Have you noticed a change in your appetite these past weeks? Are you making more trips to the fridge or just not feeling hungry at all? It is time for a post on the effects of boredom anxiety and loneliness on appetite. Everyone reacts differently to these sensations.
Emotional eating is triggered by feelings and it has little to do with actual hunger. Eating to feel temporarily better or not eating out of anxiety is something we need to talk about during these crazy times. There are many who suddenly have fallen into this new reality and find themselves feeling out of control with food.
What is emotional eating?
Emotional eating is using food to make yourself feel better, not to feel your stomach. It usually brings only a short relief because the original issue is still there after finishing the bag of chips. Afterwards you usually feel worse than before, feeling guilty about the amount of calories you ingested and often also physically not well.
Common causes of emotional eating
Stress and anxiety can trigger cravings for salty, sweet and fried foods. Consuming these foods releases dopamine in your system, they give you a burst of energy and make you feel good, even if it’s for a short time.
Caffeine, alcohol and processed sugar can enhance the feelings of anxiety.
Stuffing down food can symbolize stuffing down unwanted emotions like anxiety, fear, loneliness, sadness, resentment and anger. All these emotions we can encounter during uncertain times.
Being bored and feeling lonely is something many of us can be feeling right now. Eating can momentarily fill you up and it can distract you from the moment. Time passes while creating your meal and eating it.
There are more reasons that can trigger emotional eating like childhood habits and social influences but today I want to keep it focused on emotional eating due to anxiety, boredom and loneliness.
Eating out of boredom, anxiety and/or loneliness
Feelings of boredom, loneliness and anxiety are magnified these days. Many at this point are stuck at home, either alone or with the whole family. This brings a whole new reality and has can have major effects on our eating patterns.
Food is something we nourish ourselves with so it makes sense we turn to it in lack of personal interaction.
Food sounds like a good plan if you want to kill some time or want to feel less lonely. In the end, we don’t feel better, we feel worse. Overeating out of loneliness or stress is something familiar to many of us. Due to the situation around us this point in time even more people encounter these feelings which can result in emotional eating.
Have you been eating led by emotions?
- Have you noticed that you have been eating more because of stress and uncertainty?
- Eating when not hungry or already full?
- Are you bored or feeling lonely and grabbing food to distract yourself?
- Does food give you a sense of calm and security?
- Does food control you, your thoughts and behavior?
Even now it is possible to make positive changes and stop being bossed around by your cravings. There is no need to come out of this situation feeling worse, unhealthy and weighing more than before.
The difference between emotional and physical hunger
To complete this list, physical hunger starts in the stomach and you feel it in the back of the throat. Emotional hunger has to do with feelings and your mind, not with hunger.
Loss off appetite due to anxiety
Anxiety is not the only reason for a loss of appetite but if you are experiencing it recently due to these huge changes in our daily lives there is a big chance it is.
Men and women react differently to anxiety in terms of their food choices and amounts they consume. There is a difference between long and short term anxiety as is between feeling mild and high levels of fear and stress. Some react by losing their appetite, others eat more and crave unhealthy foods. Stress hormones can effect the digestive system and may lead to suppression of appetite.
If you experience a loss of appetite try to choose the most nutrient dense foods possible when you do eat to make sure you get enough vitamins and nutrients in. Vegetable rich soups and smoothies are easy to digest and can deliver a lot of nutrition.
You can support your body by trying to eat regular small meals or even only a few bites every two hours. This can help the body and brain to regulate hunger cues and appetite.
When you are anxious, it can be difficult to exercise or to sleep. However, both sleep and physical activity can reduce anxiety and increase appetite.
I also have a list of of the best immune system boosting foods and herbs which can come handy in times we need to up our health game.
How to resolve feelings without food?
Emotions and cravings don’t listen to sound advice. Managing the emotions without using food as an option is needed to get control over uncontrolled eating habits. We need alternatives for emotional fulfillment.
