Social isolation and quarantine are words that we all have recently become accustomed to being used around us, and with good reason: the world is going through a pandemic that will change it forever. The thought of that can be stressful, and that coupled with boredom, can lead to binge-eating and unnecessary snacking. It’s a term that Zoha Matin, ace nutritionist, refers to as “emotional eating.” According to her, it’s “when food is used to soothe negative emotions like isolation, boredom or anxiety.” While it’s okay to eat the occasional junk food, it’s important not to mindlessly munch on it and instead, to eat nutritious meals that will boost our immunity. Scroll down to read Zoha’s tips on how to achieve that and prevent over-eating:
1. Set A Structure
Having a routine to work around is good for many things, not just mindful eating. But having a set time to eat meals is something Zoha advises not just for you, but also for your family considering most of us are at home with them during this time. Having a set time for meals can allow them to be something to look forward to and prevent one from needlessly eating between them. Schedule it out on your phone and remember – don’t skip breakfast!
2. Pay Attention To The Food You Eat
Mindful eating isn’t just about making sure you replace the junk with the nutritious alternative, but also about really concentrating on the way you eat your food. Zoha advises to “eat mindfully, at a slow pace and chew food very well before swallowing. This promotes better digestion and absorption of nutrients, plus it helps you realise when you’re full!” It’s important to understand your body and know when to stop eating and as Zoha says, it’s okay to not finish everything on your plate. Instead, put it in the refrigerator and save it for later.
3. Make Sure You Eat Meals That Fill You Up
The most obvious thing you can do to avoid snacking is to make sure that your main meals keep you full for long enough so that you aren’t tempted to snack in between them. Zoha says to “make sure you have a source of protein at every meal, and lots of vegetables and healthy whole grains at lunch and dinner. These are high in their fibre content and will keep you satiated for longer.”
4.Prepare Your Healthy Snacks From Before
It’s easier to eat something when it’s in front of you so prep your healthy snacks beforehand! Zoha suggests “single servings of cut up fruit, yogurt, nuts, hummus, carrot stick and cucumber sticks” and to place them front and centre in your fridge. This way you’re more likely to reach for them!
5. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
Having a good sleep routine in place is essential for so many of our bodies regulatory functions, including digestion. “Adequate sleep helps control hunger hormones, and being well-rested helps you to better resist calorie-rich foods like chips and sweets that your body may crave to boost energy levels when you’re groggy from a lack of sleep.”
6. Don’t Eat Junk Straight From The Packet
If you do want to indulge in the occasional unhealthy snack, avoid eating straight from the packet. As Zoha warns, it’s very easy to get to the bottom of an ice cream tub or a packet of chips. Instead, you should practice portion control by taking it out for yourself in a bowl beforehand. “Keep limited quantities of junk food at home and if you have them, a good idea is to portion them out beforehand into single servings in small glass or Tupperware containers. Consume just 1 serving at a time as a snack.”
7. Drink Lots Of Fluids
Hydration is important in general, but drinking water and tea in between your meals can help put other cravings at bay. Sometimes you might not be hungry, but thirsty instead. It also helps to drink a sweetened green tea if you’re craving a sweet drink, instead of something artificial such as a juice pack or soft drink.
Exercise releases endorphins which can help reduce stress and make you avoid stress eating. Zoha says, “Regular exercise is also proven to boost your immunity- specifically your body’s ability to detect and fight against infections,” and is an extremely beneficial habit to add into your routine right now. “Your daily exercise can be as simple as walking 45 mins or 10,000 steps a day in your garden, roof, or inside your home. You can use the in-built step-counter on your phone, or download a free app to count your steps. For a more advanced workout, try using fitness apps, websites or even youtube work out videos that are easily accessible and totally free!”
9. Distract Yourself
Most of the times when we want to snack on something, it’s not because we are hungry, but because we are bored. Being stuck at home in quarantine can increase that feeling, but instead of reaching for that chocolate bar, it is much healthier for your mind and body to distract yourself with another activity. Zoha advises to write a list of activities that engage your mind. “The list can include calling a friend, playing a game on your phone, watching your favourite show, reading a book, listening to a podcast, or anything that will keep your mind actively engaged. When a craving for an unhealthy treat hits, quickly pull out your list and do one of the activities to distract yourself.”