Have you also been hearing the phrase “quarantine 15” going around?
Without mincing words – I hate it.
Tongue-in-cheek though it may be, it evokes
fatphobia, shame in taking comfort in food, and additional pressure to be productive and “on” throughout an ongoing global traumatic event when many of us are already just. So. Tired.
When it comes to eating during a pandemic with limited access to our regular amenities, and having outstanding health goals from The Before Times, to keep the mealtime stress to a minimum, it’s okay to take what you can get, and enjoy what you can.
I can tell you to eat all the avocados and do all the yoga and get all the sleep, because those are all classic stress-busters, but if you’re still stressed and miserable come mealtime, it won’t do any good if you’re too nauseous, too wired, too worried anyway.
This is a tough line to walk – wanting to keep things easy and low-stress, and wanting to support our overall health. But we need to accept and make space for our need to decompress. Adapting our food habits around our stressors is one way we can cut into the overall load.
So whoever needs to hear this right now:
Yes, takeout a couple of times a week is okay. Enjoy every bite of that pad thai. Ready-to-eat freezer meals are okay. Less prep in the moment saves a spell slot or two. Cooking hacks that save you time and dishes in the kitchen are okay. That extra time can be spent on your favourite de-stressing hobby, or, you know, a nap.
It’s also okay to do whatever you can to incorporate healthy routines and eating habits that support reducing overall stress. If you’re using this time to work on improving your core strength, that’s okay. If you’re learning to make more food from scratch, especially if you find it actually eases your stress, that’s okay. If you’re learning a new craft or skill during your downtime because it helps you feel something other than unending boredom, that’s okay.
I spoke a little more on adapting food and habits for stress and anxiety in this video:
Getting anything to eat right now is important to help short-circuit the cascade of stress response hormones, which includes adrenaline, cortisol, and insulin. And I really do mean anything. If you’ve ever been in the throes of acute anxiety, which I have, you know that appetite and ability to keep things down become a real problem. Whatever you can stomach and keep down right now, go for it. Remember we want to cut off the effects of the stress response.
So if that means you can only eat pad thai or a piece of chocolate or a handful of fries, even if we don’t typically consider them overly healthful choices, again, better than nothing.
Meet yourself where you are.
- So yes, ordering in, or keeping a stack of your favourite frozen or otherwise ready-to-eat meals on-hand, is actually very valuable.
- If you do find you need or want to make something, but are too overwhelmed by a lengthy cooking process and 17 different ingredients, build a repertoire of easy, low-input, minimal ingredient recipes to make on spent spell slot days.
- Use shortcuts where possible! As long as they don’t affect food safety, make it as easy as you can on yourself. Use canned, frozen, pre-packaged, pre-cooked or otherwise prepared ingredients. If you’re up to it, still read labels for nutrition info and overall quality, but it’s also okay to take what you can get. Choose a handful of functional foods that support stress to try incorporating. It’s not all or nothing.
- As your energy and overall stress start to level out, then is the time to consider more preventive and adaptive strategies, like adding a standard grocery list and a batch prepping day to your week. The idea is to move through the crisis so that you can make the adjustments that work for you, before you find yourself in another.
- This is also when you can refocus to add in the more functional foods, those with supportive nutrients like B vitamins, magnesium, probiotics, omega fats, and more.
On the whole, our feelings toward food, weight gain and loss, and working toward our heath goals are complex on a regular day. We haven’t had regular days for months now, and that complexity is amplified by chronic stress and anxiety over not just our health goals but our general health; as well as finances, accessibility to food and amenities, social isolation, and more.
We can find ways to adapt and move through the stress without completely sabotaging all our other goals. We just need to make space for that adaptation and allow ourselves comfort in the name of self-care.
As always, if you have questions about these topics or others relating to hormones and plant-based living, email me through my Contact form or shoot me a message on my Facebook page.
Keep calm and cook on!