Has the stress of the COVID-19 pandemic reawakened the emotional eater in you? If so, you’re in good company. We often turn to comfort food when we get stressed and life gets crazy.
In today’s world, in addition to the regular stressors we contend with, such as personal, workplace and family stress, this pandemic has unleashed sources of stress that are new and uncomfortable to us:
- Fear for our personal health and that of our family
- Strain of the extended quarantine
- Angst over isolation from family and friends
- Panic caused by loss of employment and savings
- Anxiety over life after COVID-19
- Grief because of countless losses
- And more…
Just writing this list has me craving a pepperoni pizza with extra cheese.
We all have stress in our lives and, most of the time, we manage it pretty well. However, this pandemic has put us in an uncomfortable and strange place, and the mindless muncher and emotional eater have been reawakened in many of us. Comfort foods chock full of sugar, fat, and calories have become our constant companions.
With no firm end in sight to the COVID-19 pandemic, it may be time to take a look at what we’re eating. Let’s start here:
The car engine theory
Think of your body as a car engine, one that’s designed to run on mid-grade gas. In simple terms, you put gas in the tank, the engine does its job, and you get power and acceleration to drive where ever you like.
Perhaps a few weeks ago, you started using cheap, low octane gas. Initially, you didn’t notice a big difference in your car’s performance but, lately, your car seems to have lost its get-up-and-go. It’s sluggish. And your gas mileage has dropped considerably. If you keep using that cheap gas, you may end up with some serious car problems as it gets older, problems that go far beyond the standard, your-car-is-out-of-warranty issues.
Much like the gas you put in your car, the food you eat will play a big role in how much energy you have now and how healthy you may be down the road. Summing it up goes something like this:
If FOOD=FUEL and FUEL=ENERGY then FOOD=ENERGY!
Just like cheap gas, a steady diet of high sugar, high fat, and high calorie comfort food will catch up with you.
Listen to your mother’s advice
Your mother was right—you should eat all your fruits and vegetables. They are a great source of the nutrients and health benefits, stuff you won’t find in a bag of tortilla chips. An easy way to get the needed vitamins and minerals that are found in fruits and veggies is to strive for variety and color in them. Fruits and veggies come in an abundance of colors, shapes, textures, and tastes. Don’t like fruits or veggies, you say? Then you haven’t found the ones you like yet. But don’t worry; the odds are in your favor that you will.
The benefits of fruits and veggies are many. They can strengthen your immune system, making you more resistant to illnesses. They can also give you more energy, improve how you feel, and help put you in a better mood. And they can save you money, because they cost less than prepackaged, take out, or fast foods. Just try not to wash them down with full-sugar sodas or alcohol.
Now is a great time to take care of your car engine and listen to your mother! You’ve got nothing to lose. You may find in a few weeks that you’re in a better mood and have more energy. And since we have a lot of time on our hands now, check out the guidance provided by President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition on eating healthy.
Stay safe. Please stay indoors.
Joanne Steen, MS, NCC
Remarried Gold Star widow. Author We Regret To Inform You. A Survival Guide for Gold Star Parents and coauthor Military Widow: A Survival Guide. Trainer on grief, loss, and resilience. Ocean-loving chocoholic
What a great article Joanne. I have been trying to include more salads with my meals and have become quite a fan, but have to admit a scoop of ice cream after dinner is still my downfall, and a square of chocolate to boot. All in all we should keep our bodies in tune as you outlined so well. Good job!!!! Loved your practical advice.
Another great article, Joanne!
The picture of you is gorgeous!
Jo, I love the car analogy! I’ve been doing a lot of home cooking which is better than packaged or pre-made, so that’s the good news, but I find myself having more than a few pieces of chocolate every day as a “stress” reducer! Thanks for reminding me of the long-term benefits of a healthy diet! stay well. Michele