Combating Stress Eating in Uncertain Times
I think we can all agree that times are tough right now with everything going on surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, and stress eating is certainly on the rise.
Which one of these stressful situations describes your current situation?
(I’m sure many of you can check off more than one box and probably add more to the list.)
You are feeling lonely as you try to deal with the extreme reduction in human interaction compared to what you once had.
You’ve been furloughed or lost your job and worry about how you will support you and/or your family. Or, maybe you’re worried about losing your job in the near future.
You’re worried about your current financial situation or financial future.
You’re working completely from home, maybe now for the first time in your career, and lack motivation, drive, and routine. Or, maybe you are still going to work, but in a more chaotic or stressful environment (like those healthcare workers and other essential workers).
Your kids are home from school, totally bored and “have nothing to do” but drive you crazy. And, maybe you have to home school them for the first time, and maybe still work a full-time job too.
You can’t go out to eat or go anywhere or do anything as you recently had, which is making you feel frustrated, confined, and stuck.
The list could go on and on. So, my guess is, you like most of us, you are feeling stressed, overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, and maybe even somewhat depressed with all of the uncertainty going on. And because of these feelings, are you finding yourself binge eating, or standing in front of the cupboards and refrigerator mindlessly looking for something to make you feel better? And, forgive me if I am wrong, but I am assuming in these types of situations when you're not feeling at your best, you are not looking to eat the whole foods that fit in line with your health and fitness goals...right? I mean, who does that? We're going for the good stuff! Chocolate, candy, cake, cookies, donuts, chips, crackers, sugary cereal, alcohol, etc.
Well, this is all normal and I want you to know, you definitely are not alone. So, you ask, "Coach Mel, what can I do about this? I don't want to lose everything I've worked so hard for. How do I stop stress eating?"
In this blog post I am going to help you try and manage these moments of eating out of pure stress and/or boredom. The least I can do is give you some tips on how to make it through these challenging times a little easier.
Here are five things you can do right now if you feel the urge to eat out of stress and/or boredom:
Notice. This is simply about awareness. Take the time to stop and notice when you are standing there looking for something to eat. Or, if you have already begun the process of eating what you have found, stop and notice that. Just acknowledge it. That is the first step.
Explore. Start exploring why you are there looking mindlessly for something to eat by asking questions. Or, if you've already started eating what you have found, ask why you are eating whatever it is? Capture as much detail as possible. • Is there anything happening to, or around you, right now that is causing you to feel X? • What is it exactly that you are feeling right now? What word describes the feeling? • Where in your body do you feel this? • Ask yourself if there is someone/something specifically that is making you feel X? The goal here is to just keep asking questions.
Examine. Now take a look at what you found out by asking those questions above and see if there are any patterns you find. Be curious about what you have found and do so without judgement—nothing is right or wrong here. You may not find any patterns here, and that is okay too. Regardless, this exercise will help you slow down a little, which may be all you need. This step may also be super helpful and show you something you didn’t realize about yourself, or how something in particular often makes you feel or react. At this stage, you are purely examining your responses from step number 2.
Consider Solutions. Now that you have explored and examined why you may be in front of that cupboard or refrigerator, take the time to consider an alternate solution to the problem. Here are some things you can try: • Make a warm cup of tea, or hot lemon water (something soothing and comforting) • Go call a loved one or family member via phone or virtually • Go for a walk, or get some type of movement in • Read a book, do an art project, or color • Dance or sing to some of your favorite music! • Go outside and play (with or without kids/pets) See my blog post Find Your Playground. • Start a home project you've been wanting to do • Organize something that has gotten a little unruly like a dresser or closet • Find something healthy to eat instead like a piece of fruit • Brush your teeth
Proceed Without Judgement. If you’ve made it this far and still want whatever you have in front of you, have it! And, while you are there...enjoy it—again, without judgement. Eat whatever it is without labeling it as being "good or bad." It’s fine, you will be fine, IT is fine.
The important thing with all of this is to be aware. The more we are aware of everything in our lives—our actions, our feelings, our reactions, etc.—the more we can find better answers and solutions that suit our unique needs and goals. It’s all about finding what makes you tick. Finding the right balance and not being so hard on yourself. We are going through a very tough and challenging period right now. Trying to be perfect all of the time isn’t going to help any one of us—trying to be perfect just leads to more shame and guilt, and who needs that? So please, be kind to yourself. Love and be more forgiving of yourself. Don’t worry about yesterday and try not to worry about tomorrow. Be as present as you can in each moment of every single day as it happens. You never know what you might just see if you open your eyes to what is right there in front of you.
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