I was chatting with a friend this morning and realized that it has been about six weeks since most of us started living the quarantine life. By now, we’ve all more or less settled into a new version of normal that we will probably have to keep up for the foreseeable future.
Having our daily routines disrupted so completely and being isolated at home in stretchy pants is a perfect set of circumstances for creating some not-so-great eating habits. I’m not saying that you should start dieting or making any big changes to how you eat. In fact, I would encourage not making any more serious changes to your life right now, especially when it comes to eating.
However, I know that there are plenty of people who want to shake off the bad habits of extra snacking and overindulging that they’ve started to develop so that they can feel more comfortable in their own skin. This is something that I’m all for, and I want to help!
Having our daily routines disrupted so completely and being isolated at home in stretchy pants is a perfect set of circumstances for creating some not-so-great eating habits.
Today I’m going to offer some tips for getting your eating back on track so that you can emerge from your quarantine cocoon feeling great.
1. Start Logging Your Food
Whether you use an app like MyFitnessPal, the notes app on your phone, or the margins of your planner, do your best to keep track of the foods you eat throughout the day. I’ve been tracking my food intake with MyFitnessPal for a few years now, and it has been a super helpful tool for keeping me from going overboard with snacking and meal portions when I’m bored at home.
My two biggest suggestions for starting this process are:
– Start small. If tracking everything feels like too much, pick one meal and just track that one thing consistently for a week. Or just log your snacks. The point is to shake yourself out of mindless grazing or bored eating, and having to write it down really helps with that.
– Be honest! Commit to honestly keeping track of your food intake. The intent is not to shame yourself or feel guilty! An honest log of what and how much you eat is a good way to observe your habits and see where you can improve them. Think of it as impartial data collection.
2. Keep Fewer Snacks Around
This is something else that I do because I know myself. If there are snacks I like in my pantry, I will eat them. All of them. And then I will regret eating so many snacks. And then I will repeat this process with more snacks at the next opportunity.
So, because I know the limits of my own self-control, I just don’t keep very many snacks in my house.
If you’re grazing a lot, try to finish up what you have at home, and then commit to buying fewer snack foods on your next grocery run.
One caveat: I know that food anxiety is a real issue for some people, so please don’t cause yourself any extra mental anguish while you’re shopping. For example, if you’re anxious about having enough food in the house, try buying snacks that require a bit of time or effort to prepare instead of buying less food overall. Instant access is usually the cause of my over-snacking (is that a word?), so most of the time, if I have to spend time putting together the food, I won’t bother unless I’m genuinely hungry.
3. Portion Out Your Snacks
I love peppermint patties. I could eat a whole bag of the mini ones in a single sitting. And by “could,” I mean that I have many times, and I would right now if I had a bag.
Here’s something funny though: When I have individually wrapped miniature ones, I’m perfectly satisfied with just eating one or two and leaving the rest in the fridge (because cold peppermint patties are the best).
I’ve found that this trick works with most foods. When I’m putting away leftovers, I’ll pre-portion them into separate containers, and this keeps me from heating up more than I know I should reasonably eat at once. I buy single-serve ice cream cups or bars for the same reason. Simple visual “barriers” like individual wrapping or a single container are usually enough to convince your brain that you’re eating exactly the right amount.
Putting your snacks or meals onto pretty, small plates does the same thing. I can happily eat much less than I used to because my smaller plate is pretty AND it looks very full.
(Use this as an excuse to online shop for pretty dishes and bowls. I support it.)
4. Be Kind to Your Mind
This is my final and most essential tip to you: Be kind to yourself. I know I’ve said it before, and you’ll probably see me say it again in the future.
We are in the midst of a pandemic, and the world feels flipped upside-down more often than not lately. Even if you aren’t consciously aware of it, your mind and body are feeling the stress and strain of having your normal routines totally thrown out the window.
It’s normal and okay to have less motivation and less willpower to make healthy choices. You don’t have to be perfect, and you shouldn’t scold yourself if your habits don’t change overnight.
Take your time. Start slow and simple. Pick just one small thing you want to change, and focus on that. Even if you mess up, have a bad day, or just don’t have the mental space to make ideal choices, that’s okay. You’re not in an ideal situation.
You are strong and capable! Be patient with yourself, and be proud of every time you put in the work to shape your eating habits into ones that make you feel good. You’ve got this!