A global pandemic is uncharted territory for us all, inciting feelings of anxiety, fear and stress. Many feel anxiety in regards to job security, and are scared of getting sick or losing loved ones. We are all navigating a new way of living, and adapting to new routines, which can feel stressful. Lately, social media has been adding to the fear and stress by focusing on the potential for weight gain during this time. Let’s just put things into perspective: would a weight gain of 5 pounds be the worst thing that could happen during a global pandemic?
Being afraid of changes in weight, or weight-gain, is normal and unfortunately a result of the diet culture that is so prevalent in our society. The healthiest thing we can do right now is to be kind to ourselves and others, and not beat ourselves up for how our jeans fit, or the number on the scale. Do things that make you feel good! It might look like baking cookies, doing an at-home workout, going for a walk in the sunshine, or binge-watching the latest Netflix series. Not worrying about our weight doesn’t mean eating all of the junk foods, all of the time. It involves listening to our bodies, and eating when we are hungry and stopping when we are full. This is the start of becoming an “intuitive” eater.
About intuitive eating
Intuitive eating is an approach to food that focuses on our body’s internal cues like hunger, fullness, and satisfaction. This method of feeding ourselves moves away from food rules and restrictions in order for us to heal our relationship with food. Intuitive eating is much like mindful eating, however, it takes it a step further by emphasizing the importance of enjoying the foods we eat, moving our bodies in a way that feels good, and respecting our body regardless of how we feel about its shape. These are encompassed within the 10 principles of intuitive eating. Four of these principles are especially important to utilize in order to practice kindness towards our body during COVID-19.
1. Honor your hunger
It is important to listen to your body. When you are hungry, honour your body by feeding it with the fuel that it needs to thrive. This means eating balanced meals and snacks that contain carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fruit and/or vegetables. Ignoring hunger signals can ultimately lead to overeating when we finally allow our body to receive the food it requires. Each time you eat, ask yourself: Am I hungry? What is my hunger level? The goal is to avoid feeling ravenous and over-hungry when you eat!
2. Feel your fullness
Listen to your body when it signals to you that you are no longer hungry. During a meal or snack, ask yourself where your current fullness level is. It is important to remember that you can eat again if you are hungry (even if it is in 1-2 hours), therefore you do not need to reach an uncomfortable level of fullness or “clean your plate”. The goal is to prevent feeling overstuffed and uncomfortable, but instead feel satisfied and content.
3. Cope with your emotions without using food
There may be times when you have eaten a meal or snack when you are not hungry. Why is that? Emotional eating is common during stressful periods of our lives. Let’s face it, we are all feeling stressed and anxious, faced with many unknowns in the current state of the world. Eating is typically used to soothe negative feelings. Eating habits during times of stress or negative feelings can range from grazing, to binge eating, to severe caloric restriction. Coping with emotion means finding ways to seek comfort, distract yourself, or resolve emotional issues without using food. This isn’t to say that a pot of chicken noodle soup made using a family recipe won’t bring comfort, but eating food when you are not hungry may not satisfy your body or erase the emotions you are feeling. If you find yourself in front of the fridge or cupboard when you aren’t hungry, ask yourself: What am I feeling? Lonely? Try calling a friend or family member. Bored? Try going for a walk, drawing, or start a new hobby that you have always wanted to try!
4. Respect your body
Finally, it is time to treat your body with respect, now and forever. Weight fluctuations, pandemic or not, are a normal part of life. Our body changes hourly, daily, and yearly. If the number on the scale has fluctuated, this does not mean your talents, values, or the person you are has changed. Instead of focusing on numbers (aka weight), shift the focus to health promoting behaviors, the things you do that make you feel good! Things that make you feel good include feeding your body, treating it with dignity and respect, and moving it comfortably in ways you enjoy!
Be kind and gentle with yourself during this time. Continue to eat meals and snacks that you enjoy regularly and listen to your body. We will get through this together, stronger than ever! For more resources on intuitive eating, and mindful snacking, be sure to tune into Copeman TV where you can find nutrition tips, live workouts, and pre-recorded content like Brittany Lentz’s 3 tips for mindful meals!
If you are following a physician or dietitian prescribed diet for a particular health condition, we recommend you continue to follow those guidelines set out for you by your health professional. If you are interested in learning more about intuitive eating, call to book a phone or virtual appointment with a Copeman dietitian.