How to Stop Emotional Eating During COVID-19
Okay, ladies. Let's get real here. COVID-19 has thrown us ALL for a loop.
Whether it's your work routine, fitness routine, childcare routine, or anything in between, this time has been challenging for many. So how do you keep yourself from going off the deep end with emotional eating? Sit tight and read on because I've got some solutions for you.
Why Emotional Eating Happens
Before you understand how to control emotional eating, it's important to understand why it's happening in the first place. For many, it's not as simple as stress management. There are many factors that go into that late night cookie dough.
There's a reason why it's so hard to stop after having just a few chips. Manufacturers design food products so that they will be as profitable (i.e. addictive) as possible. Many of the go-to junk foods have simple sugars, carbs and added chemical ingredients that are designed to give your brain a rush of endorphins so that it keeps wanting more. This is why it is so difficult to follow the "just one more" policy. The good news is, the less that you eat consistently, the less you will generally crave. So even if you've been stuck in a cravings and snacking rut so far, fret not. You can help your brain rewire and go back to normal by taking a break from these foods for a little while. Eventually, the goal is to be able to have balance with all food groups, including treats.
Low Nutritional Value
Foods that are low in fiber, unsaturated fat, protein and complex carbs are digested very quickly. This means that it is very difficult for the stomach to feel full while eating. I personally can eat half a pizza before I feel full because of the simple carbs. If you're going to go for the treats, try to eat something in dense nutritional value first. This will help your stomach fill up and will make it more difficult to eat without feeling full.
Almost EVERY SINGLE CLIENT that I've had who's struggled with emotional eating has also struggled with extreme measures. What do I mean by extreme measures? I mean the zero to sixty mentality. One moment, a binge. The next moment, a restrictive cleanse to lose the weight or 'reset'. And rinse and repeat. It never works. I hope that you heard that. It NEVER works.
This creates an unhealthy emotional relationship with food. Eating one way is considered 'bad' and then eating restrictively and unrealistically is considered 'good'. It's never maintainable and creates a constant yo-yo diet. You've heard the old saying from Einstein, "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If you've just finished a binge session and you're thinking about what diet you can go on to undo the past, stop right there, sister. Let's look at ways to heal this emotional dynamic with food and create some balance in your eating habits instead.
This leads to the next topic of discussion: emotional triggers. Many of us are on overdrive during this pandemic or are alone and unmotivated. There can be numerous things that can trigger emotional eating.
-Anxiety or stress
If you can relate to anything mentioned above, I would highly recommend seeking out some support to help with the emotional and mental stress and the connections to food that you're dealing with. I also highly recommend journaling and finding a source of stress relief. This can be going on walks, painting, playing music, calling friends, etc.
Many of us have concrete self-care needs, that if not met, come out in wayward behaviors and feelings. Write down a list of the specific things that you need as a whole person: mentally, spiritually, emotionally, physically and socially. Then form a plan to include those in your life. This can help tremendously.
Nutritional Deficiencies and Blood Sugar
Nutritional deficiencies and unstable blood sugar are common causes for emotional eating. When the body doesn't have enough of a nutrient, it will act out in cravings. If you are always craving sweets, you could need more magnesium and chromium in your diet. If you're craving savory foods, you could need more protein or sodium. The list goes on and on.
As for blood sugar, if you are not eating small meals every 2-3 hours a day, you could be experiencing blood sugar drops that heighten your emotional stress and food cravings. This doesn't mean that you have anything medically wrong. It just means that you're not eating to create blood sugar stability. By eating small and frequent meals every 2-3 hours, you will most likely feel much more energized, at peace and full.
Reward the Positive
So many people punish themselves after they emotionally eat. They call themselves "bad" or "fat", thinking that this will somehow initiate change. But here's a little secret: rewarding the positive is FAR more effective than soaking in the negative.
When you read parenting books, they all say the same thing: studies show that positive rewards equal positive action and negative attention equals negative behavior. The same is true for us as adults. The more that you sulk in the negative, the more you will act in that manner. The more that you reward yourself for the positive and speak positively over yourself, the more you'll act on it!
If you can relate to any of the above, I just want to tell you that you are not alone. This just means that you are human and the fact that you are here and reading this tells me that you are making an effort to live a healthier and happier life. I am always here to support you, whether it's through an email or through a session. If you need help coming up with tools and a plan to eat healthier, please don't hesitate to reach out.
Have you struggled with emotional eating during this pandemic? Comment below and share!