With a fully-stocked pantry, free food delivery, and nowhere to go, the corona-crisis is a setup for emotional eating. So I wanted to offer a tip for managing food cravings while social distancing.
Ever notice that emotional eating urges are worse in certain circumstances? For example, when your child leaves half a syrup-drizzled waffle on their plate, when you sit in front of the TV, or when you're the last one awake in the house? These situations stimulate the impulse to eat, even when you're not hungry.
Healthy eating is more of a challenge when food marketers reach through screens to stimulate your appetite while you cope with boredom. When my son was three-years-old, he turned to me, confused while watching television. He said, "Mom, when I see an ad for pizza on TV, it makes me want to eat pizza."
When you sense food or enter situations that you associate with eating, cravings kick in. Dopamine rises in your brain as if to say, "Hey, isn't this when we eat?!" This motivating and rewarding neurotransmitter floods your system with longing, causing you to ruminate about your eating options.
If dopamine continues to rise, you are likely to head to the cupboard. But there's another option. Put the brakes on that sneaky neurotransmitter by confronting it. Have a conversation with it that brings it out of the shadows and into the light. Say to it, "Dopamine, I can feel you rising. You want me to eat. But I'm not hungry, so I'm not taking the bait."
Calling out your urges might not seem like much. But when you do, you make an essential shift from being controlled by subconscious processes to taking charge of them. I write about this phenomenon in greater detail in my upcoming book.
I'd love to hear from you. Use the comment section below to share your experiences with this strategy.
Need help with eating and body image while in quarantine? Find resources, inspiration, and telehealth support groups and therapy services at nondietinghealth.com.
Hi. I’m Alison Ross, founder of Non-Dieting Health in Agoura Hills, California. I’m a licensed psychotherapist and neurofeedback practitioner specializing in eating and body image. My favorite things are my family, my dogs, yoga and working with my clients.