Turning towards food to cope? Why it's normal and how to reign it in
Why Are You Eating?
First of all, most of us know healthy from less healthy foods, and there is nothing "wrong" with eating both! Try to go easy on yourself. This is a difficult time and many of us are struggling in different ways. Remember that you have to work with what you have! However, do not use this time as a free for all with food as there are many ways your health CAN remain on the frontline vs being put on the back burner. Take a step back for a moment and ask yourself what is driving your food decisions?
Emotional Eating – i.e. eating a food based on desire or how we think something eating a particular something will make us feel. We think that ice cream will bring us comfort and help us to destress. Many eating decisions are in fact deeply rooted in emotion. We remember our parents giving us soup when sick so maybe we crave soup or we got a lollipop at the end of a long day because we "earned it" and it in turn makes us FEEL GOOD! Totally natural.
Or maybe that emotion is fear and anxiety! We are at home with less access to food or maybe even less money and we feel powerless. Having the freedom to buy various foods is a luxury. Maybe we eat and buy certain foods out of fear of not having that particular food available again. Perhaps we tell ourselves because some healthy foods are less available, we give ourselves permission to eat whatever we want as "it's only temporary."
Boredom Eating– Yup- a big theme for many right now! Stuck at home, food brings us excitement and joy and helps break up the monotony. It gives us something to do or helps fill in our now perhaps erratic new "routine." It also helps to distract us from this experience we are going through.
There are many other factors that can drive food decisions but I am listing these two as these seem to be the most prominent.
SO what steps can we take to ensure our nutrition doesn't completely go to SH** during this time?
Steps for Nutritional Self-Care
1. Check in with your hunger/fullness cues. It all starts with being aware, right? You might be mindlessly eating more than you realize or on things you don’t even realize. Take note on what you’re eating and why. Kind of like taking an inventory. What's been put into the body thus far and how are we feeling? Do you feel comfortable with what you’re eating?
2. Build an Eating Routine. Get your schedule together and assess what your daily "to-do's" are and plan when you might eat. Too busy to put a schedule together or too difficult to predict or control? See above for checking in with hunger/fullness and aim to eat when not overly hungry. remember skipping meals, waiting too long, or grazing throughout the day may lead to overeating, food cravings, and wt gain.
2. Keep your eyes on the prize. One of the most helpful things for me when reigning in my eating and eating choices is making a goal and sticking to it. What is or was your health goal? What is one thing you can choose to focus on? Make it specific. Want to eat healthier? What does that mean? Does that mean adding more produce to your plate, smaller portions, less snacking? What is the big dream that trumps everything else? And then when you find yourself tempted to eat certain foods, ask yourself – is it really worth it? If it is, go for it and enjoy it mindfully!
3. Focus on protein and produce. Instead of perhaps focusing on taking away certain foods perhaps reframe and focus on what you can add to your plate. For example, if you only have access to frozen foods- guess what- those have tons of nutrition and them. You can still get wonderful vitamins and minerals from frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen vegetables can actually even have more nutrition than fresh because they’re harvested right when they’re ripe instead of a few weeks before they’re ripened.
4. Be mindful. I mentioned this above but check in with yourself periodically and reflect on your eating habits and feelings WITHOUT judgement. What can you look back on and learn from your food decisions and habits?
5. Move. Find a way to get up and move or break up the day. Whether it's a walk outside, an online exercise class, dancing, activity with the kids, body movements improves mood and blood flow!
Are we in this together? Let's commit each other (and ourselves) to become a little more conscious when it comes to our eating habits.