Stress Eating in the Time of Corona


I don’t have to remind you, we’re in a crisis.

I’ve been here before and I know you have been too. 9/11, Hurricane Sandy. Now, on top of it all, trying to get my daughter out of London, my other kids home from their colleges and just trying to navigate what it means exactly to quarantine, social distance and stay healthy. Going to the grocery store and seeing the shelves literally bare of essential food was more than I could take the other day. It pushed me over the edge.

I’m not going to lie. Living in the time of the Corona virus is really stressful.

I am a former stress eater by nature and I’ve had to learn over the years how to not let it take me over. This took a lot of soul searching on my part years ago, and was the key that unlocked my mind to lose weight and, most importantly, keep it off.

Growing up, food was love and a comfort response in my family. Sugar was my best friend during some of the scariest times of my life, but only temporarily. And, I realized that I was starting to lean into that now. If the world is ending, we might as well eat sweets, right? So, when the virus was marching forth, my first response was to hunker down, get to the the store and buy chocolate chips. I had to have cookies if I was in quarantine. I realized that I even wrote about it here.

It was my response to a crisis that I noticed it, again. Nothing wrong with cookies. At all. What was wrong was that my very first thought was I need cookies to ease the anxiety and get me through this.

I don’t need sweets (or wine or…what is your vice?) to survive. And neither do you. In fact we all need to be eating our very best right now. But, I’m conflicted because this just sounds like more rules. And right now there are an awful lot of rules. Aren’t the new Corona rules – social distancing, quarantine – enough? I felt rebellion. Let me do what I want and eat cookies all day if I want. We’re in a crisis after all!

But, you have to know by now (and this has been a huge lesson for me over the years), that cookies, desserts, wine, whatever it is for you, will not make any of the stress around this virus go away. In fact, it’s making it worse.

Hangovers (and the ensuing “hangxiety” ) on top of all this stress? Starting to gain weight because I “need” more dessert? No thanks.

So how do we handle stress, really big stress, when we’ve been conditioned to eat sugar and drink wine in a crisis? Here are a couple things I am doing now, and have done, that help me to avoid stress eating.


If You Can’t Sit Still

If I thought I knew what fight or flight meant before, I do now. I feel “tired and wired” (hello, cortisol rush) and I prefer to be doing rather than sitting with my thoughts or meditating. I need action, I need to feel like I am accomplishing something. Putting order into my world. Here’s what you can do now if you are having a hard time sitting with your thoughts:

Get Cooking. I love the power of cooking to help get me grounded, and never before has there been a better, or more necessary time, to cook. With restaurants shutting down, making food is essential right now. You have the time right now. Slow down, peel the carrots, stir the soup, smell the delicious smells of the stew you are making. Click HERE for my post on what I recently made to stock my freezer during this crisis.

Exercise. You likely cannot go to your gym right now, but I imagine you have a pair of sneakers and the great outdoors. I can’t get enough of walking. Every morning I am up and out the door, steadily increasing my walking distance. It clears my head and helps raise serotonin levels, the feel good hormone.

Walk and Talk. A good friend of mine and I have been committed to getting on the phone during our walking time and bitching, moaning and groaning over the situation we are in, our kids, food we are making and storing away, whatever is on our minds. The power of conversation and venting is everything to me right now. Find a friend on a similar schedule and start spilling. You will realize how much better you feel.

Clean a Closet. I told myself that everyday I would take on one small project in my house – a kitchen cabinet, bathroom drawers – to feel like my home is in order. Suddenly having kids back at home is going to start to feel a bit crowded and chaotic. Having my house in order will make me feel more in control.


If Sitting is Your Jam

There are certainly times that I feel exhaustion wave over me and I take that as a strong sign to rest and regroup. Although my desire is to keep moving, I am trying to bring my stress down with the following (instead of stress eat):

Yoga/Stretch. You can do this right in your home, even for five minutes. With stress comes tension, in terms of muscle and back aches. Spend a few minutes letting your body download on the floor, gently stretching. It helps really everything – body, mind and spirit.

Meditate. I know this one alludes many of us, myself included, I have been using this very simple meditation when/if I wake up in the middle of the night, my mind racing with thoughts.  I lie quietly in bed with my eyes closed and take one big slow deep breath, hold it, and the slowly let it out. I do this for as long as I need to, usually until I feel myself getting tired again.

Journal. My journal has been my lifeline for as long as I can remember. Before I begin the busy part of my day I take 30 minutes to write it all down – fears, stress, gratitude – whatever is on my mind at the time. This really is my meditation.

Get Really Good Sleep. It might be hard to sleep right now, but the more sleep deprived we are the more we crave sugar and alcohol. Make it high priority right now to get as much quality sleep as you can.

I would love to hear from you. How are you doing in the midst of the Corona crisis? Is stress eating, or drinking, your go to during hard times? What can you do to help turn it around? Share with me in the comments below.


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