How has LOCKDOWN changed your EATING?
Well, we’ve been stuck at home for another two months. And with not much to do, for many people meals and eating have become unusually important - or even the highlight of the day! But how has this changed YOUR eating patterns? In Eating Disorders Awareness Week it’s good to think about what is NORMAL - even in an ABNORMAL season! So we asked some young people to tell us what they’ve noticed… here are 5 of their REAL answers, with some tips and tricks to try:
"I’m SNACKING ALL THE TIME!"
This is SO NORMAL. Boredom makes us graze, and think about food. Plus with nowhere to go, being in the house also means we’re more likely to snack because we’re just around food more. So - the good news is it’s normal. The tricky news is that you may not like the fact you are eating more. It may make you feel anxious or out of control, or worry about gaining weight or eating unhealthily. Or if you are trying to stick to more strict eating patterns, you are likely to find that much harder at the moment.
So what do you do? Firstly remember - this is not normal life! This will change! So give yourself a break - its ok if for a short period you don’t eat as healthy as usual. The chances are things will get back to normal once you are back in your usual routine and school restarts.
Secondly - if you’re getting the snack urge, maybe you can use it to get some GOOD STUFF into your diet instead of focusing on the things you SHOULDN’T be eating. Try to do some swaps - fancy a bag of crisps? Eat some carrot sticks instead! Tempted by chocolate? Grab the grapes. Yeah, I know - sometimes it isn’t gonna cut it - and letting yourself enjoy a treat, especially on a rough day, is a good thing to do. But sometimes you can edge a bit healthier.
And thirdly - if you KNOW you are eating because you are bored or low, DO SOMETHING ELSE. Especially - if you can - get out of the house - try a walk or run or ride. Or something that REALLY distracts you - call a mate or watch something together with someone else either online or in your house. Sometimes we just need to take our minds somewhere else because if they can’t think of anything else to think about food is just where they settle!!!
"I’ve TOTALLY LOST MY APPETITE ... I just don’t really get hungry any more or have proper meals"
This is also a common problem either because you are snacking all the time so it’s all gone a bit grey and messy, or just because sitting around the house all day doesn’t really stimulate appetite. It’s also important to remember that low mood and emotions like sadness or grief can knock out your appetite too. So here’s a 1-2-3 to manage this one …
1 - Think about how you are doing IN GENERAL. Is this part of a pattern? Are you struggling with low mood or feeling sad, things like crying a lot or anything else you’re doing to try to feel better or manage your mood? How is your sleep and the other patterns of life - are you managing to check in to your online lessons and stuff? If not you may benefit from talking to your GP, or give one of the support lines a call for more advice - try https://www.themix.org.uk who offer advice and support via text, phone or chat for under 25s or https://www.childline.org.uk who also have free phone or online chat support.
2 - Try to get back into a good routine. So start the day with breakfast - you might not feel hungry but sometimes eating regular meals is really important to kickstart our appetite. Try not to snack through the morning - but even if you do, eat a proper lunch - and the same in the afternoon and for dinner. Even if you just have a light meal, or something small - think healthy and yummy and keep to that regular pattern - it will help!
3 - Think about when you move. It’s so easy in lockdown to be sat in front of a screen the whole time. But moving around helps get our whole metabolism going - and so does getting out into the fresh air. So think about what you could do - yeah its the usual suggestions, grab a walk, go for a ride, yada yada. But maybe you can hook up with a mate to make it more interesting? Or listen to a podcast or audio book whilst you go?
"I feel like I’m OBSESSED with food and I can’t stop thinking about it."
This is really common too. Cake of the week has become a SERIOUS EVENT in our house and we spend a lot of time between bakes looking up ideas and recipes! But to be honest - that’s ok! The problem is if you are panicked by it - but there’s no need. Food is a GOOD THING and it's something given to us to make us feel good. And in rough times we might lean on that a bit more than usual - but this won’t last forever!
