Emotional Eating and Covid

I’m a little behind on my follow-up blog; okay a lot behind.  I could blame it on Covid (partially), but it’s more about me learning this new program.  I am guessing that we are all learning a bit more about how to navigate our “new normal”.  Covid has impacted everyone’s lives on some level.  Most are dealing with heightened anxiety, financial uncertainty, changes in job and/or home life routines, grief, and loss.  How are you coping?  For some, this crisis is activating or increasing maladaptive coping, including emotional or compulsive eating.

Get rid of the shame or negative self-talk. Food works on multiple levels to help us feel better.  Some foods raises our neurotransmitter levels (feel good chemicals like serotonin or dopamine).  So we are literally self-medicating with food to lift our mood.  Eating is pleasurable and it can distract us from the unpleasant things we are worrying about.  Most people are in their homes more, thus, exposure to food, boredom, lack of structure – all of these things can set the stage to eat or overeat.  If you are watching more TV or Netflix, pairing eating with watching is like a double martini – relaxing… but you are going to overdo it!

What to do instead?  If you are anxious, stressed, or overwhelmed start with your breath. Anxiety activates your Sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight response) and releases adrenaline and cortisol.  Cortisol increases carbohydrate cravings. So stop, breathe, reflect.  Take a deep breath in and slowly release, try 4 seconds in and 6 seconds out.  Diaphragmatic breathing will activate your Parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response) via the vegas nerve. When your body and mind are relaxed you are better able to utilize new coping mechanisms instead of reverting back to old habits. Keep an awareness journal of what your triggers are to non-hunger eating.  This is the beginning of changing your relationship with food and finding alternatives to take its place.