We are definitely living during a unique time in history. Something that children will read about in history books and memories that pin-point us directly back to this time when someone mentions “COVID-19” or “Shelter in place.” Most of us are no strangers to stress, anxiety, depression, and boredom, but are now at an all-time high. Especially in recovery, we need to be diligent with how we are managing our stress and/or boredom.
Our routines are completely thrown off. People who have had a structured 9-5 job are now finding themselves at home full-time, kids are usually in school and involved in extra-curricular activities and are now home, recovering addicts are unable to get to their regular recovery meetings, and parents who have shared custody of their kids are unable to see them face-to-face as regularly right now. Everyone is affected. What we do to cope is very important in how we will make it through this.
Diet plays an important role. Emotional eating is the action of eating in response to our feelings or emotions rather than physical hunger or the need for dietary nourishment. It leads to eating more than usual or eating foods you wouldn’t normally eat. Emotional eating can be triggered from stress, anxiety, and boredom. It can also be a way to distract us from a feeling(s) we are trying to avoid, which is usually why addicts drink or do drugs in the first place. Do you find yourself smoking more cigarettes than normal? Drinking more energy drinks than your standard? Eating out of boredom?
How can you tell if you’re emotionally eating?
- Emotional hunger usually comes on suddenly, whereas physical hunger tends to be more gradual. Ask yourself when the last time you ate? If it was more than several hours ago, you probably need to eat. However, if you ate a well-balance meal within the last hour, you’re probably fine to go without food until your next meal.
- Emotional eating does not satisfy our ‘hunger craving’ for long because we’re not addressing what we’re really hungry for. If you’re anxious, how are you calming yourself? If you’re bored, what are you doing to entertain yourself? To truly satisfy emotional hunger, we need to identify the underlying negative emotions we’re feeling in these areas – and satisfy them. Reach out to a friend or your sponsor to talk or journal how you’re feeling.
- Physical hunger is felt in the stomach, not emotional eating. You hear an audible grumbling and physically feel gnawing for food when you’re truly hungry.
What are strategies to help combat eating emotionally?
- Stay hydrated! Most of us are more dehydrated than we realize. Energy drinks are not a proper choice with the added sugars and artificial flavorings. Drink a tall glass of water instead. Don’t like water? Add some lemon or cucumber for flavor.
- Check your food environment. Notice if you keep sweets and unhealthy snacks visible on the counter. Make a choice to tuck those items out-of-sight (or stop buying them all together). Instead, keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the counter and consider having quick and ready grab-and-go snacks available. Such as, carrots, celery, fruit, and nuts to help make healthier choices when hunger truly does strike.
- Practice mindful eating. Begin to notice how present (or not) you are while eating. It is common to eat quickly and unconsciously while watching tv. Practice mindfully chewing your food, savoring each bite, and choosing to be present, which will aid in healthier digestion. Slowly, steadily, and savoring your food leads to feeling more satisfied after your meal.
- Go for a walk! Change your perspective and get outside. Usually a brisk walk will aid in a healthy activity that will minimize the option to emotionally eat. Take in God’s creation, breathe deep, and enjoy new surroundings.
- Be patient with yourself. Changing habits in one day is not achievable for most people, but staying aware and being compassionate with yourself will encourage you to keep trying. No guilt, no shame, no judgment. Just take one day at a time.
Making small, conscious, and healthy choices everyday (sometimes every hour or minute) can make a great impact on how we feel. Considering slowly implementing the strategies to help redirect habits and keep yourself feeling healthy and well-balanced. For you can do anything through Christ, who gives you strength! Philippians 4:13