What’s Eating You? Stress eating during a crisis
Nutrition & Wellness

What’s Eating You? Stress eating during a crisis

I’m going to let you in on a secret. Yesterday, I ate two entire sleeves of Marie’s Blue Label biscuits all by myself. And a week ago, in between virtual Zoom calls and working online, I unconsciously finished another pack of rice cakes within an hour. I noticed this only when I reached into the bag, shocked to realize that my fingers were grasping at crumbs. It’s official. I’ve become a quarantine cookie monster, and my summer body is canceled due to Coronavirus. 

But I’m not the only one wandering into my kitchen every other minute, or gaping stupidly into a fridge stocked with food. After all, we’re living in unprecedented times where everyone’s routine has been thrown off balance. Naturally, when most of us are practicing social distancing and working from home, we head to our most understanding and familiar friend – the fridge. 

I totally get it.

What’s wrong with stress eating?

Unfortunately, as instantly gratifying as a plate of comfort food can be, most studies show that emotional eating (or not eating,) isn’t very helpful. Our body craves food rich in sugar and carbohydrates when we’re stressed. As a result, we usually reach for the closest bag of chips, cookies, or junk food in the pantry. Over time, making drastic changes to our eating habits (overeating, constant snacking, or not eating at all,) can weaken our immune system, make your mood worse, and lead to weight gain. And especially at a time when it’s crucial to stay positive and keep our bodies healthy, this isn’t a habit you want to reinforce.

Coping strategies

Everyone reacts differently and has different coping methods to stressful situations such as these. But it’s important to know that stress eating is an emotional bandage that doesn’t address the underlying situation. So before you reach for your fifth cookie of the day, ask yourself: do I really want to eat this because I am hungry? Or is it because I am stressed and sad? Here are some healthier coping methods you can use during lockdown periods – including my favorite: the Charcuterie Board!

Make a “charcuterie” board

A good friend of mine came up with this brilliant idea when her kids were asking her fifty million times a day: “Mom, I’m hungry! What can I eat?” But I’ve discovered that it works great for snack munching adults (like me) as well. Don’t get intimidated by the fancy French name – it’s so you can pretend you haven’t been walking around in your pajamas all week. 

The concept is simple: Take out a board or a large plate, and arrange it with whatever snacks you have available. Sort of stale crackers? Cheese? Random pieces of fruit? Yogurt? Leftover nuts and chips? Toast and nutella? Assemble it on the board! The more random, the better. 

This is a great way to control your own portions throughout the day. Even if you are stress eating, at least you’re not mindlessly plowing through all the sugar and carbs in your pantry. To add a healthy twist, replace junk foods with healthier options like nuts, fruits, vegetables, and granola. Check out our immune boosters post for more ideas.

Other Healthy Coping Strategies

  • Video call your friends and family
  • Journal
  • Read
  • Exercise

It’s so normal to feel stressed during this crisis, and to reach for something that will make you feel better. Just make sure that whatever coping strategy you choose will be healthy for your mental, emotional, and physical health. And with that, I’m ditching the cookie jar for a much healthier banana and granola snack. 


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