breakfast cereal and other ingredients in a wooden box, horizontal

As restrictions caused by the coronavirus continue and the frustration they have created mount, one of the common casualties reported by many folks is unwanted weight gain. This phenomenon is especially problematic for those who are sheltered-at-home.

Changes and restriction in daily customs and work routines has created situations where folks don’t know what to do with large amounts of idle and unstructured time. This over-abundance of unstructured time has resulted in boredom which has in turn has driven many folks to distract and soothe themselves with comfort foods and by binge eating.

Likewise, the food’s people are likely to choose for anxiety-based eating , things which are usually loaded with sugar , simple carbs and fats, are not helpful for maintaining a stable weight. Uncontrolled stress-eating combined with reduced activity levels spell trouble for anyone trying to avoid putting one a few pounds.

You get the point. Folks whose lives are normally filled with jobs and other vigorous activities have been caught off guard by the social side effects of COVID-19. The absence of a normal routine and a lack of meaningful stimulation has resulted in people feeling bored. Undisciplined eating has been what many have relied upon to cope with this unresolved public health crisis.

Nevertheless, it is important to understand that unhealthy weight gain is not inevitable that but preventing it will take some increased awareness and intentional effort. If you are struggling with this issue, here are seven tips to help you resist the impulse to pig-out :

  1. Acknowledge that You Are Vulnerable Realizing the stress that COVID-19 places you under is important. Having an awareness that boredom is a problem is crucial to developing a pro-active strategy to deal with it effectively. Learning to be skeptical of your impulse to eat is a fundamental habit to interrupt acting on the impulse.
  2. Question your impulses to eat Are you really Hungry ? The first and most obvious question to ask yourself when your have the urge to eat is : Am I really hungry ? and Do I really need to eat something? Sometimes people get into bad unexamined habits of eating to cover a variety of issues. Simply honestly asking if you are hungry may reveal that, in fact, you are not.
  3. Understand what are you feeling A good question to ask when one feels like grabbing a snack is : What am I feeling? Is it anxious, depressed or frustrated ? Once you identify what you’re feeling it is important to ask why ? What is going on in your life that is stressing you out and from which you need a break ?
  4. Know what You Need to Feel Better Rather than avoiding the issue that is troubling you, it is usually helpful to think about what would actually help you to feel better. Sometimes it means directly addressing the problem and sometimes it means finding better ways to cope. Eating , like drugs or alcohol or sex, may simply be temporary escapes which, in moderation, are fine. Out of control eating, however, can lead to bigger problems.
  5. Consider Alternatives to Eating Things like journaling, aerobic activity , meditation or other breathing exercises can be helpful in lowering the intensity of dysphoric feelings like anxiety or depression and are excellent alternatives to eating. Psychotherapy is also especially helpful.
  6. Think about Smarter Choices when You Eat Since we all give in to our impulses once in a while, thinking about food choices can make a big difference when it comes to keeping off unwanted pounds. Nuts, fruits ,berries as well high-fiber snacks like popcorn are excellent choices that are satisfying and healthful. Dark (70% +) chocolate is an excellent replacement for the sugar loaded milk variety.
  7. Slow Down Finally, when and whatever you snack on, remember to — slow down ! Stress eating often involves frantic eating which is ridiculously rapid. Sometimes people eat so rapidly that they really don’t enjoy or experience the pleasure of each bite. Worse they actually outrun the body’s own ability to assess when one is full. While taking time to chew more completely and at a less frantic pace between each bite, ask yourself questions like Am I really hungry? or Do I really want to eat any more ? can result in you actually eating a lot less.

Stress-eating is just one of the ways people cope with difficult circumstances. To avoid putting on unhealthy or unwanted weight requires having a fuller awareness of one’s eating habits, employing a variety of stress management techniques as well as making smart choices regarding what and how you eat.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow AAPC 6 14 2020

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