Do you ever have annoying and distracting thoughts about food, even though you aren’t actually hungry or in need of more calories?

Likely this is happening more frequently due to self-isolation…

In fact, many people are reporting that similar to the “Frosh-Fifteen” (extra pounds gained during the first year of college or University), folks are now experiencing the COVID “19 pound” weight gain.

Can you relate to this? 

Carrying extra weight is not only frustrating; it compromises your health and causes your system additional stress, affecting your joints, breathing, sleep, mood, energy levels, and quality of life.

Of course, being home all the time inevitably leads to more trips to the kitchen. This is partly due, because you can’t dine out, but also because your brain is not used to this new self isolation situation. Therefore, it’s looking to appease itself emotionally and mentally for its discomfort as well.

Real hunger builds gradually. Once you’ve eaten enough, you stop eating and there are usually no lingering feelings of guilt because you are simply providing your body with the energy it needs.

So what are the main reasons people are overeating?

6 Common Causes:

  1. Distraction:  When you are procrastinating, avoiding a task you find difficult or a problem you don’t want to address, food is often used as a way to redirect your focus and put your mind onto something else.  
  2. Emotional comfort:  You subconsciously look for ways to feel better when you are stressed. This is a typical human response. Snacking becomes an attempt to ease worries and concerns and gives you the sensation of being nurtured by something.
  3. Plain View:  Seeing others eating will cause you to eat more. Your ‘Mirror Neurons’ kick in as you see others engage in something that looks rewarding, which makes you want to do it as well.
  4. Boredom:  Many eat to escape the self-awareness that comes in moments of boredom or inactivity. You aren’t actually hungry but feeling restless.
  5. Low Dopamine levels:  Dopamine is a neurotransmitter crucial to your motivation. Those with lower levels of dopamine are more likely to become addicted to dopamine-producing substances or activities like alcohol, drugs, and gambling.  As well, over-eating is a way of “waking up” dopamine neurons to feel excited and motivated again.
  6. Lack of Nutrition – Our modern-day society is overfed but undernourished. People are craving excess food, because their systems are trying to satiate a deeper hunger that can’t be fulfilled with random calories but requires specific nutrients.

Is this Problem Close to Your Home?

It turns out that obesity rates are rising worldwide. 

Globally, there are now more people who are obese than who are underweight. This is a trend observed in every region in the world except parts of Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Research is showing that obesity in Canadian adults is projected to continue to increase over the next two decades.According to the 2015 Canadian Health Measures Survey, more than one in three adults in Canada is obese and may require medical support.

The annual, direct healthcare cost of obesity (physicians, hospitalization and medication costs) is estimated to be five billion to seven billion dollars. This annual, direct healthcare cost is projected to rise to nine billion dollars by 2021. This estimate accounts for healthcare costs related to obesity and doesn’t account for productivity loss and reductions in tax revenues as an additional cost.

It seems there is cause for some concern. What can we do?

6 Ways to Break the Calorie Cycle:

  1. Occupy yourself with a hobby – Doing something, even just temporarily, will likely get your mind out of the fridge and focused on something else until the “hunger” passes.
  2. Drink water – Dehydration and thirst are commonly mistaken for hunger. Instead of reaching for a snack next time you’re feeling hungry, have a large glass of water first.
  3. Keep your mouth busy – Chewing gum or having a conversation with a friend or family member will keep your mouth busy and shift your attention.
  4. Get physical – Activities such as playing a sport, or even going for a walk, will energize you and will circulate nutrients throughout your body and brain.
  5. Wait it out – Give yourself 30 to 60 minutes to decide whether what you’re feeling is hunger due to boredom or hunger due to really being hungry – sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference. True hunger will build and remain consistent, but emotional or boredom hunger will fade as your mind becomes occupied with other things.
  6. Reduce stress – Breathe deeply, start a meditation practise, spend time in nature, or do some gardening. Chronic stress drives up levels of cortisol, a hormone that increases appetite. Studies have shown that being stressed can lead to overeating, increased hunger, binge eating, and weight gain.

Most of all, as we anxiously anticipate positive change, the best skill we can learn to develop is compassion for ourselves and others, which will fill all of our wells.

To Your Fit Brain & Fit Life,