Below is an article written by one of our medical providers, Dr. Elizabeth Benjevin. During this COVID-19 outbreak, many people are turning to food for comfort, and this is adding to the stress of weight loss. She offers advice for reducing comfort eating here. Thank you Dr. Benjevin for sharing your timely insights.
Emotional and Comfort Eating
Emotional eating is very common. Many people find themselves turning to food in times when they feel anxious, depressed, bored or tired. Often, they will turn to foods that in the past they have associated with comfort, often sweet or high in refined carbohydrates, foods that may be associated with childhood and good times.
Part of stopping emotional eating is to identify when you are eating for hunger and when you are eating for emotional reasons. Some signs you are eating for comfort include: you get a sudden craving for a specific type of food (hunger usually gradually builds up and is usually satisfied by most foods), you’re not satisfied even though you are physically full, you feel the hunger mainly in your head and not in your stomach, you feel guilty or regretful after eating.
Getting control over emotional eating
Just being aware that you are eating because of emotions is probably the most important step that you can make to start getting control. What you do after that may be variable depending upon the circumstances. Sometimes simply paying attention to your feelings may be enough to cause it to gradually fade into the background. Sometimes, you will need to do more than that and having substitute activities that are enjoyable and soothing can be very helpful. Below is a list of some activities that people have found helpful. This is not meant to be complete, if you have one that has been helpful in the past but not listed, make note and try it out.
- Physical Activity such as walking, running, dancing, stretching
- Listening to music
- Reading a good novel
- Knitting or crocheting
- Coloring in an adult coloring book
- Playing solitaire or a game on your phone
- Taking a walk in nature
- Playing with or petting your pet
- Looking at favorite pictures of your pet or other animals
- Taking a relaxing bath
- Getting a massage or giving yourself a self-massage
- Talking to or calling a close friend
- Having a soothing cup of tea
- De-cluttering your desk or other area
- Drawing or doodling
Take a break from the news and social media – social media sometimes increases stress because you see everyone else’s “perfect life” and your life doesn’t seem to measure up. (Of course people don’t usually post the bad stuff)
Close your eyes and take some slow deep breaths – make the out breath about twice as long as the in breath; you may wish to imagine yourself in a calm relaxing place. Visualize all the little details. If you like to be on the beach, then imagine the sand and the ocean, how the heat and the breeze feels on your skin, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the waves. Take the time to soak it all in, and realize that this is available whenever you want.
If you find your stress becomes unmanageable or overwhelming, consider seeing a therapist , talk to your primary care provider or contact your mental health provider if you have one.
Take Care, Stay Safe and we’ll all get through this together.