With the COVID-19 outbreak, I’ve been out of work. Currently it’s been twelve days since I’ve been to work for a normal day and already I find myself eating more than normal. I’m sitting on the couch and constantly finding myself wondering what I can eat next…. Sound familiar to anyone else? Please tell me I’m not alone on this! I’m usually on the go and busy with work so now that I am at home looking for things to occupy my time with, I feel hungry all the time. Is it because my body needs more food? Hell no! I’m moving less than I normally do, so in theory I should be eating a little less as well. So that’s not it.
Sometimes we feel hunger when what we actually are is thirsty. That is a common culprit of mine… I’m not drinking as much water as I normally do while I am at work. I usually drink a gallon of water throughout the day and therefore I’m peeing every 30 min to an hour. But I don’t mind getting paid to go pee every hour. But when I’m at home, I just think less about drinking water I guess. So that could be a good reason why I feel the need to eat ALL the fricken time.
Another reason I feel like eating all the time is due, in part, to boredom. I tend to be a bored eater. It’s been almost two weeks and I’m having trouble filling the time with things I want to do. My closet is clean and organized. My laundry is done (for now). I can’t really think of any big cleaning projects that needs to be done around the house, which is usually what I fill my days off with. But now? All of it’s done. Sooooo, what’s in fridge?
Not only am I a bored eater, but I’m an emotional eater as well. When I was young, emotional eating was a coping mechanism that was easy to fall into. My mother always made sure our family was fed and that we had extra. She still is that way and that’s always a perk when I visit her—she always sends me home with food. And she’s a way better cook than I am, so it’s a treat. But that made it so I always had access to as much food as I wanted. Scientists have done studies and found that eating food releases serotonin and oxytocin. Serotonin is a hormone that your brain needs to feel good—depressed brains are deficit with those hormones, making it difficult/impossible to feel a sense of well-being without something helping your brain maintain proper levels of this hormone. Oxytocin is a hormone that your brain interprets as feeling loved. Physical touch releases oxytocin, which is perhaps why this social distancing is taking a heavy mental toll on everyone. Humans needs physical touch—from birth all the way to death—to function normally and properly. There are other things that help with oxytocin production, but eating food is one of them. In the absence of other forms of oxytocin production, a failsafe way is and will always be food. So, in times of great stress and isolation, craving food can be our bodies’ way of providing necessary hormones to keep our brains feel well and balanced.
Obviously there is a point where using food for these reasons is absolutely counterproductive. Low quality food and especially high amounts of sugar can be counterproductive in the long run for proper hormone balance. There is a time where eating too much, even if it’s relatively healthy choices, can make us feel worse in our bodies as well as our feelings towards our situation.
So what’s the solution? What do we do when we’re trapped in our homes with limited things to do and all we can think about is food? I will never pretend to have all the answers. All I can do is help shed light on what I have seen or experienced that helps.
Being aware of what is going on in your mind is the first step. Awareness is key when you want to address anything, whether it’s a bad habit, a bad mode of thinking, or a bad movement pattern with an exercise, awareness is always the first step to moving to a place where you are able to correct things if necessary. So if you find yourself in the same place as I do right now, when you feel your body start to crave food you’re not sure you actually need, stop and think about why you want it? Sometimes you’ll look a the clock and realize that it is, indeed, time for you to eat something for your body! If so, making a good choice will be a good investment in how you feel later. If it’s not time to eat, maybe take stock of what you’re craving? Are you craving comfort food? Is your body telling you that you need serotonin or oxytocin? Of course, I’m going to recommend some exercise if you need serotonin. Getting up and going for a walk or trying a home workout can really help give your brain some good serotonin these days. If you’ve already had your fill of moving today, grab some snuggles from the nearest person or fur baby! Dogs and children, and loved ones are especially good for snuggles, but if they aren’t nearby, a hot shower can also help. Or maybe none of those things will help and a hot chocolate chip cookie will be the only thing that will! Being aware and honest with yourself about how you are actually doing is important. I would just encourage you to make a habit of performing self-maintenance checks. If we feel off or if we find we’re doing things out of character, it’s important to figure out why. And right now with all the social and financial stress we are under with the covid-19 outbreak, it’s more important than ever to stay healthy mentally as well as physically to continue to thrive in this turbulence.
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“I am, somehow, less interested in the weight and convolutions of Einstein’s brain than in the near certainty that people of equal talent have lived and died in cotton fields and sweatshops.” -Steven Jay Gould
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