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Managing Stress Eating During Quarantine or Isolation

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By: Erin Coleman, B.S. - Nutritional Science, R.D., L.D.,

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

managing stress eating

Managing stress eating is always important, as overeating puts you at risk of obesity, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and other disease risk factors.

Weight gain associated with overeating can also contribute to stress, anxiety, and depression, which is why properly managing stress eating is crucial.

But if you're stuck in quarantine or living in isolation, managing stress eating can be so much harder. What else is there to do?!

Well, a lot actually. We're here to help. So put down the comfort food and check out our top tips for managing stress eating!

15 Tips for Managing Stress Eating

1. Develop a Routine

When you’re stuck at home or in isolation, setting a regular routine helps you be more productive, stay busy throughout the day, and properly manage stress eating.

Go to bed and get up at the same time each day.

Create a daily schedule and to-do lists to keep yourself accountable for everyday tasks.

Your daily routine might look something like this:

  1. Wake up and have water, coffee, or tea
  2. Eat a light breakfast
  3. Exercise
  4. Have a protein-rich post-workout snack
  5. Work, take care of children, or do other everyday activities
  6. Eat lunch
  7. Go for a walk outside
  8. Finish day-to-day commitments (work, childcare, etc.)
  9. Eat a nutritious snack
  10. Complete house cleaning, do yard work, participate in outdoor activities with your kids, walk the dog with your family, etc.
  11. Eat dinner
  12. Do something fun with family or chat with friends
  13. Have a protein shake, protein bar, or another nutritious snack (optional)
  14. Go to bed

This daily routine is simply an example. Create your own based on your lifestyle, work or childcare commitments, preferences, and what works best with your schedule.

Stick with a meal and snack schedule to avoid grazing on foods all day and properly manage stress eating. Aim to eat three small meals plus two to three snacks throughout the day.

2. Track What You Eat

Studies show that writing down what you eat helps you eat fewer calories, aids in weight loss, and helps you maintain a healthy weight.

Why does this work? Writing down your daily intake makes you more aware of the volume of food you ingest each day.

Visualizing food volume helps you subconsciously eat fewer calories, even if you’re not meticulously tracking each and every calorie.

Use a calorie-counting app, online food tracking database, or simply write down the type and volume of food you eat on a piece of paper or in a food journal.

Don't forget to count calorie-containing beverages!

If you’re gaining weight, make an effort to eat less often, consume smaller portions, and/or choose lower-calorie foods.

Think non-starchy vegetables (celery, leafy greens, cucumbers, etc.), unsweetened almond milk, diluted juice, plain Greek yogurt, egg whites, and skinless grilled chicken or fish.

3. Weigh Yourself Daily

Weigh yourself every day to keep yourself accountable for managing stress eating.

Studies show that daily weigh-ins are associated with improved weight control behaviors and greater weight loss than less frequent weigh-ins.

For best results, weigh yourself at the same time each day.

Step on the scale when you first wake up each morning or right before bed to increase your chance of managing stress eating.

Record daily weigh-ins in a journal to track your results over time.

If weight loss is your goal, aim to drop one to two pounds weekly by eating 500-1,000 fewer calories per day. Adding in daily exercise can't hurt either!

4. Get Outside Every Day

In addition to getting regular exercise, make it a point to walk outside every day or at least most days of the week.

Studies show that being outdoors helps control heart rate and blood pressure, improve overall health, and reduce stress.

Consider other forms of outdoor exercise too, such as gardening, yard work, or playing outdoor sports with your kids to relieve stress and boost your mood.

Recruit family members to join you during outdoor walks to make your experience more enjoyable and spend quality time together.

5. Increase Your Water Intake

Increasing your water intake is effective for managing stress eating for numerous reasons.

Water increases satiety, making you feel less hungry.

Studies show that drinking water before meals or snacks helps you eat fewer calories overall, which is beneficial if you’re a stress eater.

Aim to drink about two cups of water before meals.

The Institute of Medicine recommends women ingest at least 12 cups of fluid daily.

Other fluids, such as coffee and tea, count too!

