Trust me you are not alone. Although best thing to do in the middle of this pandemic is to socially distance, and stay home, but it does come with its own set of emotional challenges, and a lot of us find ourselves turning to food for comfort.
It’s a normal response of our body to find solace in calorie rich food. We can actually blame it on hormones, as is proven by extensive research. Levels of a hormone called cortisol which is secreted by adrenal glands are raised during stress, which in turn increases your appetite, and ramps up motivation to eat. Numerous studies (mostly done in animals) have shown that emotional eating has preference for food rich in sugars and fats which are considered comfort foods, therefore increase in weight leading to obesity. This in turn adds to anxiety and depression creating a vicious cycle. In an ideal situation as the physical or emotional stress decreases the levels of cortisol should also decrease, but if it persists, then so does the cortisol. This leads to detrimental effects on weight and overall health. Research has proven that our hunger and satiety are controlled by multiple complex hormonal pathways, leptin, insulin, cortisol and ghrelin to name a few. But believe me, mindfulness and right habits can help you overcome this.
So, how do you control emotional eating?
The key is to find nonfood ways to combat emotional cues.
- Out of sight, out of mind
Try to keep sugary snacks away from your easy access like kitchen counters or in your bag. Next time you are out grocery shopping, just skip the candy aisle and bakery aisle. Resist buying unhealthy items, because if you don’t have them easily available you are less likely to crave them.
- Take a five
Next time you feel the urge to eat, just take a five and check in with yourself. Are you really hungry or just bored? Will this ice cream or pizza really solve your problems or will you regret it in the next hour? Think about what is stressing you out and how to deal with the actual problem. Or maybe just pick up a book or an online article to read, or go for a walk or a quick five-minute work out.
- Make H2O your best friend
Hydration is always a winner. Increase your fluid intake. Make sure you are consuming low calorie or carb free drinks. Water has numerous positive effects on your health and mood. Try adding lemon slices or fresh mint or any fruit to make it interesting.
- Get your beauty sleep
Having a healthy sleep routine can be crucial to your health. Try to hit the sack at the same time every day. A study published in the journal Sleep concluded that sleep loss enhances the joy of eating by activating certain chemical pathways in your brain, thus connecting poor sleep habits to obesity. Research has also found increase in level of the hunger hormone called ghrelin because of sleep deprivation, leading to increased snacking at night.
That’s the most important one. Self-care could be anything, that makes you feel peaceful. It could be physical activity, exercise has shown proven improvement in mood, it could be a spa related activity, meditation or quality time spent with your family. In conclusion learn to love yourself!
Try to have a positive mindset, try to surround yourself with positive people, pick up the phone and talk to a friend. Stress eating can sometimes be difficult to control and can lead to disordered eating. Never hesitate to seek professional help if you need it.