You have more control over cravings than you think.
Creative self expression is something that is used more and more as a treatment for conditions like anxiety and loneliness. This of course would also be a good solution when bored. Creative self expression can be anything from dancing, cooking, painting, knitting, making music, writing and gardening.
Reach out to someone, this can be a human or an animal friend. I love to text with positive, like minded people or watch something funny or interesting to cheer me up if needed. If you are not alone at home and find yourself spending more time with your kids or spouse, try to see how special once in a lifetime situation this is. Time to connect.
Moving your body releases nervous energy stored in tissue and creates some happy hormones in return. Think of dancing, jumping on a trampoline, talking a walk outside or doing an at home yoga practice or HITT workout while listening to your favorite happy tunes. Regular physical activity can increase your endorphins, dopamine and serotonin levels, making it a great option to boost your happy hormones.
When feeling empty and tired a cup of tea, a bath, journaling or going to bed early can do miracles.
Distract yourself with jobs you have been wanting to do for and never took the time. Make a to-do list of jobs around the house, de-cluttering, gardening, organizing, painting etc.
Something fun or different is the best distraction from boredom, to get yourself out of the funk.
Foods to reduce anxiety and to boost your mood
Try to add at least a few of these foods to your daily diet.
- Brazil nuts are high in selenium and may improve mood and anxiety. Two brazil nuts per day are more than enough, too much selenium is not a good thing.
- Nuts are rich in vitamin E, an antioxidant that has been beneficial for treating anxiety.
- Omega 3 fatty acids from flax seeds, walnuts and chia seeds
- Vitamin D deficiency is linked to anxiety and depression
- Tryptophan rich foods like nuts and seeds, minimally processed soy foods, uncooked oats, beans and lentils help in creating serotonin, a neurotransmitter that is needed for good mood, sleep, memory and to relieve anxiety
- Potassium rich foods like pumpkin seeds and bananas can reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress
- Dark chocolate ( 80% and more ) is a great source of flavonoids, tryptophan and magnesium and can reduce stress and anxiety
- Turmeric, or the active ingredient curcumin found in turmeric may lower anxiety by reducing inflammation
- Chamomile tea is a herbal remedy and can reduce anxiety symptoms
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh and miso is beneficial for a healthy gut and can reduce anxiety.
- Green tea and matcha contain theanine which reduces anxiety and can increase the production of the happy hormones serotonin and dopamine.
Give yourself 5 minutes, breath and seize the opportunity to choose different.
Emotional eating is almost automatic. If you can insert 5 minutes or even just 1 minute between the craving and the action you give yourself time to make another choice.
And if after the 5 minutes you still want what you wanted, may be try to take a portion of it, like on bowl instead of the whole bag. The chances are also high that you have changed your mind.
If you can figure out which emotion or situation caused this craving you are on the path of solving this problem.
Sometimes we need to feel the feelings, recognize them and consciously choose another option. Uncomfortable emotions can be hard to deal with. Often they seem more challenging if we try to suppress them instead of feeling them and let their power weaken.
When you do choose to give into the craving try to enjoy it!
Slow down and savor every bite, you might as well. If you are eating consciously you will stop sooner and you actually taste what you eat. Focus on the food and don’t do something else at the same time.
Meal planning can be more challenging these days. We may not be able to buy the foods we used to eat, the snacks we love or the fresh produce we need when going to the grocery store. This alone can trigger fear.
Deprivation can lead to bingeing. It is better to allow yourself to eat what you crave now and then to prevent yourself from going overboard.
Try not to have too much comfort foods in the house. Out of sight is out of mind.
Keep in mind to be gentle with yourself. These are unprecedented times and sometimes that can mean giving into temptation. Don’t beat yourself up if this happens.
Feel the trigger, stop and choose again.
This sounds easier than it is but with practice it will get easier and come naturally.
Stay strong and take care,