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during our current crisis and beyond

Stress eating happens. As you navigate this new world amidst a global pandemic, it’s perfectly understandable that you might be feeling stressed. Anytime we feel uncertain, it’s stressful. Well, this is uncertainty on a global scale and that is scary.

Add in social isolation and it’s a perfect storm of emotions. 

If you went into this time with an unhealthy relationship with food and your body, it’s likely the stress is making it worse. It’s possible to minimize the stress eating with some positive practices.

Feel the feelings:

Earlier this week I had a group call with some dancers and something I found myself repeating was, “feel the feelings.” This is important all the time but especially now.

It’s ok to be…

sad.

scared.

lonely.

uncertain.

stressed.

The most important thing is to allow yourself to feel it all. Don’t push it down with food or ignore what’s coming up for you. Instead of pretending to be Miss Positivity all the time, feel what’s coming up then search for some good to focus on.

Stress eating happens most often when we’re looking for a distraction. Feeling can be uncomfortable. We eat to numb ourselves and to try and ignore the emotions bubbling up.

To let the feelings out you might cry, talk to a friend, journal, meditate, connect to your body, sing, dance…the possibilities are really endless. Find the release that works for you.

Find the good:

Focus on what’s going well. Create a plan for now and for the future so that you feel this time was well spent.

Remember that this is also a very tough situation and if getting through it is the best you can do, that is enough.

What are some positive things you can focus on?

By looking to the light you’ll be less likely to turn to food for comfort. Feeling gratitude for the good in your life will allow you to move past the stress.

What’s going well right now? Ask yourself that question at least once a day.

Stress Eat:

Seriously. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat a big bowl of pasta because you find it comforting. It might in fact make you feel better. If  you consciously choose to use food for some comfort it’s OK.

stress eating

The emotional/stress eating we want to avoid is the kind that’s reactive. When you’re absolutely blinded by the pain and fear that you’re feeling and you start eating without intentionality, it’s damaging.

If you choose to eat for some comfort you should be able to savor and enjoy the food. The piece of cake might in fact serve you.

When I was in my worst place with food and my body, I was living alone. I had walls up – not willing to share my emotions or to let other people in emotionally. That’s when my worst binge/stress eating happened. I’d order a whole (vegan) pizza and eat it by myself and feel completely awful afterwards.

That’s the sort of thing we want to avoid.

Acknowledge the Uncertainty and Fear:

This time is extra scary if you were hoping to get a job in the coming weeks. It’s all uncertain and it’s OK to be fearful. We don’t know what’s going to happen next. Dance companies will each have to approach this time in their own ways. Some may still be hiring. Some may not.

Summer intensives will have to shift their approach if dancers haven’t been in the studio for months. Things will be different.

A warrior accepts that we can never know what will happen to us next. We can try to control the uncontrollable by looking for security and predictability, always hoping to be comfortable and safe. But the truth is that we can never avoid uncertainty. The not-knowing is part of the adventure. It’s also what makes us afraid.

Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty

Keep a list of alternative activities by fridge:

If you find you’re stressed AND bored and the boredom is leading you to the fridge, keep a list of other calming activities near the fridge. That way when you walk into the kitchen you’ll be confronted by the list and can create a little pause in the action.

That pause could be enough to get you onto something else. Something that’s more supportive and calming that might actually allow you to process the stress more healthfully.

Some ideas include: knitting, sewing, dancing, drawing, coloring, doing a puzzle, putting together legos, playing a game (alone or with a friend), singing, engaging with social media (not mindlessly scrolling but finding ways to actually connect).

Keep a list of healthy snacks by the fridge:

If you are in fact hungry and want to avoid going crazy with the indulgent food every time you want a snack, keep a list of healthy options by the fridge. You might even end up doing some stress eating with healthier options you enjoy and remember, that’s OK.

Some snack ideas include: hummus + veggies + crackers, trail mix, dark chocolate (maybe put it in your trail mix), yogurt (greek or dairy free) + fruit + a sprinkle of granola, half a smoothie or frozen fruit based ice cream.

It might help to have a list of sweet + savory options so you can satisfy cravings more easily and healthfully.

Conclusion:

This is a challenging time. Processing your emotions is the most surefire way to avoid stress eating. Remember that you are not alone and please reach out if you need support.


Photo by Eaters Collective on Unsplash

Stress Eating Strategies

Jess Spinner

Jess is a former professional ballet dancer turned Health Coach and founder of The Whole Dancer.

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