You probably don’t need to hear it said again: the coronavirus pandemic took everything we classified as ‘normal’ and spun it all on its head. Our daily routines, the people we frequently saw and interacted with, our social means of entertainment, all of it was tossed out the window and a pseudo virtual reality came into play instead.
Now that we’re well into a year of life alongside Covid-19, and better acquainted with the processes necessary to maintain a healthy lifestyle during a pandemic, we’re getting better at acknowledging and managing the effects of eating disorders. Identifying and avoiding eating disorder triggers is especially critical when many individuals are spending more time at home.
Emotional and environmental binge eating triggers
There are two types of triggers for binge eating – emotional and environmental.
You know the term “comfort food”? This would be a good example of an emotional trigger. When we feel anxious or stressed, when things feel out of our control or too much to handle, how frequently do we reach for our favorite snack to help us cope? This isn’t a terrible thing to do every once in a while, because sometimes a bowl of ice cream or a handful of fries is what we need in that moment. However, the balance here is learning to limit the amount of times we allow our stress to send us to the point of wanting to binge eat these foods in the hopes of reprieve.
In addition to stress and anxiety, boredom also plays a role. Even when we’re not hungry, it can be easy to mindlessly eat just for the sake of something to do. This can lead to a binge if this trigger is not identified and stopped before it matures.
Environmental triggers come from external causes, like a party or social event with food present, big portions or large containers of food, or food being visible (like a box of pastries or a bowl of candy in the office). The presence of food may make you want to eat even when you’re not hungry.
Identifying triggers give you an upper hand on binge eating, restoring a sense of control in daily life.
A key element in identifying triggers is practicing mindfulness. Many times we eat mindlessly – there’s a bowl of chips on the table during a movie, so we eat while we watch. Or, perhaps we have nothing to do for an hour, so we head to the kitchen to grab a snack for something to do.
It is in these moments that it’s absolutely vital to stop and ask, “Am I hungry?” “Should I be eating right now?” “Should I be eating this or should I choose something healthier?” “Why am I reaching for food? Is it because I’m sad/stressed/bored, etc.?” If your answers aren’t because you’re hungry and/or it’s time to eat, it might be time to close the pantry door or push the chip bowl to the other side of the coffee table.
Avoiding the temptation
Handling the triggers and the temptation to binge eat can seem overwhelming, but with intentional guidelines put into place, you might find it easier than you thought to keep a handle on binge-eating.
- Keep a food journal – It will document when, where, why, what and how you ate. You will notice positive and negative trends in your eating, so you can continue the good trends and address the negative consequences of poor eating practices.
- Meal plan – Planning your meals will keep you from eating whatever happens to be in the fridge, healthy or not. Planning ahead allows you to dish out even portions and be selective with nutritious ingredients.
- Listen to body cues – It might sound odd, but don’t eat just because you can or because food is in front of you. Eat slowly and intentionally to notice when your stomach grows full. At that point, stop.
- Reduce cravings with balance – Your body craves sugar and salt when it’s not getting enough good nutrition. In order to get a handle on cravings, make sure you’re eating balanced meals with plenty of colorful veggies, dark greens and protein sources like chicken, eggs and nuts. Over time, your body will stop wanting loads of sugar and will crave the good stuff instead.
Support for you
If you’re struggling to manage binge eating on your own, don’t even hesitate to reach out for help. Treatment and counseling centers like Seeds of Hope offer supportive and compassionate care to help all clients struggling with mental effects of the pandemic, including binge eating. With professional guidance alongside your own determination, a healthy, wholesome lifestyle is in your grasp. Call (610) 644-6464, or schedule an appointment today to get the help you need.