Emotional eating is taking on a whole new meaning during this Pandemic.

Some people are finding that stress is decreasing their appetite and interest in food. Other people are using food to self-soothe as they are overcome with anxiety, stress, boredom or …fill in the blank! Whatever you are feeling, please know that it is perfectly normal. The stress of this quarantine is causing so many people to be confused about their relationship with food and their bodies. If you notice yourself focusing on your body more, just remember that your body is trying its best to keep you safe. Today I wanted to provide you with quick tips to help you manage emotional eating and body image concerns. Please remember, if you are struggling, know that your health is important to me. At Erica Leon Nutrition, we are here for you and are providing virtual appointments for both individual as well as group programs. Please contact us to set up an appointment to discuss how we can best support you or a loved one.

Quick Tips to Manage Emotional Eating and Body Image Worries During this Pandemic

manage emotional eating and body image worriesQuick Tip #1: Eat Regular Meals and Snacks

This sounds so simple, I know! Eat regularly. Eating regularly means trying to eat at 3-4-hour intervals and not skipping meals or snacks.

This is the key to keeping your blood sugar stable and allowing you to be clear-headed as you go through your challenging day. For many, it’s not always so easy.

Many of my clients report not wanting to actually go into the kitchen for fear they will eat too much! Others are telling me they just have no appetite and don’t want to eat at all.

Regardless of your personal situation, trust me…if you train your body to anticipate food throughout the day, you will start to notice being hungry during the day.

Hunger is just our body’s natural signal to eat. Our bodies are wise – but it is our job to listen to them.

Eating consistently is also a great way to build structure into an otherwise unstructured day. And when a person doesn’t eat on a regular basis, they are more likely to overeat or binge eat when they do get their hands on food!

  1. I always recommend trying to eat within a few hours of waking, as your body has just gone through an overnight fast and needs fuel to start its engine. The components of a balanced meal are proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Mixed meals tend to keep our blood sugars more stable, and help us avoid getting “hangry” – not an ideal situation for handling whatever stressors come your way.
  2. If you are struggling with knowing what to eat, or if you are planning your meals to be most efficient with social distancing, I have some examples of “regular” balanced meals and snacks in this article of meal plan ideas.
  3. If you would like to listen to a video of this quick tip, here is a link to view the video.
Quick Tip#2: Be Kind to Your Body – It is Yours to Nourish and Take Care of!

During times of stress, it is often easier to blame our bodies for any negative feelings we may be having.

Listening to people talk excessively about not gaining weight, and staying motivated to exercise can create even more pressure to conform to a certain ideal – the thin ideal.

Getting caught up in worries about weight change while quarantined just demonstrates the incredible power of diet culture.

However, you have the ability to directly impact your health by changing the way you think. Positive body affirmations and a lot of self-care can help you shift the way you view yourself and your body to reprogram your mind towards self‐acceptance and contentment rather than habitual self‐criticism.

  1. Instead of waking up with the thought of “changing my body,” how about thinking, “How best can I support my body today with kindness?” This might include movement, or it might be rest.
  2. Feed yourself regularly (as described in Tip#1) because this is an act of kindness and self-care for your body.
  3. Wear clothes that are comfortable and that make you feel good about your body. This feels very important with so many of us working at home for the first time. Work with your body, not against it.
  4. Shut down those negative voices that say your body is not “right.” Work to overcome those negative thoughts with positive ones by making a list of affirmations:
    • I love and respect myself.
    • I choose health and healing over diets and punishing myself.
    • There is more to life than losing weight. I’m ready to experience it.
    • I am perfect, whole, and complete just as I am.
    • Life is too short and precious to waste time obsessing about my body.
    • Or, add your own affirmation:_________________________.
Quick Tip #3: Find Satisfying Meals and Snacks in the First Place!

Can you remember having a craving or a desire to eat something and thinking to yourself, “I can’t eat that because…” – it’s too many calories, or nah, it’s not that good for me, or any number of OTHER reasons?

We most likely have all said this to ourselves at one point or another because we are still led to believe that certain foods are inherently “bad” for you.

Here’s the thing…once you tell yourself you can’t have something, do you notice that you only want it that much more?

It’s human nature to focus on the one thing you are not allowed to have – we all have a rebellious streak! A better way of managing your stress and emotional eating is to try and find foods that feel satisfying to you in the first place!

For example, noticing how you might feel after eating a sandwich versus a salad. Or having a few pieces of chocolate instead of trying to have a “healthier version” only to find yourself having that chocolate anyway AFTER you have eaten a belly full!

  1. Instead of fighting satisfaction, learn to embrace it. This is an important principle of intuitive eating. When you choose foods that are tasty and that fill you up, your desire to eat emotionally diminishes.
  2. Giving yourself unconditional permission to eat any and all foods will help you feel more in charge of your food choices, which will help you feel better in your body.
  3. Here is a video describing this quick tip and a funny story of how one of my clients realized she was better off to “have those Oreo cookies in her house“ during this pandemic. Click here to watch the video.
I hope these tips help you manage your emotional eating and the added stress we are all feeling while sheltering at home. And if you are stressed, please know that you are not alone. This is one of the most challenging periods of our lifetimes, I know – I live in New York, the epicenter of this pandemic and the pressure we are all feeling right now is real. There are people everywhere feeling like you are; worried about family, money, school, our jobs, the future. On top of all of this, we have the added pressure of being home all the time – close to our fridge, close to the food. Emotional eating and stress are at an all-time high for many people these days. If you are looking for some help to get through this challenging time, I have a new group starting in May, and I am so excited because this is my small group program that has helped many women. There are still some spots open in this program, so if you are a woman who is looking for help dealing with their emotions and stress eating and who wants to stop living a life of being on diets and restricting food, reach out. I am looking for women who want to make changes that last forever and learn the steps to live your life from a place of self-acceptance and compassion when it comes to food and your body image.  I would love to be the person who helps you make this change so you can get through this pandemic and come out on the other side having made peace with food and your body. And yes, you can do this during a pandemic, often with help from a registered dietitian and body image specialist, but it is possible. Please contact us if you want more information. We can have a quick chat and I will share more on what this group can do to help you. When you are recovering from chaotic or disordered eating or eating disorders, planning for your success is critical to your recovery. Flexible meal planning, as well as experimentation with different meals and snacks, is one of the top methods my clients work on to heal and recover; learning to view food as a path to nourishment, pleasure, and connection rather than one of stress! If you would like to explore how you can make that happen, click here to schedule a 15-minute Discovery Call with Erica to let us know about your needs, and to see if one of our Dietitians is the best fit to help you. Warmly,

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Erica Leon Nutrition & Associates is a group practice of Registered Dietitian Nutritionists specializing in Eating Disorders, Intuitive Eating, Sports Nutrition, Teen Nutrition, Family Feeding Concerns, and Weight Inclusive Medical Nutrition Therapy. We work virtually with our clients from our offices in Westchester County in New York as well as the tri-state areas of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, along with Florida, California, Wisconsin, Iowa, Texas, and Vermont.