If you are an emotional eater, lockdown is probably your worst nightmare.
Humans love structure, routine and certainty. In one swoop, these have all been taken away. Heightened stress levels, emotional challenges throughout the day and all the while you are stuck in the house with easy access to the cupboards. It’s enough to make anyone want to close the curtains and crack open the chocolate!
Emotional eating is when you are eating for reasons other than real hunger – those times when you are standing idly in front of the cupboards or fridge, asking yourself ‘what do I feel like?’ You are not actually hungry, you are just experiencing a feeling and wanting to eat over it.
This can lead to overeating, digestive upsets, bloating and weight gain. More importantly, it can also really impact mental health, with feelings of guilt, shame or regret afterwards.
I have noticed that people are not coping as well this lockdown as they did last year. The novelty has worn off; the emotional struggle is real.
With summer around the corner, this is not the time to be falling into the food. If you want to take control of your eating, here are some tips to help you:
• Planning is key: Create a meal plan for the week. Deciding what to eat in advance takes away the guesswork and helps you make good decisions. Each morning, write a quick food plan for the day. You are far more likely to stay on track when you have made your food decisions in advance.
• Create a structure and routine with your food and stick to it. Eat meals at the same time each day and don’t make decisions based on what you ‘feel’ like in the moment.
• Get at least 30 minutes of movement per day: fresh air and oxygen do wonders for your brain and mood. When you feel better, your mouth has a better chance of behaving itself!
• When you simply need to eat a little something, make sure you have good options available. Chopped raw vegetables are delicious with a nice dip. Rice crackers and salsa are a simple, low-calorie snack. Have a sugar-free hot chocolate in the evening to avoid raiding the pantry.
• Instead of picking up a fork, pick up a pen: Journalling is a great way to write your emotions down so you can sort though your feelings in a more productive way.
In a time where there are many things outside your control, it is empowering to take back control of one important thing – eating.
The last thing you want to have to deal with at the end of lockdown is the need to rush off and buy new clothes because the ones in your wardrobe are all too tight.