Ice cream. Macaroni and cheese. Potato chips. Seconds, and thirds, of spaghetti.
In times of stress, comfort foods can make you feel like everything is going to be okay. While it's okay to indulge once in a while, any kind of emotional eating can lead to serious consequences. In today's stressful times, it can be difficult not to overeat.
With grocery stores putting limits on purchases of food and household goods, not knowing if a job will still be there tomorrow, seeing gyms and parks and restaurants shuttered - it's no wonder people reach for comfort foot, alcohol, even drugs. People with addictive tendencies are especially likely to fall back on destructive coping mechanisms.
Currently, Saratoga Hospital’s Nutrition Services dietitians are working with outpatients who are stress-eating due to:
- A major life change. People who have lost their jobs, are working from home, scrambling to find babysitting, and are worried about the health and well-being of family and friends.
- Loss of structure. Some patients have worked hard to set up a structure for their day that keeps them from making poor meal choices, planning and prepping meals ahead of time. With COVID-19 turning everyday life upside down, food structure often goes out the window.
- Food security. People will eat more if they are afraid food is or will become hard to come by. When the pandemic hit, toilet paper was not the only thing flying off the shelves. Grocery stores were running out of beans and other canned goods. Staples and packaged goods were disappearing. It’s only natural people will hoard and eat while they can in such circumstances.
Should you find yourself stress-eating, try focusing on bringing back some structure and sense of control in your daily life. Even if everything else is uncertain, having a plan for regular exercise and meals can give you a better sense of relief than any comfort food can provide.
Little bits are doable. A ten-minute walk in the morning and again at night can do wonders. Planning meals not only helps your waistline, but also your budget. You may find it helpful to pack your lunches and snacks as if you are going to work, even if you are working from home.
Our outpatient Nutrition Services is available with a referral from your primary care provider. Patients can call with general questions or come in for a conversation that addresses a patient’s unique concerns. Our dietitians can help you navigate through emotional eating to healthier choices, including suggestions for meal planning on a fixed budget. For more information, visit our Nutrition Services page.