If the media is to be believed, for most of us, the weeks of living in lock-down have taken their toll, with many of us turning to food for comfort. But is this really true? Our friends at Jane Plan (http://www.janeplan.com) commissioned some research and asked thousands of people all over the UK to find out by asking individuals about their lock-down eating habits.
Here’s what they found out ….
* Almost half of us have put on weight in lock-down, and 78% of us say we have eaten more than usual! From late night snacking, to nibbling throughout the day, it would seem we are really struggling to control our eating habits. It’s been really tough – our routines are out of the window, gyms are closed and socialising a distant memory, so it’s not surprising we have adopted the attitude over the last few months to live for today and not worry about the future. But, does this attitude come at a price?
* Despite the severity of the Covid-19 outbreak instigating wider conversations around the nation’s health and the importance of a balanced lifestyle, two-thirds of us are still comfort eating to get through the boredom of lock-down.
But there is some good news – the research shows that the UK’s population are already planning to reduce their weight gain, in fact 73% of you said you want to lose the weight you have put on.
These figures and intent may well apply to the general population but my guess is the WLS COMMUNITY aren’t very different.
Hand in glove with these reported and researched lock-down eating issues and their fall-out comes ‘Head Hunger’ too. This monster has reared it’s ugly head far too many times in the last few months especially as we work our way through this pandemic with as many highs and lows as a roller coaster! Our bariatric psychologist friend, Dr Connie Stapleton (www.conniestapletonphd.com) has some great background to this and advice as to how to see it off. Maybe working through how we can cope with boredom, comfort eating and understanding the mechanics of ‘head hunger’ gives us the chance to redress the problems as we slowly ease our way out of lock-down?
It’s late on Thursday night. You’ve worked all day, the kids are in bed and now it’s time for you to study. The professor has assigned a lengthy reading assignment. You sit down and barely make it to the third page before you’re fidgeting, distracted, and … bored by the content. Mindlessly, you set the book down, and find yourself back at the table moments later with a bag of chips. That’s better! You now read and munch, read and crunch, and before you know it, the bag of chips is gone. How did that happen? You weren’t even hungry, as you had finished a wholesome dinner just an hour before you started to read.
Last week your boss said the “big project” wasn’t due for four weeks. You allocated your time and made a plan for completing each task and you were feeling confident in your ability to produce a great product on time. He just called and said the due date has been moved up – by two weeks. You feel panicked, angry and tense. All of a sudden you have an intense craving for butter pecan ice cream.
It’s the weekend and your partner was called out of town on a business trip at the last minute. Your best friend has a date, and no one you asked was available to go to a movie. You’re home alone, feeling sad that you couldn’t find anyone to hang out with, you don’t feel like reading or doing a project. So, you settle on television. And a tub of popcorn, a bag of chocolate candy and a soda.
Head hunger is wanting to eat when you aren’t physically hungry. Head hunger is often called emotional hunger. You find yourself wanting to eat because you’re bored, sad, lonely, stressed, angry, worried, or anxious. Or maybe you’re eating because you are happy and celebrating the way you have learned to celebrate… with too much of the wrong foods.
A healthy eating plan does not include excessive calories consumed when giving in to “head hunger” or “emotional eating.” Let’s face it, few of us turn to carrot sticks when we’re upset or opt for a spinach salad with salmon when we’re celebrating a promotion.
Head hunger/emotional eating becomes a bad habit and is really an unhealthy coping skill used as an attempt to avoid experiencing unwanted or uncomfortable emotions. Here is a four-step way to break the pattern of eating in response to emotions:
1) When you find yourself seeking food when it is not your planned eating time, ask
yourself, “What am I feeling?” Identify an emotion that you are experiencing at the time
(mad, sad, lonely, frustrated, anxious, etc.)
2) Identify what your emotional need is by asking: “What is this feeling telling me I need?”
For example, “I’m feeling lonely. I need companionship.” “I’m feeling angry. I need to
release some energy.” “I’m feeling unimportant. I need acknowledgement.” “I’m feeling
insecure. I need validation.”
3) Identify healthy coping skills for getting emotional needs met. You can do an internet
search for healthy coping skills and you will find hundreds of suggestions. Keep a list
on your smart phone, on your computer, or on a sheet of paper of the healthy coping
skills that best fit your lifestyle and personality.
4) When you have done steps one and two, look at the list of healthy coping skills and do
one or more of those things until your emotions settle down and you are better able to
think rationally. At that point, you will realise that eating unhealthy, unwanted, and
unnecessary calories is not something you want to do.
You can learn to avoid eating in response to head hunger. It takes effort, and you know by this time in your life, that all of the great things you earn, accomplish, and experience require effort. Go for it! The benefits of learning to avoid emotional eating are worth it! And so are you.