Corona virus is understandably causing a great deal of stress and anxiety, and how to manage your eating whilst in isolation or lock down may feel very uncertain. Do talk to people in your support network about any worries and don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. Professionals, support groups, family and friends want to help and need your guidance as to what sort of help they can give.
From the start of the pandemic there have been ideas and information about food for people with eating disorders shared on the internet. Whilst much of this is good advice, spending a lot of time reading different versions can be confusing and anxiety provoking. What will be most helpful to you will be for you to have a personal plan for how you will manage food and eating and then to follow your plan using whatever support is available to you.
BEAT offer some good points about managing eating and other concerns on their website
Below is a selection of these and other points that may be of help.
One of the best pieces of advice, and which applies to everyone, is that we work out a new daily routine and stick to it. Without the usual activities and appointments that fill our days it is easy for us to slip from established daily patterns of sleep, activity and food intake that are important to health.Many people are finding it hard to fill their day. It may help to remember that it is OK to slow your day down to fill the time (Steven Fry recently spoke about this in his role as the president of MIND). The BEAT website gives a nice template to help with planning a personal daily routine that can be used alongside a meal plan.
Even if you are someone who usually prefers to follow a flexible meal plan stored only in your head, right now it will probably be helpful to have a written plan. Planning in advance and having it written down can help you stick to a regular eating routine and feel less anxious about it. It can also help to share your plan with someone trusted and that you are in regular contact with. There is a blank meal plan at the end of this document that you might like to use.
It may be that your ‘safe foods’ or preferred brands aren’t always available and it is worth planning ahead how to manage should this happen. There are plenty of other choices that will meet your nutritional needs and yet when feeling anxious it can be difficult to think of them. Try making a list of three or four different food options that would be acceptable if really necessary. For example, if you usually have a certain brand of fruit yogurt for a snack then a few suitable alternative snacks might include:
• A glass of milk and a plain biscuit
• A different brand of yogurt
• Two triangles of cheese spread on two crackers
You could make a few similar lists for any ‘safe food’ or preferred brand of food that would cause you worry if the supply was temporarily interrupted. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help and ask other people to look out for supplies for you as they come available.
The advice to us all is to keep food shopping trips to a minimum and to use online food shopping if this is available. Whilst online shopping may seem tricky at first, do persevere as it becomes easier after the first couple of shops. Having other people do your shopping for you, either from your known support network or new volunteers, is another good option. To lessen worries about what they might buy, make a careful list and ask that they telephone you from the shop if they aren’t sure about a choice.
You will know from experience which meals or foods that you find more straightforward and which can be more difficult. You may be able to plan ahead to have support with those you know can be more tricky, either in person from someone living with you, or by video, phone or a message. This will work best when you have shared your plan in advance of the meal and guided your supporter as to what sort of help works you.
Most of the advice around managing binge urges is still relevant now. Following a meal plan, and limiting the likelihood of a binge due to hunger by avoiding long gaps and eating sufficient at meals, is all good advice that still holds. Think carefully about any moves you make towards stockpiling food at home, asking yourself whether it is likely to end up as binge food. If food delivery services are spamming your inbox you may find it helpful to deactivate apps or turn off notifications.
Try sharing your worries with people you live with if they are storing more food than usual, especially as it is unlikely that this will have occurred to them as a worry for you. If you have trusted help at home you may be able to use their support to help reduce the frequency or size of binges during this time.
Some people are reporting increased fears related to food contamination that are not based on any known facts about the transmission of coronavirus. If you hear anxiety-driven comments from someone else that trigger anxiety in you, try managing your own anxiety by challenging any irrational fears with evidence-based information. Avoid getting into a dispute with someone else, as it’s unlikely that you’ll change their opinion and risk ending up feeling more anxious yourself.
Giving permission to yourself to be less active than usual may be a challenge. Try to resist any urge to compensate for reduced activity by eating less by reminding yourself that only a small percentage of the total calories we need is used for exercise, with most used to keep our body processes and brain functioning. It is scientifically accurate to say that a reduced exercise level for a few months would not be expected to lead to any significant change in someone’s weight.