Stress Eating

As we navigate a new normal in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, our schedules are changing drastically, our gyms are closing, and we are experiencing significant emotional stress. Because of this, stress eating is reaching an all-time high. The good news? There are some reliable strategies to help curb stress eating to ensure you feel your best during this difficult time. Read on:

Keep nutritious, satisfying snacks on hand

For those of us working from home, staying out of the kitchen throughout the day can be quite challenging. One simple way to get ahead of this is to stock your kitchen with healthy, appetising snack options to help tide you over until the next meal. Consider these simple choices: a piece of fruit with one tbsp of peanut or almond butter, raw veggies with two tbsp of hummus, five whole grain crackers with a slice of cheese, or one cup of yogurt with blueberries.

Reduce sedentary time

Exercise serves us in many ways and can be especially helpful with managing anxiety. Anything counts, so don’t negate the benefits of gentle movements like stretching or even completing household chores. Set a timer, or wear a fitness tracker to remind you to get up and move every hour.

Listen to your body

Your body is designed to provide physical cues to signal when you are hungry or full. Pay attention to what your body is telling you. Before you reach for that pantry door, ask yourself if you are eating because you are truly hungry.

Remove distractions at mealtimes

Eating in front of screens prevents us from recognising our body’s fullness cues. Try to eat most of your meals at the kitchen table.

Recognise your triggers

Identifying the emotions that precede stress eating can be an important step in addressing your triggers. Pay attention to any patterns that have developed around stress eating and make changes to prevent them.

Don’t skip meals

A global pandemic is not the time to deprive yourself by limiting calories or becoming overzealous with a weight loss plan. Be sure to get three balanced meals daily. Do your best to include a quality source of protein, vegetables, carbohydrates and healthy fats at each meal.

Get sufficient sleep

Research shows that lack of sleep can result in increases in ghrelin, your hunger hormone, and decreases in leptin, a hormone associated with satiety and fullness. Create a bedtime routine and stick to it.

Implement a stress management activity that works for you

Be intentional about doing something for your mental health every day for at least 15 minutes. Consider walking, calling a friend, gardening, reading, or watching your favourite show. Whatever works for you, enjoy it.

Keep a normal routine

If you typically meal prep your lunches for the week in advance, keep this routine going. Go to bed and wake up at your normal hours and continue your exercise regimen.

Go easy on yourself

Let’s face it, times are tough. Food can be a major source of comfort, and comfort foods certainly have their place in the midst of a pandemic. We are never going to achieve an absolutely perfect diet, and that’s okay. If you fall off the proverbial wagon, remember to be gentle with yourself and do your best to get back on track.

Take away temptation

Don't keep hard-to-resist comfort foods in your home. And if you feel angry or blue, postpone your trip to the grocery store until you have your emotions in check.

Keep a food diary

Write down what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, how you're feeling when you eat and how hungry you are. Over time, you might see patterns that reveal the connection between mood and food.

Practice portion control

It’s common for people to snack on foods directly from the containers in which they were sold, which may lead to overeating. For example, grabbing a pint of ice cream from the freezer and eating directly from the container rather than doling out a single portion in a dish may cause you to eat more than you intended. To combat this, practice portion control by serving yourself a single portion of food rather than eating out of larger containers.

Stay hydrated

Being stuck at home gives you more time to focus on healthy habits, including drinking enough fluids. Maintaining proper hydration is important for overall health and may help you prevent overeating related to stress. In fact, research has found an association between chronic dehydration and an elevated risk of obesity. Plus, being dehydrated can lead to alterations in mood, attention, and energy levels, which can also affect your eating habits.