If the anxiety of having to be housebound while watching another news conference about COVID19 is making you eat more, you’re not alone. When we’re under stress (mental or physical), the hormone cortisol can really do a number on our appetites. Lack of sleep related to constant worry also raises cortisol levels. Kids being off school, spouses working from home and gyms and rec centers being closed will likely take a toll on our waistlines. Eating due to boredom, fear or frustration isn’t helping either. Call it the “quarantine 15” or the “COVID-19”, we’d all like to avoid weight gain right now.
The good news is that you CAN prevent the possible ‘spread’ from COVID19. If you’re an emotional eater, now is the time to get it under control. Here are a few tips to help.
- Keep a journal. Writing down what you eat, when you eat and how you feel will help you keep an eye on eating patterns and emotions. It will keep you accountable for what you eat in addition to making you pay attention to hunger VS habit or emotion.
- Don’t hoard food. While a few US cities are forcing people to stay in (which is good advice for all of us), there is no need to hoard food. The more food you have in your frig or pantry, the more you’ll either eat or throw away if not used. In the age of Instacart and Amazon delivery, you can have food (and toilet paper) delivered if needed.
- Limit purchases of snack foods, alcohol and other empty calories. Sure, we’ve all been joking about turning to baking or drinking to ride out this pandemic. You may want to save your money (and liver function) during this uncertain time. Keep up the water intake- hydration prevents headaches and fatigue.
- Eat scheduled meals. Work and school life is completely upside down right now, but keeping your family on some semblance of a schedule will help ease their anxiety and help regulate appetite. While this doesn’t have to be militant, keep meals roughly 4 to 5 hours apart.
- Keep eating produce. Just because every article you read says “stock up on non-perishables”, you can still buy, prepare and eat fresh fruits and vegetables. Until we run out of romaine, we’re going to keep up the salads in my house.
- Be creative. Have a little extra ‘thyme’? Try a new recipe to get you out of your food rut. While you may crave comfort food, it’s OK to mix things up (literally) now and then.
- Get outside! I am so inspired by how many neighbors I see outside with their families and pets. As the weather warms up, take advantage of biking, hiking or just walking around the block. You can still keep 6 feet of social distance between you and a neighbor or friend while outside.
- Go to bed already! It’s tempting to stay up later if you don’t have a normal work or school schedule. But your body and brain still crave 7 to 8 hours sleep to remain healthy. If possible, keep your usual sleep and wake cycle, even on weekends. Getting enough sleep keeps cravings down, maintains energy and prevents depression. It also keeps your immune system humming!
- Maintain food rules. Eat in your kitchen or dining room only. Don’t allow snacks in your kids’ rooms or snacks while playing board games or watching TV. Mindless eating contributes to the “COVID-19 spread”.
- Seek support. Many mental health providers as well as dietitians are providing virtual visits (telehealth) and phone support to clients. If you’re interested in this service, don’t hesitate to email me to set up an appt.
Keep washing your hands and stay healthy friends!
Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD