Overeating During The COVID-19 Quarantine

Empty supermarket shelves during covid-19

I’ve seen a bunch of content floating around the internet recently bemoaning the potential for weight gain during the lockdown we’re going through at the moment to isolate against COVID-19.

There are a few things I’d like to talk about.

You Might Have More Food Around

Wide selections of food availability can encourage you to eat more. Food diversity is a recognised factor in overeating. This is why so many successful dieters stick to a fairly limited range of food choices day in and day out. Avoiding having trigger foods at home right now might be a smart strategy.

Overeating calories will cause you to gain weight. So eating more calories than you need – coupled with the likelihood that you’re less active than usual because of the restriction on movement outside of the home – could mean that you’re gaining weight. 

That’s if you’re lucky enough to have food at home, and you didn’t leave the supermarket empty handed.

Mindless Eating

Mindless eating is a risk year round of eating more, not just due to the exceptional circumstances we all face at the moment. It’s a good idea to make mealtimes your sole focus – not watching TV or scrolling through your phone will you eat. 

It can help to have a set meal time, and not graze throughout the day. Consider sitting at a table, and make the meal an ‘event’ for the family during the day. Putting your utensils down while you chew can slow your eating down, so you digest more thoroughly and feel fuller. Here’s a link to more detail on how you can practice mindfulness in your mealtimes.

Food Proximity

You’re closer to your food than you would be normally – particularly if you’re working from home for the first time. Perhaps you may be dipping in and out of your fridge every time you get up from your work station and this sense of proximity can lead to snacking.

You might make healthy snacks visible and put away less optimal snacks out of sight. If possible, you could also move further away from your kitchen when you’re working. 

It’s An Emotional Time

Increased stress might lead to as much as an increase of 21% more food consumed for some people who relate to being emotional eaters

Whereas others may be skipping meals due to their emotional upset, and not realise. Then, later, they might make food choices which don’t align with their goals and values and increase their emotional state indirectly. 

You May Be Feeling Bored

Like the Grinch, you may just be eating because you’re bored. Finding a way to structure working from home, or to create a sense of purpose during your day can help. If you’re still working from home, trying to keep things as normal as possible can help. If you’re not able to work at the moment, some structure during the day can make a difference. It could be a new time to try learning a new skill or a hobby. Even getting ahead on planning meals could be a great step.

Regardless of whether you’re overeating or not, this is a difficult time for many people. You could be experiencing food shortages, or isolation from your loved ones. You are likely to have more pressing concerns at the moment than a few extra calories. Remember, you’re only ever one choice away from being back on track. If I can help you with your focus, you can book a call today and we can have a chat at a time that works for you.

Nutrition Challenge: I’ve Got a Sweet Tooth!

Image by Hans Braxmeier from Pixabay

Each week on a Saturday I run a diet and nutrition class in the gym I work at. Each Sunday I put up a question box on instagram stories to encourage people to make requests for the following Saturday’s topic.

People every week identify that they have a sweet tooth, and consider this a barrier to them losing weight. Of my own in-person clients, over 50% of women consider themselves to have a sweet tooth when asked in a survey.

High sugar foods alone aren’t the problem though, it’s the combination of sugar with fats which make foods super delicious and difficult to say no to. A highly engineered result we call “hyper-paletable foods”.

So, if you can’t resist the Halloween treats in the supermarket this week, or you are drawn to the snack baskets in your house – you’re not alone and you’re not to blame. These foods are manufactured to be almost impossible to resist. Pretty sneaky.

Even people who have got very healthy relationships with food have a hard time saying no to certain “trigger foods”. These are different for everyone, but they’re almost always highly processed, high sugar, high fat, high salt – and highly available.

Food manufacturers have revealed Big 5 stimuli stacking elements of foods.

  1. Calorie dense – often high in sugar, fat & salt
  2. Intense flavours – often combining flavours in ways that psychologists call “supernormal stimuli
  3. Immediately delicious – the big flavours pack and immediate punch
  4. Easy to eat – this relates to the texture and ‘mouth feel’ of foods which don’t need to be heavily chewed
  5. Melts in the mouth – these foods disappear quickly from the mouth, making it hard to eat slowly, and very easy to eat more than you intended to. Specifically, these manufactured foods should be broken down in no more than 10 chews. Compared with around 25 chews per mouthful of whole foods.

These Big 5 components are what food manufactorers look for when designing foods for marketability and they are even more important than how foods actually taste!

Clearly, the solution to overeating these foods shouldn’t rely on willpower alone. There are some things you can do to stop overeating these hyperpaletable foods.

  • Observe as you chew how things feel and taste in your mouth. How long it takes to chew and swallow the foods, and do you feel satisfied after eating it? These things might influence whether we keep eating.
  • Pay attention to the less healthy foods that you buy and consider cutting down on the variety. By allowing yourself some ‘treats’ it can help adherence to a calorie controlled diet and by limiting your choices, that can take some of the temptation out of the picture.
  • Pay attention to the craving. This is likely to have been triggered by something – and it can help to keep a note book on your observations for a week or two to get to the bottom of what’s causing them.

Common triggers include:

Thoughts and feelings: thinking of food as a reward, or something that you’ve earned. Feeling bored, lonely or sad. Food can be something you’re using to fill the void.

Times of day: lots of my in-person clients recognise this one – so much so, that the “2pm twix” had become a running joke. These snacks are part of your routine.

Social settings: it’s my colleague’s birthday, and there are cakes in the staffroom again. It’s happy hour and I always have a bag of crisps with my pint.

Places: your parents’ house, a dark movie theatre, or the automated way you order at a familiar restaurant can all be triggers to eat without really thinking about it.

Once you’ve spotted the pattern, we can put other behaviours in place instead – behaviours which support your goals instead of sabotaging them. Then it’s a case of practicing.

You might not get it right first time – and the act of practicing can take a while, but you are able to make those changes that you want in your life.

If you’d like me to help you, fill out the form below and let’s have a chat.

The Outrageous Benefits of Eating Mindfully

Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“How soon after exercise should I consume my protein shake?”

“What percentage of my calories should come from fats?”

“What about ketones?!”

These questions come from well intentioned people who just want to lose some weight. They are – understandably – baffled by the amount of information about the “right way” to lose body fat and spend a great deal of time worrying about what they should be eating.

There’s a step you can take before changing anything in your diet.

Something that’s so monumentally simple and straight forward it almost seems not worth bothering with.

Eating slowly.

Whatever you’re having to eat, eat it slowly. Chew it thoroughly. Put your knife & fork down while you chew, and really be mindful about the flavours, textures and temperatures of your food.

Sure, there are way more complicated things you can be doing. But why start with something complex when you are able to get results with something more simple?

Slow down, pay attention, and stop when you’re no longer hungry.

This works for 2 reasons:

  1. It gives your body a chance to feel physically full.
  2. You feel psychologically more satisfied with what you’ve had and feel less deprived.

If you’re prone to digestive issues such as bloating or stomach cramps after eating, this can help some people. Physiologically, it stops you taking great big bites of food and gulping it down – because when you eat more slowly, you chew more thoroughly and that digestive process is helped along. This too has a psychological effect by making you feel sluggish or out of shape.

Eating should be a response to internal hunger cues – not because it’s a certain time of day, or Karen has brought snacks to the break room (again?! Damn it, Karen!)

Slowing down your eating can help you with your appetite awareness, helping you to tune into when you’re feeling hungry and when you’re getting full. This ability to listen to those internal cues are the start of the intuitive eating that could make up the rest of your life.

When it comes to binge eating, slowing down can help you to recognise what’s happening. It allows you to pause and catch hold of the panic which can accompany an episode. It can also allow you to become aware of the triggers that lead to binge eating, and help you to interrupt these patterns and feel more in control of your decisions.

It works even in circumstances where we might not have control over what we eat. How we eat is something that’s always in our control and doesn’t need any fancy diet foods or equipment.

Like everything, eating more slowly can be measured on a continuum.

At its most basic level, take one breath before you eat. Allow yourself to pause and savour the smells and colours of your meal. Feel gratitude for the food, and giving thanks to the people who were involved in making it is a really nice way to do this. Continue – one pause and one breath at a time.  

Try to move the needle by eating without distractions. Put your phone away, don’t eat in front of the TV and make sure you eat at a table where possible. This is an opportunity to put down your fork, take a sip of water, or speak to your dining companions if you have company.

Remember this is a practice that takes time and can be refined. Honestly, this is something that I still really struggle with. I sometimes ask whoever I’m eating with to remind me to slow down.

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