It’s not surprising that how we eat closely relates to how we feel. And a few months’ worth of job and health worries can really throw a curveball at your eating habits.
If you’ve started using food as a crutch for comfort, you’re not alone. Studies show that eating habits have shifted towards the unhealthy on a global scale, with massive upticks in the consumption of refined carbohydrates.
Here are the 3 stages of eating your feelings through a pandemic:
Stage 1: The Abundance Stage
This stage happened at the start of the outbreak, when life went on as usual. Some ingredients at the grocer ran out faster than others, but for the most part, people didn’t have trouble stocking their pantries.
But as working from home became the new normal, we found ourselves succumbing to non-stop eating. Whether it was out of boredom or stress, but it didn’t help that we were always just a few metres away from our refrigerator.
Or that we had a kitchen stocked full of perishables. Or that because businesses were shuttering and there was no reason to head out, we suddenly had a lot more time to experiment with our inner chef.
Every week, there seemed to be a new recipe trending. TikTok-famous dalgona coffee! Burnt basque cheesecake! Mochi treats! Binge-eating seemed like a nice reward for all the inconvenience the pandemic is putting you through.
Stage 2: The Emotional Eating Stage
With circuit-breaking precautions in full force, the stay-home period is officially starting to frustrate you.
Though cooking at home for the past few weeks had been refreshing, you’re missing all your favourite local foods and eating out in general. You’re probably also annoyed that some of your grocery staples are constantly out of stock.
Then again, your mealtime woes are just one of your many stressors. Being isolated from family and friends, working from home, and the news cycle have become constant sources of anxiety for you.
The reason why we overeat when we’re stressed has a lot to do with a hormone known as cortisol. After a stressful fight-or-flight episode, cortisol opens up your appetite – this is to help your body replenish the energy it spent on repelling the threat.
When you suffer from long-term stress, such as a three-month quarantine, your cortisol levels remain elevated. It’s no wonder why our snacking is off the charts (darn that viral Jjapaghetti video recipe). And don’t forget about daytime drinking.
Before long, our eating habits and general inactivity start to take a visible toll on our weight.
Stage 3: The Recovery Stage
By now, it’s been a few weeks of emotional eating, and you can’t help but feel a little guilty for all the banana bread you’ve polished off.
You have grown accustomed to the new normal of working from home, and have hopefully developed healthier stress management methods that don’t involve binging.
This is small comfort, but take heart that it’s not just you. Worldwide sales of chips, cookies, ice cream and processed foods in general have gone soaring as people relaxed their diets in the name of self-care.
Now that you’re in a better place, you’re probably ready to step up your fitness routine to work off the extra weight. And that has fantastic implications for your dietary habits too –research shows that the more we exercise, the more our diets tend to improve.
That’s simply because positive results reinforce positive psychological changes.
Weight loss power moves
No need to go on a crash diet just yet. Even though gyms are still off-limits, there are a few strategies you can use to manage your weight from the comfort of your home:
- Use a standing desk
Height-adjustable standing desks help with more than burning an extra 1000 calories a week. It also helps to alleviate pain and heart problems that are often the result of a sedentary lifestyle. If the idea of standing all day doesn’t interest you, at least do it for a few hours after lunch – studies show that 180 minutes of standing after a heavy meal did wonders for blood sugar levels.
- Eat and drink mindfully
Besides paying attention to the foods you eat, it’s important to focus on the eating experience. Being distracted by TV shows or work during dinnertime can leave you wanting more. To increase feelings of satiety, one US study suggests you may want to eat from a smaller plate, or a plate with a hue that contrasts strongly against your food. This visually tricks you into overestimating your portion size.
- Hydrate wisely
Zero-calorie water is an ideal choice as it doesn’t induce sugar highs (like juice or soda) or caffeinated jitters. If you can’t do without caffeine, opt for black tea over coffee. It’s less bitter, and hopefully removes any temptation to add milk or sugar for a sweeter taste. And try your best to nix your lockdown drinking habit – gram for gram, alcohol contains about the same calories as fat.
Shed your stubborn kilos with minimal effort
It’s normal to feel your clothes tighten now that this circuit-breaker has got us moving less and eating more. But if you’ve had a history of struggling with weight gain, it could be because of slower metabolism brought on by age.
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