Make wise choices as eating habits change during quarantine

by | Apr 13, 2020 | News

Beatriz Balderrama Baleeiro, News Reporter

Figuring out ways to deal with stress amid the COVID-19 pandemic has become one of the many hot topics in web discussions lately, however, not every coping mechanism is recommended.

Tashya Perera, a Media Studies student at the University of Guelph-Humber, said in an Instagram interview her eating habits have changed a bit since the quarantine started.

“I went from living on my own to living with my parents. They love to eat a lot of bread and rice which are things that weren’t really in my diet before,” she said. “I feel like there is a lot of food available to eat, and I am eating bigger and heavier meals.”

Stress or emotional eating can be one of the most common responses when dealing with anxious situations, but it should not be mistaken with “binge-eating”.

Kyle Byron, a certified Toronto nutritionist,  said in an email interview “binge-eating” is a mental illness characterized by recurring episodes of eating large quantities of food, and experiencing shame or guilt afterwards.

While the frequency of stress eating is much lower, and it usually happens a few times a month, he said.

Staying at home, following social distancing and running out of things to do can easily result in stress eating in order to avoid boredom.

“It’s so easy to just go downstairs and snack when there is food and nothing else to do,” Perera said.

There is no mystery why people choose eating as a coping mechanism to counter the anxious feelings caused by events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Dopamine and serotonin are released into the brain when meals are consumed,” Byron said.

“When we had to hunt for food our brains ended up developing methods to make sure we ate, and now that we have food in abundance these survival mechanisms are working against us,” he said.

In order to prevent long-term consequences and avoid health problems, there are many ways to control stress eating.

“One, remove all junk food from your house, and if you must have a treat, you can go out and get one serving of it,” Byron said.

“Two, understand your weaknesses around what foods you don’t have control over,” he said. “Three, you can eat balanced meals and snacks to reduce blood sugar fluctuations.”