3 Tips for Mindful Eating During the Pandemic
Mindful eating can be challenging in normal times, and these are far from normal times. Even though some people are now getting COVID-19 vaccinations, many of us have to wait a while. Until then, I, like many, am isolating as much as possible.
Plus, I keep hearing about these new variations that can transmit more easily. So far, none have been reported in Maine, but it’s only a matter of time.
Small wonder, then, that people have talked about “pandemic pounds” and eating more than they normally would or eating different kinds of food.
But even with all this, it’s still possible to eat mindfully. Here are three tips to help during this stressful time.
Recognize the need for comfort
One of the most important things is a simple acknowledgment of this strange situation and the fact that you’re looking for some comfort. In other times, you might have found that comfort by visiting with family or friends, going out to favorite places, attending concerts, or any number of other things.
Now that many of those activities are suspended, it’s harder to find comfort. If you live alone as I do, you might be coming up on a year of not getting a hug or sharing a meal with anyone.
And it’s hard. There’s no denying that.
So if you find yourself eating when you’re not hungry, see if you can pause for a moment and identify what’s causing you to reach for food. And if it’s because you need some comfort, acknowledge that.
If you can, you could try to find another way to address that, but if you choose to eat anyway, try to be gentle with yourself. The last thing you need is feeling bad about that choice on top of everything else going on.
Plan for redirecting your attention
In other cases, you might want to eat because you’re bored, and that’s also perfectly understandable.
You might be yearning for something to distract you from being inside the same four walls so often. After all, visiting with people online isn’t the same as in-person, and neither is attending church, or watching musical performances, or going to a museum.
If you’re feeling this itch of just wanting a change, you might turn to food as a way of doing that.
I know some folks are satisfying this urge for change by getting takeout from different restaurants in the area, which also helps support local businesses. That can be a great way to go, and I’m thinking of doing that myself for Maine Restaurant Week in early March.
But if you always turn to food, or if you use food for distraction when you’re not hungry, it’s worth trying something else.
In this case, it helps to plan to have something you can easily turn to for distraction.
You could make a playlist of your favorite music, songs that get your feet tapping and bring a smile to your face, and then listen to it when you’re bored. You could give yourself a project of going through old photos and putting the ones you want to keep in an album, or perhaps digitize them to preserve them.
You could try a new hobby or revisit an old one. For example, I’m getting back into cross stitch, and it’s a nice way for me to relax and unwind in the evening. (Although sometimes my cat Fezzik likes to “help,” which makes it trickier.)
Whatever it is, see if you can find something that’s not always food to help with the boredom factor.
Build on small wins
And finally, when you find that you’ve been mindful about some aspect of your eating, acknowledge it and use it to give you more momentum.
For example, if you did something other than eat to comfort yourself, that’s a win. The next time you turn to food for comfort, think of that earlier decision. It helps to remember that you can do something different, and that can encourage you to make similar choices again.
You could even give yourself a sticker, or draw a smiley face on your calendar, or find some other way to mark those occasions. A lot of people find it helpful to have that visual cue, and it feels good to keep that momentum going.
Pandemic eating doesn’t have to be mindless
It’s easy to eat mindlessly during this time of the pandemic, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can still choose different options, and celebrate the times when you do.
And if you can work on eating mindfully, you may find it a little easier to relax until life is somewhat more normal.