Stop Emotional Eating During The Coronavirus Lockdown

Itโ€™s hard not to feel closed in by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdown. You feel stressed out. You are bored. Maybe you are angry at your spouse. So you walk a short distance to the fridge, swing open the door and look for a solution. Is it the leftover tapioca pudding? A slab of last nightโ€™s lasagna? That pint of ice cream in the freezer? How to stop an emotional eating habit has more to do with mindfulness than it does with portion control.

๐—›๐—ข๐—ช ๐—ง๐—ข ๐—ฆ๐—ง๐—ข๐—ฃ ๐—˜๐— ๐—ข๐—ง๐—œ๐—ข๐—ก๐—”๐—Ÿ ๐—˜๐—”๐—ง๐—œ๐—ก๐—š: ๐—ข๐—ฉ๐—˜๐—ฅ๐—ฉ๐—œ๐—˜๐—ช

To short circuit your emotional eating, identify what triggers the behavior and adopt practical strategies to divert to healthier foods and habits. Here are some strategies on how to stop stress eating:

๐Ÿญ. ๐—ฆ๐˜‚๐—ฏ๐˜€๐˜๐—ถ๐˜๐˜‚๐˜๐—ฒ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐˜€ ๐˜€๐—ป๐—ฎ๐—ฐ๐—ธ๐˜€:

Have substitutes at hand for your โ€œgo toโ€ emotional eating foods. Portion out handfuls of baby carrots or apple slices in plastic baggies and keep them in the front of the fridge where you can grab them quickly. And keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter or dining room table.

๐Ÿฎ. ๐—–๐—ต๐—ฒ๐˜„ ๐—ด๐˜‚๐—บ ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚โ€™๐—ฟ๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ด๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜:

Keep some flavored chewing gums at hand, preferably sugarless versions. These can help because they involve chewing, an essential part of the eating experience.

๐Ÿฏ. ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ฎ๐˜…:

Some people find having a hot shower or a soak in a tub can be helpful. Another strategy is creating a playlist of your favorite music. Pop in your earbuds or slip on the headphones and relax into the music until your cravings subside.

๐Ÿฐ. ๐—•๐—ฒ ๐—บ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ณ๐˜‚๐—น:

Meditation-based mindfulness training, widely available, helps you to become more aware of your eating triggers and behaviors, enjoy your food more, and stop when you are satiated. Inexpensive smart phone apps are available to learn mindful eatingโ€”or you could listen to a mindfulness podcast or YouTube video.

๐Ÿฑ. ๐—˜๐˜…๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ฒ ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฎ๐—ป ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐˜:

Going out for a walk or jog can be helpful. Others may find relief with yoga or tai chi. It doesnโ€™t matter how you exercise and stay active, only that you do it. Even getting out in the yard to garden can provide much needed exercise and peace of mind.

๐Ÿฒ. ๐—ฆ๐—ต๐—ถ๐—ณ๐˜ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฎ๐˜๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฒ๐—น๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜„๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ:

Mentally distract yourself from cravings by playing solitaire or a computer game, catching up on social media and news, knitting or other hobby activities, organizing a messy closet, or doing chores. If your job is temporarily shut down, maybe itโ€™s time to finally clean out the garage or paint the living room.

๐—ช๐—›๐—ฌ ๐—œ๐—ฆ ๐—˜๐— ๐—ข๐—ง๐—œ๐—ข๐—ก๐—”๐—Ÿ ๐—˜๐—”๐—ง๐—œ๐—ก๐—š ๐—” ๐—ฃ๐—ฅ๐—ข๐—•๐—Ÿ๐—˜๐— ?

Trigger, craving, actionโ€”this is the dynamic of emotional eating. Itโ€™s a potent trio because it taps the brainโ€™s powerful ability to form deeply ingrained habits based on repeated experience. Using food to extinguish emotional states or โ€œtriggersโ€ can lead to weight gain and unhealthy eating patterns.

