I had a couple of clients ask for some advice around handling "off path" eating during this COVID19 pandemic. Almost all of us are off of our regular routines, and many of us are feeling the stress and anxiety of the situation. So, I offered them a couple of suggestions as to how they might better stay on path, and reduce the frequency of eating for any reason other than hunger. I thought this was worth sharing with everyone. I hope it helps.
1. First and foremost, please don’t beat yourself up. It doesn’t help anything. You need to give yourself compassion and some grace during this time. And instead of “writing off” a day or week (you know what I mean) simply begin again the very next meal with something healthier and more in line with your long term goals.
2. Try focusing more on things that make you happy. Is there something you can do or start right now that is totally unrelated to food? What could you possibly “lose” yourself in right now? Organizing? Reading? Mabe a great Netflix series that you would otherwise not have time for? How about trying a new recipe?
3. Get out that gratitude journal! Start tracking things that make you happy and that you are grateful for. Maybe it’s as simple as your morning coffee, not having to commute, extra time for sleeping, or spending time with your family. You could also work on a "Thrive List" or a “Happiness List” (things that make you happy and give you joy that are not food-related).
4. Remember that it all comes down to environment. Stop focusing on the things you cannot control and instead focus on what you CAN. Here are some practical examples from James Clear. You can read more about shaping your environment here: https://jamesclear.com/choice-architecture
• If you want to remember to take your medication each night, put your pill bottle directly next to the faucet on the bathroom counter.
• If you want to practice guitar more frequently, place your guitar stand in the middle of the living room.
• If you want to remember to send more thank-you notes, keep a stack of stationery on your desk.
• If you want to drink more water, fill up a few water bottles each morning and place them in common locations around the house.
5. Don’t invoke Loopholes! Gretchen Rubin talks about the top 10 “Loopholes” we may use to get out of our healthy habits, like "Lack of Control” and “This Doesn’t Count”. Watch this video and see if you are using a couple of these right now: https://gretchenrubin.com/2014/10/video-for-habits-the-strategy-of-loophole-spotting/
6. Get back to basics that don’t have to do with food. I have said it many times before. Ensure that you are getting adequate sleep (fewer cravings), are well hydrated (maybe make a new habit of drinking a ton more water while you are so much closer to the bathroom these days), and move your body!!
7. If you are going to choose less healthy options, make sure that you are enjoying the hell out of them. This means being present, focusing on the food in front of ou and appreciating all the tastes and textures. And, be aware of portion sizes! Try this chocolate meditation: https://www.verywellmind.com/practice-chocolate-meditation-3144784
8. Try some more practical things like waiting 10 minutes before you eat anything more, brushing your teeth or chewing gum!
9. Use a food tracking app like Ate to start to notice new eating patterns that may develop. For example, do you notice patterns of stress eating after spending too much scrolling social media or watching the news for too long?
10. Finally, get some accountability partners! Invoke a "call a friend" option when you're tempted to do some damage in the pantry, get a pal to join you on the Ate app, or even better - enlist the services of an accountability coach (like me) to help get you through this!
Know that this will not last forever and that soon enough, we will all be back to "normal". If your OLD normal consisted of lot of healthy habits, make sure that you are working to maintain as much of those healthy habits as possible. And, if your old normal didn't include many at all, consider this a "clean slate" opportunity (also a reference to Gretchen Rubin) to make those changes NOW!