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  • Writer's pictureMaya Hickman MS, RDN

Snacking in Isolation? Tips for Avoiding Extra Weight Gain

Updated: May 13, 2020

I was recently asked by a local news station to help explain why do we tend to eat more in the times of crisis and elevated stress and to offer tips on preventing (too much) weight gain. Below is the link to the video:

Food is fuel. We need to eat for energy and to grow and repair. However, as we all know, food is so much more than chemical reactions inside our bodies. Mothers often use food to soothe and comfort young kids, and as a prize for good behavior. Food is an important component of social gatherings and celebrations, and almost every major event in our lives. So it is not surprising that we have a very emotional (and sometimes very sticky -- pun not intended) relationship with food. We eat when hungry. But we also eat when bored, sad, stressed, lonely... emotions we all have felt during the past several weeks. Add to that the fact that we are stuck in the house, with twenty four hour access to overabundance of not always the healthiest dietary choices, and a few extra pounds are not a surprise, right?

I will say this though -- give yourself some extra grace and self-love. Put things in a perspective. During the time of a global health and economic crisis, are a few extra pounds really that big of a deal? Do the best you can. Try to make intentional and mindful dietary choices. Move your body. But above all, remember to enjoy the time with your family, cooking and eating meals together. With that being said, here are a few general tips that may help with your weight management goals:

· Listen to your body and pay attention to hunger cues. Stop eating before feeling of fullness/feeling stuffed.

· Do not skip meals – you will be less likely to overeat later in the day.

· Practice mindful eating -- eat slowly and chew every bite well, eat at the table and not in front of the TV/in the car/in the bedroom, pause after a few bites to assess the level of fullness.

· Drink plenty of water. Ask yourself – am I truly hungry or maybe just thirsty? Drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up, and 20 minutes before the meal.

· Plan your meals ahead of time (create a menu for the week, and stick to it). Make a grocery shopping list based on the menu to avoid impulse buys. Do not shop hungry.

· Cook without fat – bake, broil, roast, boil. Use a non-stick skillet.

· Use non-caloric sweeteners in drinks such as Stevia.

· Avoid keeping high calorie snacks in the house – remember, out of sight out of mind!

· Use smaller plates, bowls, serving spoons, and glasses.

· Fill at least ½ of your plate with non-starchy vegetables first, then add protein and starch.

· Do not put serving dishes on the table (to avoid getting seconds), and put your plate away as soon as done eating.

· Put a salad dressing on the side, then dip your fork in the dressing before taking a bite of salad.

· Include a protein source for breakfast (eggs, turkey sausage, protein shake).

· If you tend to eat to suppress negative emotions, try to do something else instead (call a friend, take a walk, listen to music, take a bath).

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