Managing Meals When Working From Home
Working from home has become the new normal for many of us and our routines have changed. We might be waking up a bit later, doing modified workouts and managing our children all while trying to get some work done. Add to this, eating all our meals at home. For some people, having the convenience of the kitchen right there when you need it is fantastic but for others it can be like trying to manage an addiction. Every time they get up from their desk they walk past the kitchen and find themselves looking in the fridge for something to eat. If you are struggling trying to manage your eating during these challenging times, I have a few strategies that may help.
Create Your Eating Schedule
Eating regular meals and snacks can help stave off cravings and prevent overeating. Try to eat breakfast within an hour or two of waking. It can be quick, maybe even just taking a smoothie with you to your desk.
Schedule a lunch break and consider making lunch the night before. Pack up some leftover chicken and salad from dinner, toss in a yogurt and cut orange. Keep it in the fridge so when the time comes for lunch you know exactly what you are having, and you are not leaving it up to chance. If salad and chicken was enough, keep the yogurt and orange on your desk for an afternoon snack.
Plan dinners ahead of time. Ideally create a list of the dinners you plan to make that week and write your grocery list. Shop once a week and stick to your list. If you find you have a bit of extra time these days without the commute, consider trying to find a couple new recipes to add to your repertoire. I made paella the other night and it was a huge hit with my family.
Be Mindful of your Eating Habits
If you keep finding yourself looking for food in the kitchen, ask yourself if you are truly hungry? I use the acronym HALTS. Am I Hungry, Anxious, Lonely, Tired or Stressed? If it isn’t true hunger, then food is not the solution to the emotion you are feeling. In which case there are other behaviours that would help more. For example, if you are lonely, call a friend. If you are Anxious, try some breathing exercises such as focusing on a long slow exhale.
Sometimes we eat because we are bored and there is nothing else to do. This is where keeping a list of “to do’s” on the fridge can help.
Other times we have food cravings. Some people can ignore these cravings and others are unable to overcome the power of the urge and give in, leaving them feeling guilty, out of control or helpless. If you do feel overcome by the power of your urges to eat, there are some strategies you can use to gain control.
First, think of a craving as a wave that comes and goes. Some waves are bigger than others but they all eventually pass. In order to ride the wave and avoid giving in to your craving, you can practice DELAY, DISTRACT and SUBSTITUTE. Start by delaying giving in every time you have the craving. Try waiting 10 or 15 minutes. Sometimes the craving will go away, other times it will not. However, every time you delay, you are training your brain that cravings do not always result in immediate gratification. Next, distract yourself by doing something else. Organize your everything drawer or linen closet. And finally Substitute. If you are craving something sweet, then consider having some frozen blueberries or a date. If you are craving salty crunchy food try some cucumbers and hummus or roasted chickpeas. The more often you can “ride the wave” and not give in to your craving the less intense the cravings will become and the easier it will be.
Drop the Food Rules
Try not to label foods as good or bad. All foods can fit. No one food will make you fat. You do not need to weigh or measure everything and you don’t need to track it all on your food app. Try to pay attention to your hunger and fullness. When we make food choices, we consider many factors. Our left brain, the logical brain, makes decisions about what healthy meals we will make for the day or week based on nutrition and good health. Our right brain, the creative and emotional brain, helps with choosing foods that make us feel happy or taste good and look good. Both sides are important. When you drop the food rules and allow yourself to eat intuitively using both sides of the brain you will find peace and the joy of eating.
Be Kind to Yourself
Avoid negative self-talk. Nobody is perfect and we are all trying to do the best we can in this situation. Try to find happy mediums for situations that used to be all or none or black and white. Recognize that telling yourself you can never have chocolate is unrealistic and does not make you happy but that binge eating chocolate does not make you happy either. Try to find that place somewhere between no chocolate and bingeing on chocolate that gives you true satisfaction. You are worthy of all foods.
Be Well and Stay Safe.