Avoiding Emotional Eating
By PW Nutritionist Aleena Khusro
We have all found ourselves in a strange and unprecedented time in our lives and in the world. During this period of lockdown, a lot of people may find themselves turning to food as a coping mechanism to tackle feelings of boredom, loneliness, stress or confinement!
We don’t always eat to satisfy physical hunger, and right now a lot of us may be experiencing emotional eating. This involves using food to lift your mood or fulfil emotional needs rather than nutritional needs. Unfortunately, this type of eating doesn’t fix our problems and usually makes us feel worse or just temporarily satisfied.
Emotional hunger makes us crave comfort foods which often have next to no nutritional value and are packed with added sugar, excess sodium and often trans-fats! It involves mindless eating and bingeing, unsatisfactory indulgence and feeling uncomfortably full, and springs on feelings of regret or guilt afterwards which can bring on further stress.
Although indulging in cooking and baking treats may be serving as a distraction at this time, the effect is unfortunately temporary, and when emotions return it may bring on feelings of guilt about weight gain or not sticking to weight loss goals.
Why are we experiencing the desire to constantly eat and indulge? We’re bored! Being stuck inside all day with so many restrictions leaves you feeling restless! We’re not able to engage in activities that relieve stress and sadness as we normally would.
A lot of us may be experiencing different types of stress, whether it be health related, financial related or minor stresses which we might not even realise are affecting us!
When under stress your body produces higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that tends to make us crave more added sugar, foods with high sodium levels and a lot of saturated fat. As we all know, it is extremely important and crucial that we all abide by rules and stay home at the current time, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find ways to deal with negative emotions or stress and shun the emotional eating…
Try to start a food diary or a log of what you eat! This can be a great way to identify emotional eating patterns and create some structure to your eating routine. Try to plan meal times, types of meals and limit portion sizes. Have a cut off time for eating to prevent unnecessary snacking or grazing! You can use an app such as my fitness pal to keep yourself accountable, write it in the notes section of your phone or even do it the old fashioned pen and paper way.
Maintain a general routine as best you can! Even if you’re stuck at home, try to stick to your regular sleep, work or meal schedule. This can maintain a sense of normality and prevent unnecessary boredom and snacking.
Practice some simple yoga or meditation! There are so many studies that support mindfulness and meditation to be great treatments for emotional eating and bingeing. This doesn’t have to be very skilful or intense, just use simple youtube videos or mindfulness apps to practice this - you might end up loving it!
We know this one can be difficult right now, but use your one form of exercise a day to go out and get some fresh air! This is so important, especially considering a lot of us feel ‘locked in’. There are so many great workout programs out there to follow, such as the cough to 5k, or you could even continue training for the marathon you had signed up for. If you have a back garden or a terrace take your yoga mat out and get some exercises in, or even try skipping!
Social support can go a long way toward helping you process your feelings and fill your time. This may not seem possible right now but use this time as an opportunity to bond with those in your house. If you live alone get on the ‘house party’ app or FaceTime and ring your friends, parents or loved ones!
With all of that being said, don’t completely ignore your cravings as this can often lead to binge eating. Try to go for healthier alternatives to eliminate your cravings!
Craving some chocolate or a chocolate cake? Whack a PW mug cake in the microwave and have your cravings satisfied in minutes! Decorate this with fruit, nut butters and maybe some cheeky dark chocolate pieces. Snap a picture of your creation and send it to your friends, family, post it on your social media or even send it to us! This can help you feel more fulfilled or help you engage in ‘mindful’ eating.
Wanting pancakes on the weekend? Who said you can’t have any! The Slender Pancakes are lower in sugar than regular store bought pancake mixes which have lots of added sugar and saturated fats! Try to go for toppings such as fresh fruit, honey, dark chocolate chips and nut butters - once again, don’t forget to snap a picture and tag us on instagram @proteinworld!