This COVID-19 situation has us all out of sorts. There’s a lot of uncertainty, to say the least. I also think there’s a lot of noise about all the uncertainty and I want to be careful not to add to that. So here I am offering what I hope is support, not just more noise.
If you struggle in any way with food and body image, you probably already know that when life gets stressful, it only magnifies those struggles. What I hope you also know is that it’s not really about the food or your body, it’s how the stress may impact how you navigate food and how you feel about your body.
It’s incredibly normal for your eating patterns or eating behaviors to shift in response to stress. I also want to take the opportunity to reinforce some really important truths about eating and self-care, that would apply during our current pandemic and during any other stressful times you experience:
You’ll feel better physically, mentally and emotionally if you are eating regularly and adequately.
Right now is a great time to return to and prioritize basic self-care. That would include eating consistently, regularly and adequately. While it might be easy to forget, put it off or question the importance, I promise that you will feel more resilient to all that life is throwing at you if your body and your brain are well-fueled.
For those in eating disorder recovery, this may mean committing and recommitting to following your meal plan. For others, we (at Eat Confident Co.) have created a free download to help with establishing rhythm and predictability with food. You can grab that HERE:
Even if you’re stressed, you still need to eat.
Stress, anxiety and overwhelm can often decrease appetite or make hunger and fullness cues feel less reliable. Being sick or feeling ill will too. But just because you don’t feel hungry or don’t have an appetite doesn’t mean you don’t need to eat. If your emotions are causing eating patterns to become irregular and inadequate, you’ll want to establish a flexible structure for yourself to make sure you are eating in predictable ways. See above and download that free resource!
It’s often because you aren’t eating regularly and adequately that your hunger/fullness cues and appetite feel unreliable or muted. When you are eating adequately, your body can actually communicate its needs more effectively. You’ll find that your body wisdom becomes more clear and reliable (and makes Intuitive Eating MUCH easier!) if you are eating enough food at regular intervals.
So, there may be times you don’t feel hungry but you’ll logically know that you still need to eat. Trust that.
If eating feels chaotic right now, you need more self-compassion not more self-control.
Maybe you notice the opposite – perhaps stress increases your appetite or makes you gravitate toward food more often.
There’s stuff bubbling up that may be affecting how you navigate food. It’s not actually about the food and it says nothing about your character. I would want to validate any discomfort you feel about the way you are eating right now, but the last thing you need is more willpower, discipline or self-control. I’d invite you to take this as a sign that you need more self-compassion, kindness and grace.
You’ll benefit from fact checking.
If you find your mind spiraling into worst case scenarios and irrational fear, it’s wise to take a step back and fact check. What do you actually KNOW to be true? What can you see, feel and hear right in front of you? What is happening right now and is what you are worrying about something that is expected to happen or something you are possibly making up or catastrophizing? Focus on what your reality is rather than what you are only fearing it might be.
I’d imagine that some of the panic around food some may be experiencing is the fear of food scarcity. There’s self-imposed food scarcity (food rules, diets, rigid meal plans, etc) and actual food scarcity. While I guess I can’t guarantee that there will always and forever be enough food for everyone, I’d encourage you to assess what your current circumstances actually are – is your kitchen stocked with food? If not, is it due to self-imposed restriction or lack of access and resources? Again, fact check and go from there. You may need more flexibility with food, the reassurance that you have enough food, or to get the support you need in obtaining food (and I’m not minimizing the enormity of that issue).
(If you have enough food/supplies, challenge the urge to hoard it – which is only acting out of fear – so that you leave resources for others)
Don’t get too far ahead of yourself.
If you find your mind wandering to the uncertain future, gently bring it back to RIGHT NOW. What’s right in front of you? What is the next best step? What needs your time and attention today? Give yourself permission to take this a day (maybe one meal or snack) at a time.
I hope this was helpful. We will get through this!