7 Ways to Avoid Overeating While Under Quarantine
Use my easy steps to avoid overeating and mindlessly snacking while you’re under quarantine.
Most people are now working at home full time.
(If you are one of the healthcare professionals and essential workers who are still going to work so the rest of us can have some degree of health and normalcy, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.)
While there are so many benefits to working from home:
- no commute,
- extra family time,
- time for a new hobby…..
There are challenges:
- multiple people working from home with or without kids who are ‘distance learning’ or on ‘spring break’;
- the monotony of cooking multiple meals per day;
- the boredom that sets in when we don’t have our usual social interactions;
- lots of snack food around that you may have purchased, and perhaps the results of your #distractibaking.
Add these challenges to the additional anxiety most of us are facing and we have a perfect storm that can set us up for overeating due to mindlessness.
Can you relate?
My sister-in-law shared this graphic with me last week. First, it provided me with a chuckle, but I then realized that we all need help navigating this new reality of working from home during the coronavirus outbreak.
Here are my top 7 dietitian-approved tips to avoid overeating while under quarantine:
1. Stick to a schedule.
Week 1 of isolation was like a long weekend with work sprinkled in. Maybe you slept in, took a long walk with your dog, did calls in your pajamas and snacked periodically throughout the day. It was fun and different – for a few days.
Now that isolation will be our new normal for a while, it’s time to adjust our lives accordingly.
Did you know that a lack of routine means that we have more decisions to make every day? Too many decisions makes us get fatigued easier, and it also makes us less likely to have the mental energy to make decisions – like planning – meals and snacks.
Create a modified schedule that includes wake up time, bed time, time for meals, exercise, and showering. You can sleep a little bit later now that you don’t have a commute or lunches to pack, but you need to get into a routine.
2. Eat regularly.
You should plan to eat, ideally without distraction, at least 3 times per day. We all know that skipping meals creates a primal hunger that can leave us more vulnerable to binges and overeating later in the day. Plan out times for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and 1-2 snacks. Put them on your schedule above!
Remember: meals can be as simple or as elaborate as you have the time, budget and resources for. Don’t let perfectionism sneak in and allow you to skip meals.
If you find yourself getting hyper focused with work and missing meals, add meals to your calendar or set a reminder on your phone.
3. Avoid eating during work calls (as much as possible).
This might be a hard habit to break, as so many people routinely eat at their desks while at work. But, we all know that it’s hard to eat with intention and attention while we are otherwise distracted.
Scheduling just 10 minutes to eat your meals either solo or with a family member will allow you to experience greater physical and sensory satisfaction. If 10 minutes sounds like too much, can you start with 5?
4. Put extra food away.
I want to provide some clarification here: I’m not talking about hiding food so you can’t find it.
Remember, I want you to eat when you are hungry.
We are all in a vulnerable position now. Our stress level is higher. We are working in a new environment with new challenges. My suggestion to put extra food in the cabinets or fridge is rooted in self care.
We all know how strong the power of suggestion can be. And when you walk through your kitchen between work deadlines and see a bag of chips on the counter, it’s human nature to think: “I want those!” whether or not you are physically hungry. You’re also more likely to eat them while walking around the house, while not really tasting them at all.
A more practical approach would be to put the food away and eat it during meals and snacks when you are actually hungry and you can devote the time to eat (and ENJOY!) it.
5. Sit down to eat!
Perhaps you find yourself munching on your breakfast while you feed the dog and make breakfast for the family. Or eating a snack as you walk through the kitchen.
When this happens, pull up a chair so you can eat the food and really enjoy it.
6. Catch yourself when mindless eating starts.
This step is a bit more challenging than the others and it may take some time to develop this skill and learn from it.
The next time you find yourself eating and you don’t know why or how it started:
- Stop chewing.
- Take a deep breath.
- Ask yourself, “Am I hungry?”
- Yes: See step 5 above and eat.
- No: Ask yourself, “What do I really need or want?”
- Is food just serving as a substitute because it’s there?
- Do you need a break? A walk around the block? A call to a friend?
If you’d like to delve into more specifics of emotions and eating, check out by blog on this topic here: How to Cope with Your Emotions without Turning to Food: Principle 7 of Intuitive Eating
7. Forgive yourself when you slip up.
We all slip up because we are human. To expect perfectionism isn’t realistic or productive – or healthy.
During this period, and at other stressful times in life, it’s normal to eat for comfort. It’s what we do after we eat more than what makes us feel good that can either:
- turn the event into a downward spiral of shame and regret which usually results in continued mindless eating; or
- help us develop a greater understanding of why we eat mindlessly, which can help us learn to eat when we are hungry and attend to our other needs when we are not.
When you eat mindlessly, or eat to a point where you are uncomfortably full, show yourself some grace and move on.
Do you have a positive mantra you could repeat?
Use this one or create your own: “All humans make mistakes. I am not alone.”
We are all living in a new reality. Changing routines and increased stress may be the norm for the immediate future.
However, these changes don’t mean we have to resort to mindlessly eating in a way that makes our bodies feel physically unwell.
If you use my tips above, you can use this time to advance your intuitive eating skills and learn to eat more mindfully and avoid overeating.
Ready to take action on my 7 Tips To Avoid Overeating While Under Quarantine?
I’ve created a worksheet to help you put these 7 tips to avoid overeating while under quarantine into action.
It will help you navigate this challenging time with concrete steps to keep you nourished and feeling great, while avoiding mindless overeating.
Click HERE to download your copy today!
Kelly Abramson MS, RD is a dietitian and Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor who works with clients in Alexandria, VA and virtually via telehealth. She guides women as they break free from dieting to find joy in food and their bodies. Kelly blogs regularly at NpowerYou.com and has created a free e-book for download, “7 Steps to Overcome Stress Eating.”