โ€œItโ€™s just the way the human brain learns by association,โ€ says Susan B. Roberts, PhD, director of Tuftsโ€™ HNRCA Energy Metabolism Laboratory. โ€œAnd some of us form these unfortunate associations between emotional triggers and eating unhealthy food.โ€

But the brain is also very good at learning new strategies. โ€œOnce youโ€™ve got the triggers identified, then you can work out what you are going to do instead,โ€ Roberts says. โ€œBreaking down a dysfunctional habit really means pasting a new habit over the top of the bad one.โ€

๐—–๐—ข๐—ก๐—ก๐—˜๐—–๐—ง๐—œ๐—ก๐—š ๐—˜๐— ๐—ข๐—ง๐—œ๐—ข๐—ก๐—”๐—Ÿ ๐—˜๐—”๐—ง๐—œ๐—ก๐—š ๐—›๐—”๐—•๐—œ๐—ง๐—ฆ ๐—ง๐—ข ๐—ง๐—›๐—˜๐—œ๐—ฅ ๐—ง๐—ฅ๐—œ๐—š๐—š๐—˜๐—ฅ ๐—ฃ๐—ข๐—œ๐—ก๐—ง๐—ฆ

An emotional eating habit forms when a stimulus connects to a behavior. โ€œIn the beginning you do it by accident,โ€ Roberts says. โ€œโ€˜You happen to have chocolate when youโ€™re stressed and it makes you feel better. Then your brain forms these connections and they can be hard to get rid of.โ€ So to start, spend some time observing yourself as you slip into the emotional eating behavior. What kicks off the process?

Stress is not the only trigger for emotional eating. Other possibilities include anxiety, anger, loneliness, depression, fear, procrastination, or boredom. Even positive emotions, like excitement or desire, can be triggers.

โ€œThinking about triggers is a way of getting out of the โ€˜autopilotโ€™ state of mind that leads to emotional eating,โ€ says Debra Safer, MD, an associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Stanford University Medical Center.

Once the autopilot is turned off, you can start to develop healthier responses to cravings, like substituting healthy snacks for unhealthy foods and using music or exercise to relax.

๐—•๐—˜๐—œ๐—ก๐—š ๐—ง๐—ข๐—ข ๐—›๐—”๐—ฅ๐—— ๐—ข๐—ก ๐—ฌ๐—ข๐—จ๐—ฅ๐—ฆ๐—˜๐—Ÿ๐—™ ๐— ๐—”๐—ž๐—˜๐—ฆ ๐—ฆ๐—ง๐—ฅ๐—˜๐—ฆ๐—ฆ ๐—˜๐—”๐—ง๐—œ๐—ก๐—š ๐—ช๐—ข๐—ฅ๐—ฆ๐—˜

Dr. Safer conducts research to develop better ways to treat her patients at the Stanford Adult Eating and Weight Disorders Program. She uses an approach called dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), which was developed in the late 1980s by Marsha M. Linehan, a psychology researcher at the University of Washington.

โ€œThe key is not to be judgmental about the problem, because that does not help,โ€ Safer says. โ€œAccepting it is a lot of the solution.โ€ Thatโ€™s because self criticism leads to discomfort that can trigger more emotional eating.

Roberts also points to the importance of not judging yourself harshly. โ€œIf you find that what you planned to do as your substitute behavior and find it does not work, itโ€™s not that youโ€™re hopeless and itโ€™s never going to work,โ€ Roberts says. โ€œItโ€™s just that the substitute you tried wasnโ€™t the right substitute. Just try to keep at it to find something that will work for you.โ€

๐—ง๐—›๐—˜ ๐—•๐—œ๐—š๐—š๐—˜๐—ฅ ๐—ฃ๐—œ๐—–๐—ง๐—จ๐—ฅ๐—˜

Friends โ€” I pray we are experiencing one of those โ€œonce in a lifetimeโ€ moments. That said, it doesnโ€™t make the unease, fear or isolation we may be experiencing any easier to handle.

Emotional eating is just one of the possible negatives you may experience during this time of physical distancing and isolation. Now more than ever, we all need to be mindful of our own behavior and the behavior we display toward our loved ones. We may all be feeling like a caged animal after weeks of being cooped up at home, alone, with our spouse or significant other, or with our children. And while we love those closest to us, our inability to experience โ€œalone timeโ€ right now can cause stress on even the best relationships. And if you are home alone, the feeling of loneliness can become overwhelming without a plan of action.

Communication and respect for otherโ€™s space and feelings are critical to our ability to successfully handle this awkward and stressful time spent together. Take more care than usual of your mental and physical health. Mental wellness leads to physical wellness and both combined lead to a healthy immune system and overall health.

Pleaseย joinย and use our Facebook Group, Click Here To Join, as a forum to share and discuss any problems youโ€™re experiencing during this pandemic. Itโ€™s always helpful to discuss problems with others rather than keep them bottled up inside.

Together weโ€™ll get through this. And who knows... we may actually grow closer to nature, our family and our neighbors during this unprecedented time. Maybe throughout all of this we also learn to love ourselves more too.

Wouldnโ€™t that be a wonderful thing!ย ๐Ÿ™โค๏ธ

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