Do you find yourself eating more during lockdown out of boredom and stress? As the weeks of staying indoors as a result of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic take their toll, many of us are raiding the fridge for comfort food.
If maintaining a balanced and healthy diet is proving difficult for you at present, be assured that you’re not alone. Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub explores how some of the people of Cumbernauld are coping with this challenge and what they can do to find a routine of healthy eating under abnormal and trying circumstances.
Instead of buying something fresh on the way home from work, Cumbernauld’s Alison Wright, 47, has been trying to recreate the things she craves, including McDonald’s cheese bites, in recipes she finds online:
“Lockdown reminds me of a long haul flight, fed up of TV, can’t stop eating out of boredom and just want it to be over so you can get to the good bit.” On a similar theme, Seafar’s Steven McAllister, 37, is struggling to resist sweet temptations:
“I’m definitely comfort-eating more chocolate and biscuits, even though I’m a diabetic. I suppose it’s just as a bit of a release to lift the mood.
“Half of me doesn’t really care how I look at the moment; it’s all about surviving through this terrible period. Then when it’s all over I can get back to working out.”
When the schools closed, primary school teacher Lisa Waddle, 26, from Condorrat, found herself with nothing to do: “I was always going to the fridge or the cupboards and seeing what I could eat, because I was bored. I gained 4lb in a week, and I thought, ‘How have I done that?'”
Having lost 4st 3lb in the past year, Lisa did not want to put it all back on. She realised she snacked most mid-mornings, so that’s when she now exercises. And she now cooks for her whole family:
“It gives me something to look forward to,” she says. “It gets to about 4:30pm and I think, ‘Right, I’ve got to do their tea now.'”
So are we actually eating more? Is it as much of a problem as we might think? Mary McNeil, Development Manager at Cornerstone House Centre, commented:
“There are a number of national health studies underway to track our lifestyle behaviours under lockdown, and it will certainly be interesting to see what results they reap and what conclusions they reach.
“One way perhaps to compare the current situation is to what happens to us during holiday periods, when we kind of throw caution to the wind and are out of our normal routines in every way, including what we eat and drink.
“Some of us might be thinking, ‘There’s so much going on in the world, I’m just going to not worry about my eating.’ People use all kinds of rationales for not keeping to a healthy diet, and certainly COVID-19 has given us a very good justification.”
“There are physiological reasons for some of these attitudes and behaviours. When the body is stressed it produces too much cortisol, which makes us more likely to over-eat – and not just any kind of foods, but those which are high in fat and sugar.
“It’s important to remember that it’s not just overeating which is a problem during lockdown – under-eating is just as bad for you. Undernourishment is a real concern at the moment for many people in Cumbernauld, especially amongst older adults.”
One such person for whom the issues around food during lockdown are more complicated is Margaret Stevens from Abronhill. She has anorexia and the lockdown has meant her daytime treatment centre has closed.
Losing that support, as well as the early supermarket rush on canned goods which deprived her of some of her ‘safe foods’, has resulted in some of Margaret’s symptoms re-emerging:
“I thought: ‘Well, I can’t control what’s going on in the world right now but I can control what I’m eating.’” Margaret decided to get some help through the charity Beat Eating Disorders and is now back on track and her symptoms are under control.
Meanwhile, Dullutar mum Deborah Martin reminded us that lockdown is not all bad news for our eating habits. She has been enjoying meals in the company of her children, who are back from university and are helping out in the kitchen:
“One benefit that has come from this difficult situation is that families are sitting down to eat together when they wouldn’t have done previously.”
Tips on Diet and Nutrition During Lockdown
Routine is really important, so try and keep to a routine of having three meals a day. It’s fine to have a couple of snacks, but you might then need to have slightly smaller meals.
If snacking is a real concern, you could put your snacks for the day in a box. If you eat them all before lunch, that’s fine, but there’s no more.
Whatever our new eating patterns are, it’s important we try not to feel bad about ourselves. As much as possible, avoid too many negative thoughts, because we are going through a really hard time and it’s natural to have a desire to eat more sometimes. Accept that you are going to eat differently and don’t beat yourself up about it.
Cumbernauld Community Health Information Hub offers the following advice on how to eat and drink more healthily during lockdown:
Have a glass of water. You might be thirsty, not hungry, and sometimes we confuse the two.
Exercise and social interaction help bring cortisol down, as well as anything that makes you feel calm, like reading, meditating or going for a walk. Lower cortisol will likely mean less craving for food.
Foods that are high in protein or fibre will make you feel fuller for longer, for example beans and other pulses, eggs or nuts.
Frozen ingredients are just as good, potentially even better than fresh food, and you can also use canned vegetables and fruit.
If you have extra time whilst at home, learn to cook healthy and nutritious meals rather than always relying on takeaways or ready meals.
Keep yourself busy and active. Boredom can be a big factor in making decisions to eat more, so distraction is a good way of averting this.
Avoid getting into a habit of drinking alcohol at home regularly, and when you do drink make sure you stay within the recommended weekly alcohol intake guidelines.
If you live in Cumbernauld and are concerned that you or someone you know is not getting enough food or nutrition during lockdown because of finances or inability to get to the shops, the Cumbernauld CHaT (Community Help and Talk) Service can provide quick and free assistance.
Anyone in need of support with food or nutrition during the coronavirus pandemic can contact Cumbernauld CHaT’s helpline on 07940 569527 any day of the week between 9am and 9pm, or alternatively email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More information about how to eat healthily during coronavirus can be found here from the British Dietetic Association.