April 30, 2020

6 Ways to Deal with Food Anxiety during Isolating Times.

Check out Elephant’s Continually-updating Coronavirus Diary. ~ Waylon

During this time of hoarding and isolation, you may find that your fridge and pantry are filled to the brim with food.

If you are someone who has an incredibly stressful relationship with food, this might be freaking you out right now, as it did for me a few years back when I was recovering from multiple eating disorders.

Why might this be happening? Because you do not feel as though you can trust yourself around food. You may feel completely out of control, sure that you’re going to binge on the surplus amount of food that is stored in your home.

If you’re feeling food anxiety right now, you’re not alone.

And if you are an over-exerciser like I was, panicking when you miss a single day of working out, then you might feel like you’re completely free falling right now, trying to grab hold of whatever lifeline you can reach, but missing every time.

Because of this, I wanted to share some tips we can use to make times of home isolation and/or crisis a little less daunting.

But before I do that, please remember that you’re not alone. Validate that what you’re going through right now is hard, but you have the strength to get through this. Give yourself grace and get curious during this time, without judgement. Adopting an intuitive eating mindset is more helpful now than ever before.

But if you’re not there yet, here are some tips to help you deal in the healthiest way possible during this time of hardship:

1. Take Care of Yourself

Write down a list of at-home activities that you enjoy, and do them. That book that you’ve been dying to read that’s been sitting on your nightstand for months? Read it. That movie that you’ve wanted to watch or that TV show you just haven’t had time for? Pencil it into your schedule.

Self-care doesn’t just include massages and bubble baths. True self-care is doing things that feel good to you every day, whether that’s getting some work done, going outside and playing soccer with your kids, eating nourishing meals and snacks, exercising, or sitting on the couch for five hours with your significant other watching “The Office.”

2. Continue to Move your Body

If you are able to, get outside. Most of us are not isolated to just our households (though I understand that many are required to be homebound right now), so go for a walk while listening to that audiobook or your favorite uplifting playlist. YouTube is also an incredible resource for feel-good movement videos: yoga, pilates, HIIT, dumbbell weight-lifting, dance, boxing—you name it. This is where curiosity can come into play: is your body craving something a little more slow-paced? Do you need something more intense? Or perhaps nothing at all but silence and stillness?

If you are actively recovering from an eating disorder, though, I suggest you take this time to do gentle movements. This can look like a slow-flow yoga sequence, or walking mindfully on the sidewalk, paying attention to your feet hitting the pavement and how your breath is coinciding with your steps. Remember to be kind to yourself. If your body is tired and needs a break, let this be your time to honor that.

3. Plan Out your Day

Sit down each morning and take 10 minutes to block out work and play time during your day. Are you stuck inside right now and actually need to get work done? Use the Pomodoro method (set a timer to work for 25 minutes, then break for five minutes and repeat this process up to four times for a total of two hours). Or you can participate in a couple of power hours (15-30 minute blocks working on two to four different things for a total of one hour, completed a couple times per day).

By scheduling out your day, you’ll decrease the chances of aimlessly wandering around the kitchen, standing in front of the open fridge, or peeking into snack drawers (and, therefore, eating as a way to procrastinate).

4. Meal Plan it Out

Make a flexible meal plan, including breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, and snack, plus the times of the day that you will be eating. This is not meant to be restrictive at all, but when we have a negative relationship with food and/or our body, it can help to set times that we’re going to eat to put us more at ease. It’s also well-known that when an individual goes through prolonged periods of time not honoring their hunger cues, those cues actually become a little out of whack and inaccurate, so following a meal plan can get those natural cues back on track, whether or not you are homebound.

When making this meal plan, do not write out the amounts of food you’ll be eating, either. Yes, you want to make sure you are eating enough during each of these time periods, but setting amounts can feel restrictive. You can stick with just times you want to eat, or you can add things that sound good to have at those mealtimes during that specific day. Having a plan can also eliminate anxiety around what and when you should be eating when stuck at home, so you’re not mindlessly shoving food into your mouth as soon as you step into the kitchen.

5. Eat When you Feel Hungry

Are you starting to feel a little brain-foggy? Like you can’t focus? Is your stomach rumbling and you notice you’re becoming irritated? First and foremost, make sure you’re hydrated by drinking enough water throughout the day. Secondly, know that by not allowing yourself to eat—restricting yourself—you may stimulate a binge to happen later on. Personally, I unashamedly eat frequently throughout the day, which is something I used to feel bad about, but now know that’s what enables my body to function at its best.

It’s normal for stress-eating or over-eating to occur in uncomfortable situations. It’s also normal to use food as comfort every now and again, as long as you’re not over-consuming to the point that you feel sick. If this is something that hinders your everyday life, then yes, it may be time to reach out to someone who can help you (like me!). But if you find that you’re intermittently eating when you’re not hungry, or eating more than what your body is asking for, practice self-compassion: validate your negative feelings, allow yourself to know that you’re not alone in your struggle, and give yourself the time and space to feel better.

6. Reach Out for Support

If you find yourself in a binge-restrict cycle, constantly shaming yourself whether or not you are in times of isolation, then use this time to find a professional to talk to. Or if you find yourself feeling panicky about food, exercise, or your body at this time, know that there is help out there.

It’s also important to stress that during times of isolation, connecting with other people and reaching out to our support system are so helpful, now more than ever. Set aside some time during your day to reach out to friends and family via FaceTime, phone call, text message, email, or whatever method of communication works best for you.

It is understandable to feel anxious, uncertain, and fearful during times of crisis and isolation. And when you’re recovering from an eating disorder or trying to find a healthier relationship with food, your body, and exercise, being stuck inside surrounded by more food than you’re used to, without the escape of being able to spend time with others in person, go to the gym, or participate in other activities, may feel incredibly difficult for you. Show yourself the utmost kindness right now.

This time will pass and you’ll come out on the other end stronger than you were before.


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