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These are trying times friends.
Lots of uncertainty, fear and mayhem are rocking our world with the threat of coronavirus.
We are all feeling a lot of uncertainty and stress about the world situation. There are millions of people around the world right now who are stuck inside their homes.
Here are some of the things you might be dealing with:
1. Feeling worried and concerned
The world is in a state of fear and uncertainty right now.
It feels stressful and overwhelming.
We want to escape the stress, anxiety and fear of the unknown.
This can easily lead us to turn to food for a familiar comfort, or a quick way to numb out these feelings.
2. Boredom and feeling lonely
Once the novelty of sitting around the house all day wears off, you can start to feel bored. If you’re self isolating on your own you can feel lonely.
From experience we know that boredom and loneliness are two massive food triggers.
We never feel bored when eating, right?
3. Our cupboards are brimming with food
If you stock piled to prepare, chances are your cupboards are overflowing with tasty food. Just knowing it’s there can cause trouble. Each time you open a cupboard, it’s all sitting there, staring at you, waiting for you to eat it.
4. Too much free time.
Suddenly slamming the breaks on your busy life can really feel unsettling. We’re not used to having so much free time on our hands, we can feel uncomfortable with all that space, so we may be tempted to snack on food to occupy ourselves.
These triggers all have one major problem: They cause you to eat when you are not actually hungry!
Food often promises you a way to cope, but doesn’t deliver. Trust me when I say this: food doesn’t fix anything unless that thing is hunger. Whatever you were feeling before will be there when the food is gone. In the case of binging, you’ll almost certainly feel even worse.
So here is the Binge Code 6-step strategy for managing food cravings during self-isolation.
Stage 1: Check-in
In stage 1 we snap out of autopilot and get a clear reading on your true hungry levels. Here are the steps:
Step 1. Notice
The first thing we need to do is to notice our cravings. Noticing is key.
Often when we are non-hungry eating, our mind tends to be miles away. But if you start to watch carefully you catch little moments when you find yourself operating on autopilot
- It might be when you notice you’re mindlessly raiding the fridge for the tenth time in an hour.
- Or when you find yourself blankly staring into a kitchen cupboard, purely out of habit.
- Or when you find yourself half way through a bag of Doritos you didn’t even notice opening.
It can be hard to catch these little moments.
They tend to be illusive, but whenever you do, I want you to quickly move on to the next step.
Step 2. Pause
Just stop whatever you are doing! Take a moment to pause.
Take a big deep breath in… hold it for a few seconds … and exhale…
This will help snap you out of autopilot and bring you back to the here and now. By doing this you have given yourself a moment’s space.
Now you can assess whether you are really hungry or not. Time for step 3
Step 3. Check in
Next, put your hands on your stomach. Drop into the sensation of your stomach. Take a slow deep breath and then ask yourself:
“I can have it if feel like it, but do I REALLY feel like it?”
Give yourself a moment to see what answer pops up.
I want you to try to feel what your body’s actually experiencing — not an abstract idea of it, not a judgement, but the actual, living, breathing experience. Notice what your stomach says. Try to get a sense of what it really wants.
If you are not sure you can ask yourself an additional questions:
“Am I really hungry?”
“Or am I just feeling bored or fearful or lonely or (insert feeling here)?”
If you are confident that you do feel hungry and feel like eating the food, then by all means, eat the food, guilt free and savour the experience.
But, if you are not hungry or are not sure what you are feeling then move on to phase 2: Resolve
Stage 2: Resolve
Now that we have a clear reading on where you are at, it’s time to resolve the craving.
Binge urges and cravings can be intense so the first step to reduce the intensity of the urge. We can do that through detachment.
If you’re not sure if the craving has anything to do with real hunger I want you to practise the art of detachment.
How does this work?
We feel cravings in the body, not in the mind. When you feel sensations in your body, it’s really up to your mind to judge your response. The thing is, these sensations don’t have to mean anything unless you want them to. You can put these feelings into the same category as a sneeze or the shivers. They’re just bodily sensations — something that happens and nothing to get too concerned about.
