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Don’t let pandemic-induced emotions sabotage your diet. Follow these tips.

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Are you eating more than usual since the pandemic began? Or turning to not-so-good-for-you comfort food instead of your usual healthy food choices? If so, you’re not alone. Finding consolation in food during difficult times is how some people try to cope with stress and other emotions. In fact, it is estimated that 40% of people increase their caloric intake when experiencing stressful situations, such as the one we are dealing with right now.

But while enjoying a nostalgic ice cream cone or a bowl of buttery popcorn on occasion won’t have a huge effect on your health, allowing emotional eating triggers to dictate what and how much you eat on a frequent basis can lead to health issues, including obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Here are four ways to help get your pandemic-induced eating habits under control:

  1. Avoid distracted eating. Whether you munch while watching your favorite TV series, texting with a friend or completing a long work-from-home assignment, mindless eating can sabotage your healthy diet. People who eat while distracted tend to consume 10% more calories than those who focus on what they are putting into their mouths. So turn off the TV, put down your phone and enjoy your meals at the dinner table with limited distractions.
  2. Move temptation out of sight. You may insist that you won’t eat the whole box of cookies you impulse-bought at the grocery store. But if they’re in plain sight when hunger strikes, temptation may make it too difficult to choose a balanced snack instead of that sugary treat. While there’s nothing wrong with enjoying an occasional splurge, keeping indulgences out of sight may help you avoid overeating or making poor food choices driven by emotion. Keep a bowl filled with fruit or other healthy snacks on your kitchen table or countertop instead.
  3. Pay attention to triggers. Do you grab a cookie when you get bored? Are you reaching for the chips when you feel sad or stressed? Knowing which emotions trigger overeating can help you be more proactive in managing your eating habits. If you tend to turn to food when a certain feeling arises, being ready with another way to cope with your emotions that doesn’t involve food may help. Going for a walk or calling a friend is a healthier solution than downing a bowl of ice cream when you’re sad, stressed or annoyed.
  4. Prioritize sleep. Hormones that play a role in feeling satisfied when you eat can be negatively affected if you don’t get enough sleep. Therefore, if you aren’t getting in some quality zzz’s, you may feel the need to eat when your body doesn’t truly need the additional nutrition. Practicing good sleep habits at night may help you make better food choices during the day.

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Date Last Reviewed: September 21, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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