Getting Through the Quarantine DietMay 7, 2020
I’m sure many of you will agree with me, these last two months have been trying, and Illinois has another month of ‘self-isolation’ to look forward to. Fortunately, there are funny people who create lol memes to help us lighten the weight of our collective moods. These memes tend to have a constant message about gaining weight due to the close proximity of our home offices to the kitchen. From the clinical perspective, weight gain during this time makes a lot of sense. It’s not just having accessibility to food; it’s the low-level (or high level) stress and loss of the things we have grown accustomed to.
Calling the experiment ‘Social Distancing’ has made this psychologically harder, and I appreciate the individual who coined the term ‘Physical Distancing’; I just wish it came out first. Take a look out your window: spot a full tree. Each one of those leaves represents something that gives you pleasure and makes you feel fulfilled: family, going out to dinner with your significant other, bowling with friends, lifting at your favorite gym with your workout buddy, food, dog/cat snuggles, work, alcohol and your favorite bartender, getting our hair done at the salon with lights that make us look fantastic, intimate moments (wink wink), shopping at our favorite clothing store, gambling, crafting, visiting with classmates during your evening Spanish class, etc. Now look for a barren tree, one that doesn’t have any leaves yet or has only a few. Those branches represent the pleasures that many people have left when we have to be physically distanced from others. Many folks are left with food, alcohol, television, online shopping, and if you’re one of the lucky ones you live with a supportive family or a roommate (pets can be included, many of which became co-workers).
We like to turn to food to cheer us up; we celebrate by eating and drinking, we mourn loss by joining together and eating; carbohydrates and sugar feed the brain and are instant gratification. For others, it really is boredom eating.
So how do we conquer this? Truth is, you don’t ‘get over food’ but maybe it’s not food that is the culprit. Rather, try and dig in and search for things you can do that will make you and your loved ones happy. Work on all levels of satisfaction:
• Video chat with friends or family – much more enjoyable than another work conference.
• Play a virtual game with friends or have family game night
• Write a letter to your grandmother in the nursing home, I’m sure she also misses your visits.
• Learn how to sew. Start with masks and deliver them to your neighbors.
You can make time for these things if you’re reduce your television and Social Media time. It’ll help your mental health to get away from the news and other people’s boredom posts. Plus, you’ll be so busy that you’ll forget to eat out of boredom. If you still find yourself snacking, put up a sign that says STOP on the fridge or avoid adding as much of the low-quality convenience items to your virtual grocery cart. Purchasing foods that are not prepackaged or pre-cooked; forces you to cook (or learn how to cook), and halts you from opening a bag and eating.
If I’ve learned anything from the response to this pandemic it’s:
1. Don’t inject bleach or other disinfectants
2. I have not watched Tiger King; but Carol Baskins is totally guilty
3. Toilet paper is a hotter commodity than I previously thought
4. We can get through this, and perhaps a little comfort food can help
Next time (if there is a next time) please set yourself up for success mentally by starting these healthy habits now.