As a Korean, I understand the phrase, “Eating when you’re bored,” better than most people. This is not some new phenomenon; many cultures have similar expressions, but for some reason, Koreans really understand the dangers of restless eating. I’m quite used to random snacking purely for the sake of it, and I never thought of it as an issue, but as an anxious and neurotic person, I can’t deny that there is some Freudian connection between my indiscriminate eating and my neurosis.
Where I live, quarantine is not ending soon. So as we fall deeper into the abyss that is quarantine life, I want to acknowledge that it’s okay if your eating habits have changed. It’s even okay if you’ve consequently gained a few extra pounds. Don’t freak out because I’m pretty sure we can all relate. Covid-19 has left in its wake, a world full of debilitating anxiety and stress. And when you’re stressed, your body releases the hormone, cortisol, which can increase your appetite. That proves it! There is literally a physical connection between anxiety and negative eating habits, but keep in mind that food only serves as a distraction from whatever’s really bothering you. This is not an issue that will be resolved overnight, but here are a few ways you can help yourself:
- Rather than beating yourself up, embrace your bad mood. I often find myself stress eating when I can’t quite place my bad mood. “The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem.” But in all seriousness, understand that how you feel is not your fault. It’s okay to be down or stressed! Embrace that you’re not in a good mood, and you’ll most likely avoid reaching for that bag of chips to compensate for how you’re feeling.
- Find a balance. When you stress eat, you typically reach for the sugary or fatty snacks because of the immediate gratification. Instead of going for your typical junk, try to eat an apple or a bowl of oatmeal. I know. It sounds so much less appealing than your typical go-tos, but if you can aim for a balance, you’ll find that you feel better and are less likely to fall back into a cycle of emotional eating.
- Create boundaries. Okay, this one really resonates with me. If you are the kind of person who can’t just eat one chip, then create a limit for yourself. Before you begin snacking, take a portion of what you want to eat, close the bag and put it away. This way you’ve created a tangible boundary for what you are allowed to eat and are less likely to go back for seconds and thirds.
- Eat regularly. Eat in regular intervals! The longer you go without eating, the more likely you are to overeat, regardless of how you’re feeling. If you are diligent about eating regularly about every three to four hours, you’ll be a lot more in control of your negative habits and impulses.
- Check in with yourself. Look, nobody’s perfect. We’re allowed to have sh*tty days, but it’s important to check in with yourself regularly and make sure you are getting enough TLC. If you overeat when you’re stressed, then the source of the problem is whatever’s causing you stress! Take a moment to self-reflect on what’s bothering you and make sure to love yourself.