Overeating During Quarantine?

Here’s why and what to do instead.

This week 6 of quarantine, here in Los Angeles, and most of the United States. I’ve been seeing the memes circulating of us emerging this time with the “Quarantine 15” due to all of the overeating and lack of activity. I’ve heard from friends, family and clients that they have been mindlessly snacking and even binging on certain foods. And I have experienced it, too, even with all of the years of health coaching, nutrition training and mindset techniques.

This is hard. A lot more so for some than others. I’ve been doing my best to think of the people out working, on the front lines, out of work and losing loved ones, before I go down any kind of “poor me” spiral. But, collectively it is stressful. Stress adds up and when we don’t have enough healthy strategies in place to deal with it, we wind up with a whole lot of self sabotaging behavior. One of them is mindlessly snacking and at it’s worst, binging on unhealthy foods.

Are you overeating during quarantine? I made the video below to describe why and what to do instead.

There are many reasons why we overeat and mindlessly snack. In the video, I’ve highlighted just a few:

If you’re craving processed carbohydrates like; bread, pasta, pretzels, cereal, crackers, chips, etc, or sugary treats, it’s because they all turn into sugar immediately when ingested. Sugar increases dopamine levels and lights up our pleasure and rewards centers in the brain.

Sugar is not the only stimulus that does this, so does sex, cocaine, tobacco and morphine. The surge is not as high as with drugs, but the more sugar you eat the more your body tolerates it, and the more you need to eat to feel the same high. That’s where sugar, and foods that turn into sugar, can be addictive. When craving sweet foods, start with fresh fruit combined with a healthy fat, like apples and almond butter or berries and nuts.

If you crave a mixture of salty, sweet, and fat, think salted caramel ice cream or chocolate covered pretzels and even McDonald’s French Fries (yes, there’s sugar in them!), you have just entered the danger zone. In David Kessler’s book, The End of Overeating, he describes how food manufacturers design food to become addictive. One of their tricks is to make sure a food has 3 flavor profiles at once: salty, sweet and fat. They design foods that have sugar, salt and fat, so we literally can’t put them down.

Try sticking to 1 or the most 2 flavor profiles when choosing a snack. Also, building your own snacks from whole foods is going to be a safer option because naturally occurring sugar in foods like fruit, does not have the same affect on the brain as added, processed sugars.

If you find yourself mindlessly snacking on crunchy foods like chips, pretzels, and nutritionally lacking snacks, it may be because you’re bored or really stressed. The crunching may help relieve tension that you are holding in your jaw and the chewing may feel good in the moment. If this is the case, have crunchy fresh vegetables on hand like celery and carrots which will fill your belly with fiber without a ton of calories. If you’re bored, go learn something online or get outside for a walk. If you’re stressed, try my 8 step moving meditation before heading to the pantry.

What are some of the foods that you are mindlessly snacking on or overeating while in quarantine? Let me know below and let’s come up with some healthier alternatives.