Carry a water bottle around with you throughout the day.

Make it a point to drink water at least once every 30 minutes or more often during exercise.

Avoid sugar-sweetened drinks (soda, sweet tea, lemonade, etc.), as studies show these beverages are linked with obesity.

To make drinking water easier, flavor it with lime, lemon, other fruit chunks, cucumber, or mint.

6. Socialize Daily

Being isolated at home with limited social interaction can negatively affect your mental and psychological well-being.

It can increase feelings of depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues.

In addition to interacting with immediate family members, make it a point to connect with extended family, friends, coworkers, neighbors, church members, or other people in the community over the phone or through video chat.

Going for even a day without any social contact can take a toll on your mental health, so work social interaction into your everyday routine.

If you don’t have the ability to do so and you struggle with severe stress, anxiety, or depression, consider online counseling services.

Doing so gives you the opportunity to talk about feelings and concerns, and learn behavior change strategies that can boost your mood and overall well-being.

If you join the Fit Mother Project, you receive access to private Fit Mom social media groups, where you can communicate with other moms with similar struggles.

They can share advice about strategies that helped them work through managing stress eating to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.

7. Move Your Body Often

To optimize managing stress eating when you’re stuck at home, make it a point to move around all throughout the day.

Doing so helps you stay busy, keep your mind off food, burn extra calories, increase your metabolism, and decrease your risk of unwanted weight gain associated with stress eating.

To keep your body moving all day long, avoid sitting down for more than an hour or two.

Take 10-minute walks throughout the day, climb stairs, do squats in place, or choose another activity to keep your body moving in addition to daily exercise.

8. Don’t Eat While Preoccupied

Eating food while preoccupied, such as watching television, surfing the internet, browsing social media, or thinking about stressful life events, increases your risk of overeating.

If you’re distracted with other things or thoughts while eating, you might miss important satiety clues indicating you’re full.

Studies show that eating while watching TV is linked with weight gain.

When eating meals or snacks, make sure you’re not distracted. Clear your mind and stay aware of hunger and satiety cues.

9. Avoid Buying Certain Foods

Keeping junk food in your home makes avoiding these foods difficult, especially if you’re stuck at home and struggle with managing stress eating.

To make it easier to eat clean and avoid unwanted weight gain, don't buy certain foods and get rid of the junk food currently in your home.

Replace soda and sugar-sweetened beverages with water, coffee, tea, or low-calorie juices.

Eat fruit with nut butter, dark chocolate, protein bars, or protein shakes instead of regular chocolate, candy bars, baked goods, and other sweet treats.

Consume Greek yogurt in place of ice cream.

Purchase whole grains instead of refined grains, such as white rice and white bread.

Steer clear of fried foods, processed meats (ham, bacon, deli meats, sausage, hot dogs, etc.), and other processed foods.

10. Get Enough Sleep

Studies show that sleep insufficiency is linked with weight gain, increasing your risk of obesity.

Chronic sleep deprivation can alter hormones levels in your body, increasing hunger and your risk of overeating.

To avoid eating too much and gaining weight while you’re stuck at home, make sure to get at least seven hours of sleep every night.

If you’re having a hard time falling asleep, set a regular bedtime schedule.

Go to bed at the same time each night, avoid caffeine or strenuous exercise before bed, don’t go to bed hungry or too full, and sleep in a cool, dark room.

If you struggle with insomnia or sleep apnea, talk with your doctor about possible treatments that can boost sleep quality.

11. Ask for Help

Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you struggle with managing stress eating on your own because of quarantine and isolation.

Online support groups or counseling can help you deal with stress, depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues linked to stress eating.

Your doctor might recommend taking certain medications to help you better cope with your situation, control your appetite, or balance hormones.

If you simply need motivational support to get your diet back on track, join the Fit Mother Project to receive email coaching support from health experts and private social media group access.

If weight loss is your goal, consider the FM30X program to help you overcome stress eating and achieve your goal weight.

12. Increase Your Protein Intake

Studies show that protein increases your body’s daily energy expenditure or metabolism.

