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Stress eating at home during the pandemic? Here are 8 things you must do to end stress eating for good.

I’ve got an electronic scale in my bathroom. It’s right next to the wood wastebasket used for tossing in used makeup, tissue and other throw-away stuff. Sometimes it's tempting to throw my scale in the trash, too.

It’s so frustrating (and to be honest, depressing) when the weight sneaks back on, which it does.

With the COVID-19 and being at home, working and taking care of my two boys and their schoolwork, I’m eating more. And, most often, it's comfort food. Little good-tasting snacks here and there. It’s a stressing time. Right? 

It’s called “stress eating.”

When I was going to work before the pandemic I could put on some weight, but take it off with a modified diet that reduced the calorie intake along with some pretty vigorous exercise 5 times a week. In a couple of weeks or less I would be back to a pretty good shape.

Now, it is more of a struggle. And that’s a depressing thought. And it’s not fair. I work hard to keep my weight down so I look and feel good, and stay healthy.

So, what can a 35-year-old woman do?

Here a list of 8 tips that have worked for me.

1. Identify The Conditions That Contribute To Stress Eating

Physical and mental. Am I bored? If so, what can I do to understand why I’m bored and what can I do be engaged throughout the day? Boredom can be a crusher for weight. Restless energy is another condition that affects me, and my weight. If I can keep busy mentally and physically and not get restless then my eating is more natural, and the weight is lost – or not gained at all.

2. Plan Your Meals

What is meal planning? It’s whatever way you organize yourself to cook a meal, whether that’s breakfast, lunch, or dinner. It is the plan you make before you shop. Planning is a very helpful strategy for facing being-at-home overeating and boredom. Having a daily plan that covers the phases of the day gives me a sense of being in charge or control of myself. This, of course, includes meal plans.

3. Make Sure You Are Eating Enough

You do not need to reduce the amount you are eating just because you are now quarantined at home. Dietary restriction often backfires leading to emotional eating, binge eating, and the opposite of what’s intended—weight gain. By eating enough regularly throughout the day you will reduce episodes of stress or unplanned eating. You will also likely help stabilize your blood sugar and regulate your mood. Aim to eat 5-6 times a day at a minimum (breakfast, snack, lunch, snack, dinner, snack).

4. Practice Mindful Eating

To quote the great Victor Frankl: “Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”

That's what purposeful eating is all about.  It's a practice that’s gaining popularity as a concept to govern eating impulses. I get eating impulses, and I’ve worked mentally on myself for “purposeful eating” which gives me a sense of will power of deliberateness, then I find it easier to ignore those impulses.

5. Develop A Sleep Routine And Stick To It

Getting a good night’s sleep is very helpful, I’ve found. And this, of course, deserves its own blog. However, whatever you can do to get a restful night’s sleep can start you off on a good day of weight management.

6. Expand Your Coping Strategies

If eating has been your only coping strategy, it is good to add new tools to your toolbox. Consider other activities (such as journaling, painting, calling or texting a friend, going for a walk, doing a guided meditation, or taking a bath) that can soothe, distract, or discharge some nervous energy. These will be unique to you.

7. Resist the Urge to Compensate

You may feel the need to restrict or engage in other compensatory behaviors in order to try to mitigate the impact of your eating. Don’t! These behaviors only perpetuate a cycle of disordered or binge eating.

You also don’t need to increase your exercise to make up for being more sedentary now. Even if others around you are talking about their diets or increasing their exercise, you do not need to. Let your body regulate itself.

8. Practice Self-Care

Finally, now, more than ever is a time to try to protect your mental well-being. Take this time to slow down and rest. Try to nourish yourself, get enough sleep, and be gentle with yourself.  Make sure you stay in contact with friends, family, colleagues, and coworkers. Fortunately, with phones and the internet, there are many options available.

About Author: Andrea Fiore
I live in Sacramento, California, but grew up in Colorado. These days, I work from home because of COVID-19, doing accounting for several small businesses and blogging in between. I have two teenage sons, ages 13 and 15. I write this blog, from personal experience, for women in search of simple health tips that work. I enjoy reading, yoga, walking my dog, and the occasional game of Scrabble.