Does it feel like eating and cooking during self-isolation is more challenging than usual? When a stressful or other significant life change happens, our eating habits also tend to change. We have to remember that it is more than just cooking and feeding ourselves and our family. Families are coping with multiple challenges at once.
- Families are trying to manage continual food requests from family members or kids
- They are trying to adapt to new schedules
- Some families are trying to balance work with meal prep
- There does not seem to be a break from cooking and cleaning
- There may be anxiety about the safety of the food coming into the house
- There is the task of getting creative in the kitchen with limited ingredients due to the inability to get to the store or not being able to afford food
- Trying to cook healthy food for the family
Trying to manage all these challenges can lead to emotional eating or not being mindful of what we are eating. Emotional eating is when we eat for reasons other than hunger. We may eat because we are stressed, bored or even as a reward. Food can be comforting and distract us from what is bothering us.
Physical vs Emotional Hunger
Emotional hunger comes on suddenly and feels instant and urgent, where physical hunger is more gradual. When you are emotionally eating, you usually crave specific comfort foods that are typically calorie-dense and high in sugar and carbohydrates. In contrast, when you are physically hungry, almost anything sounds good (even vegetables)!
Emotionally eating can also lead to mindless eating, where we are not really paying attention to eating and not fully enjoying our food. An example is sitting and watching a movie, and all of a sudden, our whole bag of popcorn is empty.
When we emotionally eat, we are usually not satisfied when we are finished eating. We typically want more and more and often end up overeating.
Emotional hunger is not located in the stomach. It is located in your head where we are more focused on textures, tastes and smells rather than having a growling stomach.
Sometimes emotional eating can lead to feelings such as guilt or shame, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
Tips to Help with Emotional Eating
Food can provide a sense of safety right now, and allowing food to be comforting is okay. But it is also important to find other ways to cope with the emotions we are feeling. One of the big things right now is finding connections, so try reaching out to a friend or co-worker. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep (aim for 7+ hours!). You might also try writing in a journal, going for a walk, or playing with your animals or children to manage your emotions.
When it comes to emotions and food, here are a few specific suggestions
- Pause when cravings hit and check-in with ourselves. How are we feeling? What is going on emotionally? Even if we do emotionally eat, we may have a better understanding of why.
- When we eat to feed our feelings, we tend to eat quickly and mindlessly. Try to be present while enjoying those comfort foods, thinking about the taste, smells, colours, shapes and texture in your mouth. This way, we can enjoy every bite and allow ourselves to notice our body’s cues that we are full or satisfied.
- Don’t restrict foods. Foods you limit can have power over you, and you can become more obsessed with those foods, and once you do eat them, you may overeat them.
- Honour your hunger and make time to eat throughout the day. Aim to eat every 3 to 4 hours.
- During this time, there are not natural break times like we might have during regular workdays. Build-in those breaks to eat and have time for yourself.
- Plan meals that excite you. Maybe try something new or cook foods you would typically go out and eat, such as Asian or Italian food!
- Get cooking! Cooking can be healthy, rewarding and cost-effective! Cooking gives us something to concentrate on, to create, and to enjoy!
A Recipe That is Sure to be a Family Favourite!
It is quick, versatile and delicious, and you can use many different ingredients you have in the house. It is also a fun activity to do with your kids! They can make individualized pizza—pizza party!
- Soft flour tortillas
- Tomato/pasta sauce
- Any ingredients you have in the house! Here are some ideas:
- Cooked chicken breast
- Bell peppers
- Green onions
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C)
- Place tortillas on a baking sheet
- Assemble your pizzas. Put on the sauce, toppings and finish with the cheese
- Bake in the preheated oven until golden or until cheese is melted
Here are More Delicious and Easy Recipes You Can Try!
The biggest thing is to remember that emotional eating or a change in eating habits is normal and to be gentle with yourself. There is no such thing as perfect eating, and we are all trying to figure out this situation together.
Shelby Sestak, RD – Dietitian, Healthy Babies Network