Eating as an Emotional Coping Aid

How worried should we be about the extra pounds we’re putting on while stuck at home? 

With the effects of the pandemic stretching on far longer than most people had any idea that it would, a lot of us have begun to worry about the extra pounds that we are putting on. It was kind of fun to joke about a common experience in the beginning. Some were playfully calling it the COVID-5 or referring to COVID curves, but, as the months have gone by, COVID-15 doesn’t seem quite as amusing. 

Should we be worried? Have we stepped out on a slippery slope that there may be no getting off of? How important is it to try and stick to healthier food choices or even dive into a full-fledged weight loss regimen?

First of all, give yourself a break. This is not a situation in which any of us have the benefit of training or experience. Whatever your life was like before, it’s very different now. And not just for you. For everyone. Stress levels are off the charts. People are afraid. And isolated. No one really knows what to do or how long this is going to last. 

Is a little emotional eating such a terrible way to cope? No, but…

Science tells us that when anxiety and stress levels go up, so does the production of the hormone cortisol, which has the effect of increasing our appetite. This has us reaching for cake, cookies, bread and other high sugar or high carb foods. Not just because they are our go-to comfort foods, but because they trigger the release of dopamine, which makes us feel better, at least temporarily. 

In normal times, if this is a common occurrence, it can certainly be a problem. In a global crisis, it helps to keep some perspective.  According to Mary Anne Cohen, a psychotherapist and the director of the New York Center for Eating Disorders, “This is not a normal time that we’re in. Your eating will not look normal. And we need to cultivate some humor about our foibles and a lot of self compassion.”

Perhaps the best approach is one that generally serves us well; balance. This would mean not beating ourselves up for reaching for a cookie while watching the evening news and, at the same time, developing other ways of dealing with our stress and anxiety.

Suggestions for Reducing Overeating During the Pandemic

  • Make sure you are eating enough so that you aren’t hungry and anxious at the same time
  • Practice being kind to yourself and avoid negative “self-talk”
  • Try to consistently get enough sleep
  • Do something physical every day, if only a walk around your neighborhood
  • Meditate
  • Find a new hobby or take an online class
  • Lessen feelings of isolation by staying connected to family, friends and co-workers with email, text, phone and internet-based technologies
  • Take advantage of the super-popular Zoom for sharing mealtime, having a book club, poker game or other types of group activity 

The more you stay engaged and connected, the less likely you will be to rely solely on food to cope with the current situation. And remember that “this too shall pass”. If you do end up with a few extra pounds, the Southern California Center for Anti-Aging is here to help with a weight loss program designed specifically for you.   

The Southern California Center for Anti-Aging focuses on the practice of advanced, preventive and regenerative medicine. We strongly believe correcting imbalances and deficiencies in nutrition, along with improving fitness and balancing and restoring hormones with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy, can help with creating the foundation for a healthier and happier life. To learn more about our holistic approach or if you have questions about any of our services, take advantage of our Free Consultation by clicking here to use our convenient online form.