If you feel satisfied after eating protein-rich foods, you're less likely to overeat even during times you feel stressed.

Choose protein-rich foods like grilled chicken, fish, tofu, eggs, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, beans, tofu, nuts, seeds, protein shakes, or protein bars to better control calories and optimize managing stress eating.

Aim to fill about one-fourth of each plate with protein foods, and eat high-protein foods as snacks as often as possible.

13. Eat More Non-Starchy Vegetables

After drinking water, load up on non-starchy vegetables to fill you up before eating higher-calorie foods at mealtime.

Non-starchy veggies contain few calories and they're rich in satiating fiber.

Aim to fill about half of each plate with non-starchy veggies and eat them first.

Examples of low-calorie veggies include leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, mushrooms, celery, broccoli, cauliflower, zucchini, green beans, and asparagus.

After filling one-fourth of your plate with protein foods, fill the other fourth with starches like sweet potatoes, corn, peas, dried beans, or whole grains.

Don't forget to consume two to three servings of calcium-rich dairy foods or equivalents and healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds, and nut butter.

14. Use Stress-Relieving Strategies

If you struggle managing stress eating because of social isolation or financial strain, take time to yourself and include at least one stress-relieving solution in your everyday routine.

Examples include yoga, tai chi, meditation, taking a warm bath, massage, walking outside, watching a movie, talking to friends, or reading a good book.

Consider new hobbies that help you relax, such as scrapbooking, journaling, doing puzzles, diving deeper into your spirituality, or playing games with friends and family.

Cook nutritious meals and recipes, and recruit your family to join you!

15. Work Out Daily

Working out daily is one of the best ways to properly manage stress eating.

Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week to avoid unwanted weight gain.

For best results, change your workout routine often.

Combine cardio with resistance exercises to maximize fat-burning results.

Examples include weight training, burpees, plank exercises, pushups, sit-ups, wall sits, squats, lunges, pull-ups, box jumps, and rope jumping.

Try kickboxing, step aerobics, or dance workouts to avoid boredom.

The Fit Mother Project offers custom fat-burning, weight-loss, and muscle-building workouts you can complete from the comfort of home.

Manage Stress Eating in a Healthy Way

It's nearly impossible to avoid stress all of the time, which is why finding ways to properly manage it and avoid stress eating is important.

Everybody is different, so effective stress-relieving strategies vary from person to person.

Make sure the methods you use to optimize your overall health and well-being.

Avoid smoking, excessive drinking, or other lifestyle habits that cause harm to your body.

The Fit Mother Project team is here for you every step of the way while managing stress eating during quarantine or isolation.

Sign up for the FREE Fit Mom 3-Day Weight Loss Jumpstart to get started today!

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Erin Coleman

Writer, The Fit Father Project & Fit Mother Project

Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian with over 15 years of freelance writing experience.

She graduated with her Bachelor of Science degree in nutritional science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and completed her dietetic internship at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Prior to beginning her career in medical content writing, Erin worked as Health Educator for the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Internal Medicine.

Her published work appears on hundreds of health and fitness websites, and she’s currently working on publishing her first book! Erin is a wife, and a Mom to two beautiful children.

If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

Our Fit Mother 30X Program (FM30X) is the answer you’ve been looking for. Inside FM30X, you’ll receive:

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  • VIP email coaching where we’ll personally walk you through the program.
Learn More About FM30X

If you’re a busy mom who wants to finally lose weight, get healthy, and actually keep the pounds off for good, this is the simple program you’ll love sticking to…

Our Fit Mother 30X Program (FM30X) is the answer you’ve been looking for. Inside FM30X, you’ll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Fit Mother Meal Plan with easy recipes for you and your family.
  • The metabolism-boosting Fit Mother 30X Workout (under 90 min/week) to kickstart your metabolism for fast fat burning.
  • VIP email coaching where we’ll personally walk you through the program.
Learn More About FM30X

*Please know that weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual; you may not achieve similar results. Always consult with your doctor before making health decisions. This is not medical advice – simply very well-researched info on managing stress eating.

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