Needless to say, this is an unprecedented time. Even if you’ve never dealt with emotional eating, Covid-19 pandemic-induced stress, school closings, layoffs, and stay at home orders may trigger you to turn to food to cope. The inclination to eat emotionally is normal. We’re practically taught from birth to use food to address our feelings. We bond over treats, plan celebratory dinners, and bring meals to neighbors in times of need. Also, avoid eating these foods, according to nutritionists.
But ongoing emotional eating is different. An unchecked pattern of eating your feelings during times of stress, like Covid-19, can wreak havoc with your mental and physical energy, disrupt healthy sleep, weaken immunity, and up health risks. The good news is you can systematically untangle food and emotions. Here’s a five-step strategy I use with my clients to foster a more balanced eating pattern, even under stressful circumstances.
The first step is to tune into your body to differentiate between body hunger and mental hunger. Physical hunger has physical symptoms, like a growling tummy. If you feel hungry, but you’ve recently eaten or have no physical signs of hunger, check in with your feelings. In a 2019 study published in Frontiers in Psychology, researchers say there are four basic emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, and anger. My advice is to pinpoint the primary emotion you’re experiencing so that you can address it in ways that don’t involve food. For example, if you’re angry, doing something physical may help, like cleaning, organizing, or engaging in an at-home workout. If you’re sad, a better match may be to call a friend, spend quality time with a pet, or watch a melancholy movie and release some tears.
Excerpted from The Healthy