You may have noticed yourself dipping your hand into the biscuit tin more frequently over the past couple of weeks or the tightening of your jeans (if you’re not just wearing leggings by default like me) around your waist.
If so, you may be suffering from what is being dubbed ‘The quarantine 15’, the notion that we will all be emerging from lockdown 15lbs heavier! While that kind of weight gain is unlikely, know that this extra eating phenomena is quite normal, you are not alone and there is something you can do about it.
You may be surprised to learn it doesn’t take a huge trauma to kick start a binge and that there are many different reasons why we eat, not just for physical nourishment. Have you ever noticed yourself eating when you’re not hungry? Out of boredom or the need for distraction? To unwind, relax or de stress?
We are living in a time where life’s pleasures have been stripped away so our brains are looking for ways to bring joy and pleasure into our lives. Food, especially sugary treats and stodgy carbs, release endorphins which give us that quick hit and feel good factor so many of us are craving right now. But that bliss point can become addictive and if you keep it up too long, it will become an unwanted habit.
You might be thinking, well I actually have bigger things to think about right now, why is how I eat important?
Exactly that. We have big situations and emotions to face. We have people counting on us, whether it’s our partner, children, neighbour, or even our future selves!
We are needed, our health is needed. Our ability to show up and serve as our best version is needed. Also eating our emotions might make us feel comforted for a brief moment, but often over eating can cause feelings of guilt and shame, which we try to numb out further with more eating. It can be a never ending cycle…
If you’re finding yourself overeating because you feel powerless or worried, you’re not alone, but please know that emotional eating doesn’t have to be inevitable right now.
Awareness here is key. I am sharing with you the 4 step strategy I share with all of my clients to help them overcome emotional and over eating.
1. When you find yourself going to the fridge, reaching into the tin etc PAUSE - get out of your lizard brain and reactive state and give yourself chance to access your creative thinking and not just rushing to numb the feeling or eat to feel better.
2. Ask what am I feeling right now? The feeling behind the one of needing to eat something? Stress? Boredom? Overwhelm? And then check in with your future self. Is this what he/she would want right now? Is this choice going to serve me best? What do I really need? Will I be feeling guilty about this choice? What could I choose to do/eat instead. It could be an enriching activity like going for a run, reading or a bubble bath. For example if it is stress and overwhelm you are feeling what would help you relax and feel good, instead of turning to food for the answer?
3. When circumstances feel out of control it’s good to focus on the things you can control, even little things. What order can you create? Who can you turn to for support? What would empower you? What can you organise in your own environment to bring that sense of control?
4. We also need to apply real self compassion. Don’t give up on yourself because you feel out of control and ‘there’s nothing you can do about it’ Eating is not the only way to feel good! Overeating is not compassion. Practising daily positive self talk and even starting a gratitude journal will help you focus in on all the good things right now and serve as a preventative measure to future binge/stress eating.
Nothing is forever. Now is a great opportunity to bring the balance and focus back to ourselves so we don’t just simply exist but so we can thrive.