When I recently heard my roommate say he had the Quarantine 15 I was like, “What the hell is that and is that a thing?!” And sure enough, it is. During this pandemic – and the resulting self-quarantine – many people have turned to food and alcohol to cope with strong and steady waves of uncertain emotions and feelings.
Stress eating has led many to create unhealthy habits around food.
Wonder, then, why do we crave pizza, potato chips, and chocolate during the coronavirus quarantine? When we’re worried or frightened, we’re more likely to seek out sugars, fats, and carbs for a quick energy boost. These comfort foods act like a natural tranquilizer that calms us down in times of peril.”Psychology Today
In my line of work, disordered eating is something I see often. As a certified nutritionist I have clients who come to me seeking holistic counseling, support, and resources to correct or improve their eating habits.
So while this is a “common” topic for me, I certainly can understand the rise in concern over people’s eating habits due to emotions, instability, boredom, and even loneliness.
Your Body’s Reaction to Stress
When you are stressed (and you have every right to be – this has been one of the most stressful events on a global scale we have seen in a very long time) your brain pumps cortisol and adrenaline throughout your body. As a reaction to this overflow of hormones, your body then releases glucose (a natural body sugar) from your liver and muscles to give you energy to be ready to defeat whatever is making you stressed or fearful.
Research has shown that the glucose needs to be replenished after the stress has passed – leading you to feel hungry and reach for sweets and fats.
Enough with the science. The bottom line is – stress eating is a real, biological occurrence in your body. When we as humans are overwhelmed or intimidated by uncertain situations, we react by reaching for food unconsciously.
So don’t beat yourself up over it…too much. A healthy amount of concern is appropriate though. If your unresolved feelings and emotions are not being dealt with in a healthy way, there can be long-term consequences.
How to Regain Control
As many of us are now walking through various phases of city openings, I encourage you to also look at this new beginning as a start for taking the steps that will help you refocus or even change those habits that may have led to your quarantine 5, 10, or 15.
Just as it will take a while (heck months, even years!) for things to get back to normal where you live, the truth is, healthy weight gain and weight loss does not happen quickly either. It’s not just that one piece of pizza or cake that is going to make you put on weight. It’s the habit or consistency of consuming things (food, alcohol, substances) that can and will lead to weight gain or potential health-related diseases.
The hardest part of achieving a healthy lifestyle is getting started or returning to it after an extended period of time. For example, you can lose your level of fitness much faster than you can attain it. Once you get out of the habit (of exercise and healthy eating), it is harder to get back into it again.
In my newest webinar, Epic Morning Rituals, I dive deep into how habits that are formed around your identity are the ones that stick (according to science, foks). In the book atomic habit by James Clear, he dissects the two methods that I use in my coaching programs:
- Identity Based Habits
- The Positive Feedback Loop
Both methods are vital when it comes to making long term, healthy sustainable changes. And during this pandemic, many people have fallen into or back into poor habits through emotional and stress eating. (Are you raising your hand out there?)
But it’s just that…habits. And habits are changeable. Some harder to change than others.
The approach you should be considering is how to manage stress in a different way. Sounds simple enough? Heard it before? Sure.
I want to help you start with first identifying the person you want to become when it comes to your new health & wellness.
It doesn’t start with a new meal program that helps you lose 5lbs. It doesn’t start with quitting alcohol cold turkey. Change starts with envisioning you will be, what your identity will be when you start implementing new habits.
When it comes to self-care, you must create a positive feedback loop on all the things you are doing right. Not punishment through deprivation.
When you give yourself permission to create habits, stick to them, and reward yourself often, you are rewiring your brain into doing more of the things that “feel” good. You become more motivated to continue the physical and mental habits that will create lasting change.
I see you. I see you beating yourself up about that Quarantine 15. Let that shit GO.
Your body, brain, and soul has been through an incredibly stressful and unprecedented experience. We just need to get your habits and rituals back on track. As simple as that.