Have you seen the memes about ‘eating all your isolation snacks in one day?’ Yes, we all laugh at this and the pictures of the obese cat and overweight Barbie doing the rounds. But is it all not too close to the truth for comfort? How much snacking have you been doing since lockdown or isolation started?

While snacking is a common stress-coping technique, now more than ever, it is important to stay healthy. Putting on weight is dangerous as obesity is a COVID-19 risk factor.

So why are we snacking more than usual? 

Coronavirus-related anxiety and changes in routine helps turn usual healthy eating habits upside down. Health and diet are proving particularly difficult to manage as our regular exercise regimes are disrupted and millions of us are working from home with constant access to our kitchens, and the treats within. Unable to go to gym or jog to work off stress, many are seeking other unhealthy outlets. We are feeling increasingly stressed out, anxious about the health of families and friends, and preoccupied with the tanking economy. Boredom from not being able to pursue our usual social activities also plays a major role.

To cope with stress and boredom, many people have to resorted to constantly eating and snacking.

Here are some tips to help.

With most people, the first thing to go when we’re stressed is self-care, specifically the true basics: exercise, sleep and eating. Ensure you are getting enough of the first two, then focus on what and how you are eating.

Identify if you are stress or emotional eating.

Real physical hunger is easily satisfied… You stop when you are full, and before you get uncomfortable. Emotional hunger comes on suddenly, and the emotional hunger is, “I’m bored or frustrated or stressed, I’ll go to the fridge and eat cheese or chocolate or whatever”. It is often difficult to satisfy.

If you stocked up on your favorite sweet before self-isolating, this can be a constant temptation. Make sure snacks and sweets are not as accessible, lock them up or ask a partner to keep them for you and hold you accountable. It is much harder to give in to temptation if you have to go ask someone for that snack. Also keep the snacks in the kitchen rather than on your desk where you can impulsively snack.  Only take out as much as you need. For example, if you are snacking on cracker bread, place a few on a plate, rather than taking the whole packet.

Keeping a food diary of what you  eat, how much you eat, and what you are feeling when you eat can help you identify what triggers comfort eating. For some people, it’s boredom, whereas for others it’s stress, anxiety, or sadness. Once you identify the trigger, it is easier to manage it.

Once you know what triggers your emotional eating, find other simple activities at home to manage these without food.

The best way to take our mind off food are cognitively challenging tasks. This means going for a walk, meditation, or taking a bath may not be effective ways to distract ourselves. However, something that engages your brain can be a better distractor, such as sudoku puzzles, crosswords, brain training apps, chess or scrabble, calling a friend, playing a board game, listening to a podcast.

Take away the stress of wondering what to eat throughout the week. Plan healthy meals at the start of the week, and prep all at once. When you know exactly what and when to eat, it takes away the permission to snack on unhealthy food.

Chat to others to avoid stress eating triggers. With the COVID-19 pandemic, many of us feel isolated and alone, feelings that may lead to loneliness and stress eating. Reach out to friends and family through FaceTime and chat apps.

Whenever you eat, eat consciously. What that means is, you focus on the food and nothing else. If you watch TV and eat, you will eat more than if you focus on the food.

Chewing improves digestion and increases satiety meaning you feel full and less likely to pick a snack.

Adding a liquid like herbal tea to your snack times can also be useful to help limit the snacking

Have some activities ready for when the urge to snack hits….

– do a crossword puzzle for 10 minutes
-call a friend for a quick chat
-read a book for 10 minute
-do stretches for 10 minutes

If you are going to indulge, and deviate from your eating plan to snack, select snacks that are not going to totally derail your progress. Even though it will cause a disruption in YOUR TLC-Program results, it will not be as bad as some other snacks.

So, instead of crisps,  cut up an apple (from allowance) and dip in peanut butter or dip slices of celery in spicy hummus or mashed avocado.

Other healthy snack options include:
High-quality dark chocolate (85%+)
Frozen berries
Plain Ryvita crackers
Mixed nuts

Finally, Try to focus on the fact that you want to come out of this Lockdown period healthy and fit, as opposed to overweight or obese and more vulnerable to disease.

Keep healthy and keep safe! 

Note:  always choose only foods off the list on the TLC-Phase you are following.