Nutrition scientist Kathleen Alleaume shares the major reasons why you’re finding yourself staring into the fridge more than usual, and how you can break your mindless snacking cycle.
Social distancing is keeping many of us indoors. And for many of us who are new to working remotely and still trying to acclimatise from the WFH lifestyle, this can mean eating around the clock. Especially given your new work space’s likely proximity to the kitchen.
Despite the perks that come with working from home (pyjamas all day, anyone?), the lack of structure could be causing you to kick your usually healthy eating habits to the curb. If you find you’re now seemingly always in ‘snack mode’, it might be time to become more mindful of your eating triggers. Because the reasons may not be down to a simple lack of willpower.
Here’s why working remotely could have you snacking more, and exactly what you can do to get back in control.
Like what you see? Sign up to our bodyandsoul.com.au newsletter for more stories like this.
#1. You have no mealtime structure
It’s normal to feel out of whack when you’re encamped in your home. Let’s face it: no commute, no stopping by your colleague’s desk to say hi, no more coffee catch-ups. On the bright side, there’s no office birthday cake to tempt you, so following a healthy diet when you’re at home should be easy, right? Especially as you have more time to prepare food.
However, the reality is that maintaining a healthy diet can be challenging. The lack of structure can turn former regimented mealtimes into a free-for-all for some. Or forgetting to eat at all, for others. The most important thing to do is to set up your day like any regular working day. This includes a break for lunch, a few smaller breaks for snacks, and a focus on the most important meal of the day: breakfast.
Start the day right:
Getting off to good start with a wholesome brekkie will help to set the eating tone for the rest of the day and prevent mindless munchies in between. Aim for a balanced blend of quality carbs, such as high-fibre wholegrains (e.g. rolled oats/wholegrain bread) and protein (eggs, milk, yoghurt, nuts). Think a warm bowl of porridge or oats with berries and nut butter or poached eggs with avocado on toast. Together, fibre and protein will keep blood sugar levels on an even keel because they’re digested slowly, keeping your appetite in check.
#2. You’re distracted
If you’re one of those people who mindlessly chew while scrolling, challenge yourself to eat without multi-tasking, otherwise you may barely register what you’re eating until the chip packet is empty. Researchers have found that the more distracted you are while eating, the less satisfaction you get – prompting you to eat more than you intended. So it may help to prepare snacks in advance (think pre-prepared chopped fruit and veg that team well with nut butter or cheese, or added to milk for a smoothie).
Be more mindful:
Never eat directly from a packet or jar and only eat at the table and on a plate. Being more intentional around your snacks will help you recognise when you’re full, therefore helping to keep your unconscious grazing in check.
#3. You’re stressed
This is a tough one. Apart from forgetting what a carrot taste like, you may be managing new stresses: loneliness, being separated from your loved ones, suffering financial loss, sleep troubles, or working at home for an extended period. While situational stress-eating makes sense, there are physiological reasons for turning to food when the world has turned upside down.
Eating can be an easy way to diffuse uncomfortable feelings and craving carrots at this time just won’t cut it. The body tends to crave high-calorie and high-sugar foods during stressful and uncertain times. When you find yourself in this situation, check in with yourself prior to unpacking the pantry.
Ask yourself, are you really hungry, confused, annoyed, bored, or thirsty? Knowing these triggers will help you figure out how to manage your emotions without using food. If you just ate lunch an hour a go, chances are it’s not real hunger.
Kathleen Alleaume is exercise and nutrition scientist and founder of The Right Balance.