By CHESHIRE QUE
Illustration by ARIANA CAMILLE MARALIT
Stress eating during these stressful times is real. Made even worse as we Filipinos generally love to eat, don’t we? We can easily whip up decadent comfort food in our kitchens.
When the economy slowed down, we saw the online food business thriving. Basque burnt cheesecake, ube cheese pandesal, sushi bake, ginataang bilo bilo, leche flan, and many more yummy but calorie-laden treats were all over social media. They will surely satisfy your cravings and soothe your nerves during this pandemic.
Stress eating or emotional eating is the act of consuming food in response to one’s feelings even in the absence of hunger. If we do not get hold of our emotion and control our response to it, we will be rendered defenseless against the temptation of mindlessly grabbing on to food in an attempt to fill that emotional void. Food is not the enemy—it is our behavior that makes us unhealthy.
The key to overcoming stress eating during stressful times is to identify the type of hunger you are feeling. Are you really hungry? Is it really time to eat? Are you munching out of habit?
Physical hunger—Our body has a factory of hormones within its complexity—hormones that control our hunger and satiety. They are in charge of giving cues on when the body is physically hungry, as well as when the body is full. If you feel your hunger in the tummy area, that gnawing feeling of an empty stomach, then you are truly physically hungry. Go ahead and eat a full meal or a snack with lots of water before, during, and after eating to boost metabolism. If your hunger is felt above the neck area, you are not supposed to eat because you are not physically hungry. Try drinking a glass of water. You are most probably thirsty and the brain mistakes thirst for hunger. Typically, we feel hungry after four to eight hours after the last meal consumption. That gives ample time for the stomach to digest food and absorb nutrients properly. If you are hungry right after eating then you are not physically hungry but rather just craving for something that is completely not related to food. This leads us to the next type of hunger.
Emotional hunger—Who says emotional eating is all about negative emotions? It’s not! We can also mindlessly eat in response to happy emotions. How many times have you felt like you had to reward yourself with high caloric, sweet, salty, and fatty food when you are elated? Whatever mood we are in, we should treat food primarily as a nourishment for the physically hungry body without disregarding the social factors that influence our food intake. This lockdown hasn’t stopped us from celebrating with food in our homes no matter how modest the spread is. Instead of focusing on consuming everything in larger amounts just because it is there, turn your attention into people and things that are more important. If you feel happy, reward yourself in a manner that does not involve food. If you have to, then learn not to eat voraciously. A single serving of a dessert will do. If you are on the opposite end of the spectrum and you feel so down, turn to activities that are productive and make you feel better like prayer, meditation, talking to someone, helping others, listening to music, reading a book, coloring, exercising, or even sleeping. You see, when one is asleep, one cannot eat! Rest well. It is good for the body and the soul. If your way of relaxation is cooking and baking, there is nothing wrong with that but share the calories. Food preparation is a positive and creative thing. It is our behavior and relationship with food that is the issue.
Sensory hunger—What we see, smell, hear, and touch largely influence our food intake. With more time on our hands during quarantine, we spend more time browsing the Internet that is loaded with enticing images and videos of food. While we want to help the economy and purchase food online, remember to plan your menu. You don’t need to buy everything at one time and you don’t need to consume everything all at the same time. For example, if you choose to buy an entire dessert, consume that in a span of days before ordering another one. If you have already ordered an entire meal for the family, wait for a few days before ordering a feast again. Balance it with homecooked meals for the rest of the week. If you have more than what you can consume, share with others because when you don’t see that much treats at home, you will not crave or eat them. Think out of sight, out of mind.
Whether on lockdown or not, take control over your hunger. Learn how to identify and respond positively and in a healthy manner to avoid stress eating.