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Food for thought

 A view on the change of our eating habits during lockdown


︎︎︎LYNDEN WAARDENBURG / CLIMATE
Humans are creatures of habit. Especially when it comes to what we consume on a day to day basis. For example; I love my morning smoothie. This is a recipe I have been making for more than two years. Every. Single. Morning. When I do not have time to cook, I order food at the same Italian, Vietnamese or Surinamese restaurant, because I know their food is always good and maybe I do not like it that much at a ‘new’ restaurant. And of course, weekends are for wine.

But this food bubble exploded as soon as the lockdown started; every new day feels like the day before and whether it is Monday or Saturday is not something I think about. My workout routine is nowhere to be found and my jeans are tighter than half a year ago. Does this mean it is time to start questioning my food choices?

How is Corona affecting our Food Lives?

Things are not as they once were. Lockdown restrictions, self-quarantining and temporary closing of restaurants affect our normal food habits. And by doing little to no physical activity while stuck at home, an adult burns off around 400 calories less per day. Logically, this means we should eat less to stay as healthy as we were before lockdown. But, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board report from Kanter Worldpanels showed there is an increase in food consumption of 38 per cent per week. This means there are 503 million more meals eaten at home per week during lockdown than before. The reason for this increase is while working in the office, you only eat one max two meals at home per day, now you are at home all day. While being close to the fridge, it is easier to keep eating, resulting in more calorie intake.

Note:  a walk to the fridge and back to the couch is not enough physical activity to burn those 400 calories.



‘’The brain has a reward system that hardwired us to want to engage in behaviours that we find pleasurable - like eating tasty foods.’’ - Dr Amy Reichelt




Bad Habits Highlighted

The lockdown in combination with the amount of uncertainty this period brings us can magnify our negative emotions such as boredom, loneliness and anxiety. And negative emotions can help our bad habits get the upper hand multiple research has shown. We search for something we can ‘do’ or a way of coping with our boredom. And instead of reaching for ‘healthy’ foods, such as nuts or fruit, we tend to choose chocolate, ice cream or chips. Junk food gives us a feeling of fulfilment for a short while, but once this feeling is gone, we want to relive this ‘high’ and reach for the next unhealthy item we find. Neuroscientist Dr. Amy Reichelt explains how this temporary high works; ‘’the brain has a reward system that hardwired us to want to engage in behaviours that we find pleasurable - like eating tasty foods.’’ This means we literally feel better after eating that slice of pizza or the entire tub of sweet ice cream.



“When you are stressed, your body will sense it, and it will not give up any calories when it thinks it needs for energy for running away or combat,”
- Dr Morton




Weight Gain, oh Dear...

Not only my tighter jeans show the weight gain, when stepping on the scale I also see a higher number. But even when I try to eat healthier, this number does not get any lower. A pandemic brings stress and stress can also affect our weight. “We know that obesity’s causes are multifactorial and that stress is involved,” says Dr. Viana. Not only do we turn to food as a way to cope with this, but our body also changes its metabolic system. “When you are stressed, your body will sense it, and it will not give up any calories when it thinks it needs for energy for running away or combat,” Dr. Morton says. This is called the fight-or-flight syndrome. Thus not only our unhealthy food choices make our weight go up, our mental health might be the biggest problem.

From Corona Pandemic to Obesity Pandemic? 

During the lockdown, we no longer have all control over our lives and our routine changed or is even gone. We are eating because of anxiety. We are anxious about being bored with ourselves and our lives. But at the same time, this shows us the positive side of this lockdown; yes we are stuck at home, yes we need to let go of our ‘normal’ lives and yes it is annoying. But the best thing we can do is take care of our mental health. We are not dealing with our emotions in a healthy way. Instead, we eat and eat and eat, until we do not feel the need to deal with them anymore. First, we need to acknowledge we are overeating. Then we need to find something that truly makes us happy and less lonely, like calling a friend, go for a walk or even exercising. During this lockdown, we have the opportunity to reflect on what is important to us and what makes us really happy, instead of the superficial junk food high.

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