When we notice a food craving it can feel like it’s coming from deep inside our core. It feels really personal, like it’s a part of who we are. Even though it feels personal, we can still separate ourself from it.
We don’t need to take it so personally.
We all have an amazing ability to let go and detach, and all you need to do is tap into that.
You can learn to shrug them off.
Treat them with indifference.
Have an attitude of “whatever!”.
This will help reduce the discomfort of not giving in to the craving.
Sure you might feel a little uncomfortable not instantly responding to the craving, but at the same time, it doesn’t have to be a major struggle. Remind yourself it’s just a simple sensation of discomfort. That’s all. It’s nowhere near as uncomfortable or as intense as you think it’s going to be.
Don’t worry if you don’t get this immediately. It takes practise! The more you practise this strategy the easier it will become. Eventually you’ll retrain your brain that YOU are in control, not your cravings!
After mentally detaching from the physical craving, walk away from the food and do something else for just 10 minutes.
Cravings are not constant. They ebb and flow in waves. Research by neuroscientists proves that even a 10-minute wait can drastically reduce the brain’s response to a craving. By delaying 10 minutes you give yourself the opportunity to see if the urge will pass.
If you still feel food cravings after 10 minutes then reassess. Check-in and see if you are actually really hungry. If you are hungry then you should eat.
If the craving passes, then you know it was not a real hunger craving,
3. Self Care
Finally, if you are craving food because you are feeling lonely, bored, fed up, etc. I want you to give yourself some self care.
Instead give yourself a little self care.
Do something nice for yourself that doesn’t involve food. Go easy on yourself. Take a time out.
Why not try a little 20 minute body scan I’ve recorded to help you feel relaxed. Click here to listen
If you need some additional ideas, here are some of our favorite tips for self care without bingeing:
- Listen to music
- Write in a journal
- Call a friend
- Call your parents or grandparents
- Stretch or do yoga
- Take a bath or shower
- Spend time with your pet if you have one
- Look through old photos
- Delete old files on your computer or phone
- Enjoy a cup of tea
- Research something you find interesting
- Organize your bookshelf
- Clean out your closet
Here are some other helpful strategies for dealing with food during self isolation.
1. Try to stick to scheduled meal times.
Plan to eat breakfast, morning snack, lunch, afternoon snack and dinner, with an optional evening snack too. By planning to eat normally, you will stave off the extreme hunger that often leads to binge eating.
2. Avoid “see” food.
Constantly seeing your excess stores of food can lead to cravings- organise your cupboard so you they are out of sight and out of mind.
3. Keep yourself busy
Use scheduling to keep busy with meaningful activities. Think about what you have been wanting to organize or clean, maybe catch up on podcasts, finally work a jigsaw puzzle, or read that book you’ve started ten times.
4. If you’re well, try to be active without overdoing it
It may seem impossible to get any exercise if you’re isolated to a one-bedroom apartment, but the internet is an endless supply of quick workouts. Find something that meets your style and aim for about 30 minutes a day. You can even split this up into smaller activity sessions throughout the day. A few jumping jacks here, some sun salutations there, and you may find yourself feeling more energized and optimistic. After all, our brains release ‘feel good’ hormones when we’re active.
And a bonus tip:
5. Avoid spending too much time on social media
Research has proven that for every hour people spend on social media, their likelihood of depression increases. If you do choose to pass the time on social media, be sure to follow positive, uplifting accounts that make you feel better, not worse. Additionally, avoid accounts that promote unrealistic body image or diet propaganda, as this can lead straight to binging.
It’s understandable if you are feeling bored, lonely, fed up, afraid. You are not the only one.
Think about everyone else in the world who is experiencing similar feelings of discomfort and uncertainty. Similar levels of stress, fear, overwhelm, boredom. You are not alone — embrace your common humanity. Go a little easier on yourself for feeling this way. Send yourself a little compassion.
Even if you’re feeling lonely, remember you aren’t alone.
We are all in this together 🙂