“The only distancing I need to do is distancing myself from the fridge!”
Yeah, the memes of overeating at home are out already which means that lots of people are feeling that overeating during lockdown is their reality right now.
It’s easily done. You are a creature of habit. Working out of the home, or sending the kids to school, or going out to run errands creates a structure that you are very familiar with. And your eating fits around that.
When that structure and routine changes, it’s totally normal for you to be feeling oddly off-centre.
All of a sudden, the fridge is a constant presence. And the chances are, it’s quite a fully stocked fridge too.
And the background to all of this is anxiety and worry which pushes your sense of safety and balance even more out of kilter.
So how can you manage your overeating during this time of being stuck indoors, feeling slightly on edge, not having your usual routine, and getting frustrated at your annoying eating habits?
1 . Allow Yourself the Binge
Let’s begin with a very odd suggestion.
I work with people who feel out of balance with their eating and have a bad relationship with food.What drives a lot of this imbalance for people is a belief that they SHOULD be eating a certain way.
As soon as you place huge expectations on yourself to eat ‘perfectly’ you will lose all sense of inner-balance. It’s a weird thing. But it’s probably happening to you right now.
You’ve started eating more often, and it’s different, and it feels odd. And you think “Should I be eating this way?” and then you start admonishing yourself. You say; “Oh my gosh, I’m going to gain so much weight, I really shouldn’t eat like this. This isn’t how I want to eat, I better quit eating like this. I really should eat smaller portions. I really should not eat so much!”
What you are doing is creating a rule for yourself out of thin air, and this rule says YOU SHOULD NOT EAT SO MUCH – YOU SHOULD EAT LESS.
Now you’re screwed.
Not only are you unhappy in general, you’re unhappy about your eating and now you’re also going to be unhappy because you’re not sticking to your new rule.
The Buddhists say that the cause of suffering is wanting things to be different. Basically, not accepting things as they are causes more pain that the thing itself.
The first step in managing your ‘overeating’ at home, is to allow yourself to eat the way you’re doing. Stop trying to micromanage your eating, and give yourself full permission to eat.
Trying to put the brakes on is actually causing you to eat way more.
When you give yourself FULL PERMISSION to eat and eat and eat – you’ll have to do the next step, which is to actually deal with the feelings underneath the eating in the first place.
2. Recognize the Reason
My Eat Happy catchphrase has become “There’s always a reason for why you eat!”
Which means – there are so many reasons behind why you ate something other than hunger, that you need to skill up in recognizing what’s going on for you.
Y’know, you’re not a robot. You don’t just eat three times a day for life because that’s the way you’re programmed.
You do things that seem totally mad to you at times, because you have layers upon layers of emotions, thoughts, habits, patterns, influences etc. that are running your life for you – well, if you don’t become aware of them that is.
Basically – this step is about EMPATHY.
Give yourself a break dude! This is a weird time, and if you had some self-compassion for yourself, you’d say “Damn, of course I’m eating this way – I feel so strange right now. I guess my eating is just me trying to find some sort or normality!”
If you want to go further, sit down with a notebook and write out how you feel. What’s going on for you? Do you feel scared, lonely, frustrated?
Give yourself some kindness, instead of stupid rules that make you feel like rubbish.
3. Set A Time
You might have thought this step would come first, but this can’t be done unless you do the first two steps.
This final step is about structuring your time in a different way. This is something I used to do when I would overeat all day long. I allowed myself to eat what I wanted, and how much I wanted, but I said that I’d eat one or two hours after the last time I ate. (This tool is adapted from the book Eating Less by Gillian Riley).
Each time you finish eating something, give yourself some time between when you eat next. Don’t say that you’ll eat at 12:30pm every day – this way is more flexible. After eating your yogurt for example, have a think about how long would be a nice time to go before you eat next. 30 mins? An hour? Don’t starve yourself. Just say to yourself “I think I’ll be okay for about 2 hours before I eat something next, and 2 hours from now is (check the clock) 11am – so that’s when I’ll eat next.”
Have a rough guess of what you’ll eat next. A meal? A snack? And go from there. Think about what you’ll eat, anticipate it, and eat it with full permission, in the garden or on the sofa – and really EAT IT.
You are also allowed to change your mind and eat sooner. But now you’ll know that you’re doing it.
What happens with eating under the rule of “SHOULD NOT EAT THIS WAY” is that you don’t actually pay attention to what you’re eating. You eat it so hurriedly and so guiltily that you don’t notice it at all. Your brain goes “Did we actually eat something just now? Better send her back to the fridge to eat again because I got no memory of what I just ate!”
To sum up:
Allow yourself to eat in this new way. Full permission. Drop the rules.
Be kind to yourself and have some empathy for goodness’ sake.
Give yourself some flexibility around eating based on paying attention to eating and times.
This won’t last forever – but you can come out of this time with a better relationship with yourself, and a way to feel balanced with your eating when you become gentle with yourself!
I hope you found this interesting and useful to you. I’ll be sharing more tips in the next week about eating whilst working at home, and how to manage all day snacking.
Look after yourself!