings – both emotional and physical, that come after, and let that deter you.
- Keep healthy foods and snacks in the house and within easy reach. Now is a better time than ever to establish healthy eating habits. If you previously thought that you didn’t have the time because of your busy schedule, now you may have some time to plan your diet and cook more. If you don’t typically cook, now is a great time to learn how to create simple meals so you’re a pro when this is all over. Imagine how much you can learn!
- Exercise daily. Physical activity significantly improves your mental health. Go for a morning walk or run (even if it’s raining!), do a workout video early morning, or have a dance party with your kids. Anything counts and is so essential to relieve pent-up energy.
- Connect with people as often as possible. FaceTime, Zoom chats, and virtual happy hours are all the rage. Real connections are essential to us as human beings and we need it now more than ever. Connecting and talking with people daily can help manage your emotions and remind you that you’re not alone in it. Texting doesn’t count. Carve out time for real conversations.
- Get fresh air daily, no matter what the weather is like. I don’t know about you but I have never appreciated fresh air so much (even if it’s cold!). Make it a point to get outside on the daily, breathe in the air, and visually take in all that is around you. Show gratitude and appreciate the simple things like the sounds of birds chirping.
I hope you found this article helpful and inspiring during this time. We are all in this together and are all in the same boat. If you’re having a tough time, reach out to someone close and tell them. Ask for help when you need it and don’t isolate yourself.
If you enjoyed this article, please share with others so we can bring more positive messages to light amidst all the negative. Also, don’t hesitate to reach out to me directly if you need help and support!