So be creative, and enjoy the hunting and the making as well as the eating. You might want to try challenging yourself or having family challenges. It took us WEEKS of practice to get bagel baking right! And round the world dinners were fun too - everyone on the house writes a country down, they all go into a hat and then when planning the week’s menu you have to do a meal for each country! Icelandic plokkfishkur was a lot nicer than we expected …
"It’s all gone a bit crazy … I try to only eat ‘good’ food but then I end up craving bad stuff and eating WAY too much of it all in one go."
Ok so let’s be real - this is a crazy chaotic time and a lot of people are feeling pretty out of control. Emotions are all over the place and with normal routine and rhythms gone, everything can feel like it is lost. And when that is the case sometimes we try to OVER control other stuff - like eating - and make really strict rules of what we ‘should’ and ‘shouldn’t eat. But the minute we label some food as ‘forbidden’ - guess what, we REALLY want to eat it! And the more black and white we try to be with ‘good’ or ‘bad’ foods the more we’re likely to hit problems because that just isn’t real - no food is all bad!
And sometimes these patterns of trying to restrict our eating break down to produce moments where we really do lose control and then eat much more than we normally would of something we were trying to avoid. Binge eating can feel really scary because it is linked with powerful emotions like despair and guilt. But it’s usually not as bad as it feels. If you know you’re getting stuck in patterns like this then reach out and get some help - once our emotions get tangled in eating like this it’s good to get someone else’s support.
And a final word - it’s tempting if you feel you have eaten too much to try to do something to ‘balance’ that - to get rid of it (purging) or exercise it off or something. But it’s important to know - if you start to do this the likelihood is that the binge patterns will get worse, not better -becuase in your mind you believe that eating food isn’t a point of no return - if somewhere in your mind you think there is something you do AFTER you’ve eaten, it can make your control break down even more. And in fact most things people do don’t really make as much difference as they think. So resist the temptation to get drawn deeper into these cycles and instead get some help for what you are feeling. Try https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk or https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk - both have all kinds of ways you can access support and advice.
"I’m FREAKING OUT a bit, to be honest - I know I HAVE GAINED A CORONA STONE and I am TRYING TO DIET but `I JUST CAN'T STICK TO IT..."
You know, it is SO easy to feel from the media and stuff that you should be 100% perfect all of the time with what you eat and how you look. But life is about seasons and believe me there will be seasons where you really nail healthy eating and exercise, and some, where for whatever reason things will be less spot on. Maybe if you’re busy studying or working, or if shift patterns change the way you live, or later in life when you have a family, or seasons of ill health - life is about ups and downs. And global pandemic is certainly one of those - and one which has changed our eating habits and our patterns of exercise.
And yes, for many people that has resulted in gaining some weight. but this needn’t be a permanent change and for most that will resettle when life gets back to normal. So take the pressure off - it’s ok that this season shows a bit in some changes to your body and brain. You are not meant to be a teflon person unaffected by something so major! Where you can, build good things into your lockdown rhythms - exercise, good healthy foods, other distractions to keep busy. But maybe take the pressure off and remember - it’s ok just to be human :)
And remember - sometimes worries and anxieties about life in general can get tied up with food so that we start to feel like everything would be better if only we lost weight or gained more control over our eating. When that happens it can lead to eating disorders - and that throws your perception of how you REALLY look, or what your eating is REALLY like totally out. So if YOU feel like you have gained weight or are not thin enough, but other's don't; if you have lost a lot of weight or seen your eating patterns really change; if you are restricting your eating a lot or struggling to eat normally, or if others are worried about your eating - get some help and advice. Much better to reach out and do that before things become too serious when decisions may be taken out of your control, because eating disorders can have really serious consequences for your physical health and make you very very ill.
Try https://www.beateatingdisorders.org.uk or https://www.anorexiabulimiacare.org.uk - both have all kinds of ways you can access support and advice.