One of the biggest reasons many of us have increased our food intake is stress. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the whole world into a time of uncertainty. People are losing their jobs, children are not allowed to go to school indefinitely, and some businesses are closing their doors forever. Combine these stressors with the fact that we are not allowed contact with friends and family outside our homes, and you have a recipe for disaster. Most of us have focused so much on staying physically healthy by trying to prevent infection with the coronavirus, that we paid no attention to our emotional wellbeing. Soon we were ‘comfort eating’, snacking here and there to make ourselves feel better.
The two main forms of stress eating that arise are binge eating, or grazing. Binge eating is what happens when you eat a large amount of food in one sitting, while grazing is seen as frequent trips to the refrigerator or pantry, to find something to snack on. Many folks started taking up baking as a new hobby, but baking a fresh, sugary dessert every day is not the best for your waistline. For those of us that don’t bake, we might simply eat out of boredom, seeing food as a welcome distraction from the everyday mundane routine.
The World Health Organization (WHO) recently described the importance of mental and emotional health, saying that it is also important looking after yourself in these areas, while keeping yourself safe from COVID-19. There are different approaches to lessen the stress during this time. When you have a craving, ask yourself if you really need to eat, or if you simply want to eat to make yourself feel better. Start to write your feelings in a journal, as this may help you recognize your triggers for eating.
Exercise is a great way to relieve stress, but may not be an option for those in countries under strict lockdown. Try at-home exercises such as lifting weights, yoga, or Pilates.
It could also be beneficial to limit the amount of news you watch on television or social media. If you find that news reports make you feel anxious, but still want to stay updated, follow the WHO page for accurate updates.
Talk to a friend. With the technological advances we have today, there is no reason for you to feel alone. Talk to a friend via Skype or Zoom, you can even have a Zoom party (but limit the snacks, of course!).
What do you do during this time to keep you from getting too anxious?