The coronavirus pandemic has drastically changed our lives. As most of us are working from home and our work and personal lives blend together, our daily routines have become difficult to maintain. Our mealtimes, in particular, have been greatly affected. Social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders, and the stress and anxiety stemming from the pandemic have created an increased interest in food. More than ever, the kitchen and pantry are easy access. Stress eating was an issue many people may have struggled with before the onset of the pandemic, now people who were previously unaffected with stress, may now start to struggle.
Mindful eating is an important skill to polish, especially in times like this. Many people are struggling with stress and even boredom eating. Noting hunger levels before each meal and snack from a scale of one to ten, “one” being hungriest and “10” being uncomfortably full can be a helpful tool to discern hunger levels.
Working at home has also exposed us to using technology more than our usual exposure. As a result, many of us may now be eating in front of a screen. It is important to eliminate distractions and spend time enjoying your meal either with family or by yourself. Set the table up nicely or eat outside on the verandah. This can be a great opportunity to sharpen your mindful eating skills and build your relationship with food.
Research has shown that keeping food diaries can help with weight maintenance. Creating a food diary in a notebook or using a food diary app can increase recognition of abnormal hunger cues and meal patterns and pinpoint the areas for improvement.
Creating balanced meals is key. Per the Australian Guidelines to Healthy Eating, aim for half of your plate to have vegetables/fruit, a quarter protein, and a quarter whole grains. Prepping ahead with snacks will also help you stay on track. Pre-portioning your snacks in containers ahead of time or buying already pre-portioned snacks can be a helpful way to minimize mindless eating. Since many of us are making meals from home now, we have the opportunity to take advantage of our time to prepare balanced meals from scratch and experiment with ingredients we normally don’t use.
Creating a plan for fluid intake is also just as important. Due to the circumstances, it can be easy to forget to drink water as we may be forgetting to put that water bottle on our home desk like we would our work desk. One way to keep on track is to set reminders on your phone to drink fluids throughout the day. There are many apps available to do this.
Physical activity should also be prioritized. Whether it is HIIT or taking a walk, anything to get your body moving will be helpful to keep you energized throughout the day. Ideally, you have the space to do this outside in the sun. If not, find and clear a space in your home dedicated to working out to help with sticking to an exercise routine. If you are not sure which exercises to do, many fitness apps now offer a free trial before subscription. Trying different exercise regimes you normally don’t do, can be an eye-opening experience that you may end up enjoying. If you do not have exercise equipment at home, try using alternatives such as heavy books, cans or backpacks.
We are going through hard times and something as simple as keeping a routine can help us make decisions with a sense of control as well as being beneficial for both physical and mental health.