Stress manifests itself in a broad range of responses, some of us start binge eating while others go on shopping sprees - for clothes or shoes to the nearest mall or for online grocery delivery in Karachi.
We tend to overcompensate and substitute the emotional need for comfort, care, love or security while trying to fill the holes in our heart with things within our access. Stress eating and emotional eating are also among those shortcut responses to some of our deep rooted psychological issues. Emotional eating refers more specifically to food consumption following cues from emotions or feelings, as opposed to the ones from actual physical hunger. We let our emotions get the best of us and when feelings are holding the steering wheel they can drive us wherever, whenever and however they want.
The COVID-19 spread has evoked a range of reactions from governments and people across the world. It is not just the pandemic that is putting people at their wit’s end but the disparity between government regulations and public demands are also wreaking havoc. There is a general aura of neuroticism all over the globe, with panic, fear, loss, grief, anxiety and boredom running high among the general populace. Emotional eating seems like a pretty natural and low key response considering such intense negative emotions flowing in from all sides along with the inability to engage in outdoor activities and threats of food shortage. But there is no end to this downward spiral if we continue with these unhealthy eating habits as they too end up increasing the stress.
How does eating help bring down stress?
The science behind emotional eating is quite simple, food offers temporary relief from feelings of anxiety or boredom when we feel distressed because it causes the release of feel good chemicals in our brain. The neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin are produced and flooded in, and that is what makes us feel better. Dopamine can be thought of as the key driver of our brain’s pleasure system while serotonin does a bunch of things like regulate mood, sleep and appetite. The long term impact of this neurotransmitter release does not help deal with boredom, anxiety or stress but quite the opposite. The dopamine centers in our brain get attuned to the increased intake and start demanding more. This keeps going in vicious cycles until we start weaning off.
Cut yourself some slack
Using food as a temporary support against unexpected stress can still be manageable and somewhat acceptable but it is especially disconcerting when it is the only trick in your bag. In an ideal scenario you should have a range of options for dealing with your sentimental experiences. One basic thing you can try doing is to go easy on yourself. Sometimes when the universe seems to be working against us we turn bitter and start beating ourselves up over the tiniest of our flaws. Keep telling yourself that treating stress with food is really common and to err is to be human. Life is no longer following the course that we used to call normal and extenuating circumstances call for extraordinary measures. You can’t really expect others to treat you kindly if you can’t do that for yourself. You can also try counselling yourself and converse internally in a manner you would with someone you care about, like a friend or family member.
Blueprint for success
Another thing you can try, generally in all stressful situations and specifically for stress eating, is to pick a pen and start writing down a plan. If you manage to come up with a schedule that is based on a healthy diet according to your fitness goals, it will make things really easy. You can note down when you plan to buy groceries online in Karachi, what items you need and which service provider you prefer. You can also plan dishes and meals ahead of time so that you can make things interesting for yourself. Such a plan will keep so many problems at bay that we can’t possibly exaggerate its criticality. It will ensure that you are not confusing emotional eating with actual hunger and it will also rule out the possibility of those two coupling up in order to get you to overeat.
You must always work towards recognizing your emotions so you can treat the problem with the proper medicine recommended for it. It will help equip you to seek the sort of help that the particular emotion requires and will also aid in breaking down the emotional eating cycle into different pathways. You can put an emotional word wheel to some good use if it is hard for you to keep a track of emotional impulses on your own and find ways to channelize the specific emotion in a healthy way.