With everyone staying indoors, feeling more anxious for their futures/health and worried about the state of the world - many people's relationship with food (and perhaps alcohol too) is really coming under the spotlight. Some reasons why an individual’s relationship with food may be more of an issue right now include:
1. With heightened anxiety/stress many people may notice that they are prone to emotional eating more frequently.
2. Having to stay indoors could make food harder to resist - people may find themselves wandering to be fridge and thinking about the food in their kitchen.
3. There is less of a routine - not having to go to work at a certain time, or take a regular lunch break, can leave individuals without a routine and prone to snacking throughout the day.
4. Boredom and having less to do - can lead to increased thoughts about food/weight and also reaching for food just for something to do.
5. The scarcity of food, limited opportunities to go to the supermarket and the empty supermarket shelves, can make it difficult for individuals to get foods that they like/or that they feel are “safe/good/clean” - therefore triggering anxiety around food and food choices.
6. With less opportunities to move their body - individuals can also begin to worry about their shape and putting on weight.
7. With lots more food in the house, individuals can also be more prone to binge eating - perhaps forcing themselves to try and restrict/control their food intake but then finding all of the food around them too difficult to resist.
So if you are worried about your relationship with food right now - what can you do? I have been working with many individuals to help them to manage their relationship with food during these challenging times (via Skype/Facetime of course) and here are some things that you can start to think about:
1. Don’t restrict your food intake/try to starve yourself: even though you may be moving less, don’t try and be overly restrictive with your food intake as this can make you more prone to binge eating or emotional eating.
2. Be kind to yourself: the more you beat yourself up over not exercising enough, eating more than you would like to or over your body/shape/weight, the more likely you are to feel bad about yourself and in turn eat for comfort. It is important that you are kind to yourself during these challenging and exceptional times.
3. Establish a routine: with less of a need to leave for work at a specific time or to take a lunch break with your colleagues, it may be tempting just to reach for food whenever you are hungry throughout the day. Whilst you settle in to a slightly different way of life however, it can be helpful to set some specific windows in which you will eat your meals. If you just allow yourself to eat at any time, it can (initially at least) be more tricky to avoid snacking throughout the day. Our bodies like routine and a lot of the physical hunger that we experience is also driven by what our bodies are used to. Getting into a habit of eating at specific times will ensure you get hungry at set times going forward.
4. Keep separate spaces for eating and working/relaxing: if you can, it is helpful to set out separate spaces in your house/flat for eating and for the other things that you plan to do during the day. Your brain will then begin to associate those spaces with different activities. For example, if you only eat at the dining table, you are less likely to feel the need to start snacking on foods whilst you are sitting on the sofa watching TV.
5. Give yourself some flexibility: whilst you may not have access to the foods you usually eat or that you really like, it can be helpful to allow yourself some flexibility in what you are eating at the moment. If you are too strict or enforce too strongly the rules you have around foods, you could end up eating one food outside of those rules and then feeling that you have “fallen off the wagon” and bingeing/over-eating on lots of food.
6. Don’t weigh yourself too often: whilst you are at home, you may be tempted to weigh yourself every day or even several times during the day - however this can lead to very obsessive thoughts about food and your body. Try and stay away from the scales whilst you are at home right now.
7. Have some healthy snacks ready and visible: it can also be helpful to prepare and make easily available some healthy snacks that you would like to eat should you feel hungry between meals. If you keep seeing the apples on the counter or the chopped carrots you have ready to eat in the fridge -you are much more likely to reach for these snacks rather than the other things you have hidden away in your cupboards.
If you would like some more tips or support in managing your relationship with food right now, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Food is for eating, and good food is to be enjoyed… I think food is, actually, very beautiful in itself.” – Delia Smith