Nutrition Month: More than Food – Handling stress eating

My daughter baked these-a definite 10!

It’s hard to believe that it was just last month that I wrote about appetite regulation and how so many of us have lost our ability to know when we’re hungry and when we’re satisfied. Yes, each day now seems like it’s a week as everyday life has changed so dramatically as we deal with the coronavirus.

For those of us not on the front lines of fighting this virus, being isolated at home has become the norm. For some, so has stress eating or grazing out of boredom. If you have looked at social media, the memes and jokes depicting before and after in terms of body size are everywhere you look. Posts about nonstop cookie eating or devouring chocolates are commonplace as people share their daily activities and fears.

So what’s the solution: do you simply go with it and hope this nightmare ends soon? Unfortunately we have no answers about when life can return to normal.

So here are some tips on how to manage your food.

First things first. If you think you’re carrying extra pounds, now is not the time to try to lose weight. Weight loss regimes can be stressful at the best of times. And this certainly is not the best of times.

Next consider that changes in your daily routine can throw eating patterns off. Over the years, in my nutrition counselling practice, I’ve seen when people change from being home through the day to working outside their home and vice versa, there can be some confusion about what and when to eat before getting into a usual pattern. And that’s under normal circumstances.

Add in what’s happening in the world and it can lead to chaos. For some, the stress can lead to nonstop nibbling and for others, no appetite at all, even an inability to eat.
If you fall into the nibbling category or find that you’re craving certain foods such as sugary or carb-laden offerings, eating balanced meals and snacks regularly throughout the day can help to both decrease the munching and cravings. (Read my previous posts on balanced eating.)

Don’t be hangry!
It’s key to realize that the low blood sugar readings that can go hand in hand with going too long without eating can lead to increased stress hormone levels in your blood. (Have you heard the term hangry– hungry and angry together?) Cravings are often another consequence.

While eating regularly may be the last thing you feel like doing, balanced meals and snacks can make a difference in not only your desire to nibble but also your sense of well being.

But even with making these changes, you may still want to treat yourself. If you do, don’t beat yourself up about it. Instead, do treat yourself – with treat being the key term. If sweets are your thing, don’t fill up on average tasting cookies or chocolate.

That won’t cut it.

To help you treat yourself , use my rule of 10:

Take a bite of your chosen goodie and rate it on a scale of 1 to 10 on its deliciousness (as if you were a judge in a food contest). Only eat it if it rates a 9 or 10. If it doesn’t rate that high, find something else.

Keep the portion size to that you might give to someone who asked you for a serving. You wouldn’t give someone a huge portion or a skimpy one. You would likely give them a generous one, though. For example, one chocolate out of a box just leads to taking one more and then another and another. Taking two or three at one time will likely satisfy you. But do put the box away before you savour your choices.

Being choosy and rating these foods can make a huge difference. Imagine eating an ordinary cookie with a rating of six. Sixes, when you’re looking for a treat, won’t have a chance of satisfying you. Neither will six 6s. You’ll still be on the hunt for something good. Whatever you choose as a food reward, should be just that – a reward, not a punishment. There should be no regrets. And 10s are never regretted.

But here’s a potential problem. If you’re stuck at home and have no 10s around, the next time you get groceries, consider getting some 10s. But don’t keep them out for you to see all the time. Or if you like to bake, why not take advantage of being home and whip up something delicious.

Up next: some other strategies to combat nibbling along with some advice on what to do if you find you can’t eat.

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Categories: Nutrition Month, Tips and Tricks

Author:Rosie Schwartz

Rosie Schwartz is a Toronto-based consulting dietitian and writer.

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4 Comments on “Nutrition Month: More than Food – Handling stress eating”

  1. March 26, 2020 at 3:26 pm #

    All good advice. Do you have any thoughts around the handling of groceries entering our home? (Maybe a possible blog topic)

    • March 31, 2020 at 9:24 am #

      Jean, the post is now up!

      • March 31, 2020 at 9:42 am #

        Yes, it was in my Inbox this am and is now in my rapidly-expanding Covid-19 file. Thank-you!

  2. March 30, 2020 at 4:25 pm #

    Thanks for your feedback, Jean! Yes, I will do a post on the handling of groceries as there is a lot of misinformation going around.

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