Do you feel like you are constantly eating? Are you checking the contents of the fridge every half an hour?
Have your grocery bills doubled? Are you living on take-aways even if the fridge is full?
With the UK entering a new lockdown, it’s normal to be experiencing changes or even difficulties around your eating habits. The isolation of being stuck at home, the uncertainty of the future, and significant financial worries can trigger a lot of emotions.
Here are a few reasons why you could be eating more than usual:
- Primal Behaviour: Nourishment of the body is a basic primal need; the urge to stock up on food and eat more “just in case” all stem from fear. When we feel grounded, we have a sense of safety and security and a general trust in life. When we lose this grounding and feel fear, we reach for the first thing that is available and will give us comfort: food.
- Deprivation/Dopamine: With a major disruption in our daily routine, we don’t have the usual outlets to meet our social and emotional needs. Being unable to see loved ones can cause a significant drop to to “happy chemicals” in our brains, including dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for communicating signals between nerve cells in the brain, and directly affects the reward and pleasure centres. Food, especially junk food, stimulates this reward system. Our bodies will always crave the most energy-efficient food to survive (quick energy release), so even though an apple or a steak will also release dopamine, the effect is nowhere near as powerful as with a tub of sugary-fatty ice cream.
- Boredom/Mindless Eating: Not much to explain here. We have all been there: trying to find things to do and ending up eating. Or while watching Netflix we unconsciously (mindlessly) munch away on biscuits, just to realise that the whole packet is gone.
Emotions: Generally emotional eating relates to not wanting to feel things. We try to avoid the surfacing of difficult emotions by stuffing them down with food. In the current situation, this can also affect a lot of people who have never experienced emotionally charged eating habits before.
How can you try to control your cravings?
- When you feel a craving come up, try to step back and look at the craving/emotion with curiosity, not judgment. Ask yourself “Why am I craving______?” and “What could be the reason?” Could it be any from the above list? Then do some hypothesising. How would it make you feel if you gave in to the craving? How would you feel a few hours later or the following morning?
- If you notice the urge to eat, acknowledge it. Step back again and take a few deep breaths. When you decide to act on that craving, make sure it is a conscious decision, and that the decision was made mindfully. If you still decide to eat that piece of cake or two, make sure you don’t judge yourself for it.
- Ask yourself the following questions: What is it I actually want? Am I anxious, bored or tired? Do I need a break from my computer? Would a walk outside help? From what am I trying to distract myself? Tune into your body and trust that you will come up with the right answer.
- All of the above are part of a pattern interruption process, but if you need more somatic exercises to get you out of your head and into your body try a 3-minute stretch, especially heart-openers on a bolster or cushion. Or you could try pranayama or other types of deep breathing for 3 minutes.
- Other practical tools can be pre-determined. You may find it easier to set guidelines around healthy eating and avoid making decisions when you are hungry. Make sure you are hydrated or if you need to keep it simple just stick to 3 square meals at the same time every day and no snacking in between.
We hope this gives you an explanation as to why you could be experiencing changes in your eating habits and hopefully you find the suggested tools helpful.
If you are interesting in more tips and tools during this difficult time, please let us know!