As you work from home to flatten the curve and help control the spread of COVID-19, you may have come across memes and jokes on gaining weight. Probably, even laughed at few and forwarded them to your BFF and binge-eating partner in crime. Something like this:
While laughter is the best medicine, it doesn’t even qualify as a palliative when it comes to health. No, you cannot laugh away crippling health conditions, especially those related to weight, considering that they come with an unhealthy dose of social stigma, too. To that end, a little mindfulness is important.
An unfamiliar routine (hello, fudged up sleep cycles!), your well-stocked pantry and the general stress that is proving to be almost as detrimental as the virus itself – not to mention hours of boredom – can all coax you into reaching for that fat piece of cake you baked on Sunday lying invitingly in an air tight dabba on your work desk. But it’s also the recipe for disaster, when it comes to your health. Overeating can have long lasting impact on your body, such as obesity, excess burden on organs, and low self esteem. This comes as a new challenge in our present condition of home quarantine, where food is the only luxury and there’s almost no way to burn those calories, what with gyms, parks and even your building’s parking lot area out of bounds, thanks to social distancing.
But the urge to binge or treat yourself to an indulgent, greasy breakfast has become commonplace, as we can see clearly from our social media feeds, which are inundated with food, food and more food! Surely people aren’t throwing away those fluffy banana breads and scrumptious looking Dalgona coffees after taking a pic.
So, how does one stop? Experts we reached out to with the concern of overeating (and cooking) during the lockdown came back with sensible steps to help navigate through this new normal.
Plan your meals
Unnati Jhaveri, a certified holistic nutritionist and founder of Clay Consulting, a Canada-based consulting firm, suggests that sticking to your meal schedule as it was before the lockdown is important. “Create a plan comprising nutrient-dense foods as this will help you avoid overeating. That clubbed with portion control helps lay the foundation for balanced eating,” she shares, adding that eating meals in a haphazard manner will lead to eating mindlessly throughout the day or going without food for hours and then, overeating to compensate.
“When setting up a schedule, remember to plan smaller, lighter but frequent meals. Don’t keep your body hungry for long,” she recommends.
Make healthier choices
“With so much happening around us, it is natural for people to want to reach for foods that are low in nutrition and high in comfort, like, wafers, biscuit and ice cream to deal with their emotions,” empathises Zamrud Patel, dietitian at the Global Hospital in Parel (Mumbai). Rather than grabbing onto snacks from the pantry or refrigerator randomly, Patel stresses on watching what you eat and make strategic choices that support your immune system and metabolism. “Swap the junk with healthy options such as chana chaat, corn chaat, roasted chivda, dates and fruits,” he suggests.
Patel also recommends that you opt for choose protein-rich foods, such as lentils and sprouts over those that are rich in carbohydrates.
What’s on your plate?
Even so, it becomes hard not to binge while working, watching movies or TV series on your laptop or even while cooking! Recognising this, Jhaveri advises that you take out time for all your meals and treat them as singular activities, focusing entirely on the food.. “Chewing your food before swallowing aids in digestion and focusing on it can decrease the tendency to overeat,” she explains. So, remember to switch off your gadget and enjoy what’s on the plate.
Explaining the connection between drinking water and overeating, Jhaveri says, “When your body doesn’t get enough water, it tricks your brain into thinking that you are hungry, when you’re in fact, thirsty.” Keep a water bottle handy and sip on it throughout the day. This way, you won’t just avoid overeating, but also experience better energy levels. This is important, because good energy levels foster better moods and as many of us may have already realised from experience, overeating can be catalyzed by a host of behavioural triggers.
Physical versus Emotional Hunger
Echoing this, Jhaveri says that in many cases, and especially when you’re overworked, stressed or bored, you end up eating more than regular. “Overeating reflects one’s state of mind. “Delve deeper and try to understand the difference between emotional and physical hunger,” she suggests. How to differentiate between the two? Physical hunger can manifest itself in the form of a growling stomach, lack of energy, or headaches. Whereas, emotional hunger can be triggered by sadness, loneliness, stress or boredom.
Pay attention to the signs to avoid giving in to emotional hunger. Or, deal with it differently. “Watch your favourite movie, play with the kids, revisit old albums or call up trusted buddies, instead,” Patel suggests, adding that exercise is an important part of this formula, too.
Fit in at-home workouts
Like Patel, Jhaveri prescribes a light workout regime at home as well, like walking to cover at least 100 steps. Incorporate light stretching, spot jogging or other strength-and-core building exercises that also help in building immunity. Or, follow Patel’s advice, and pursue home chores, like cleaning, brooming and mopping more arduously, and you’re good to go!