How (and what!) To Eat When You’re Anxious

Even if you weren’t an anxious person before this pandemic…I think anxiety is something that more and more of us are becoming all too familiar with.  This feeling is common in so many situations, and a global pandemic is definitely one that can heighten it!  I have worked with many many clients who work hard on their eating patterns and are able to regularly nourish themselves, but then it is so easy to get thrown off track when things become stressful and that can lead to skipping meals and undernourishment.  Stress and anxiety can absolutely affect your hunger cues and appetite, but even if you don’t feel hungry you still need food!  Your metabolism does not stop when you are anxious, if anything you might need more energy than usual if you are restless and fidgety.  I wanted to share some tips for eating when you might not feel like eating.    

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  • If anxiety gives you digestive trouble…
    • It’s well known that worry can cause an upset tummy, and nobody likes to even think about food when their gut is acting up.  If you find yourself with stomach issues when stressed, try to stick to a bland diet.  The BRAT diet is easy on a sensitive stomach (that’s an acronym for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast).  For protein options, try hard boiled eggs or simple baked chicken.  Tofu is a good vegetarian choice.  You’ll want to avoid anything too high in fiber such as beans or cruciferous veggies since those are hard to digest.  High fat foods can also exacerbate tummy troubles so try to keep sauces light and avoid nuts, avocados, and butter until you’re feeling a bit back to normal.
  • If the stress makes you just not feel hungry…
    • I know that SO many people struggle with this one.  We are told that it’s “bad” to eat when you aren’t hungry.   Especially now, when people are so fearful of weight gain, it seems like a crime to eat without a rumbling stomach, but remember that your nutrition needs have not changed.  In order to make it easier to get some food in when the hunger isn’t there, try having options  available that are especially appealing to YOU.  Do you have a sweet tooth?  Then don’t force eggs for breakfast, try oatmeal with cinnamon or cereal in yogurt drizzled with honey.  If you crave savory, keep some salty pretzels and hummus on hand for snacking or some cheese and crackers.  Smoothies can also be helpful if drinking is more appetizing than solid food.  Pack a blender with frozen fruit, some spinach for veggies, milk, and nut butter and blend it up for a nutritious meal or snack.
    • Also remember that if the only thing that appeals to you is a ‘forbidden food’ like pop tarts or mac and cheese, that’s ok!  You need energy and if that is what you can have that’s great because it will still give you energy.  This is a temporary crisis and you will have plenty of time to eat vegetables throughout your life.
  • If you are with people who are skipping meals due to stress…
    • Maybe you’re stressing because nobody in your home is eating enough since THEY’RE stressing – ah!  Like I said before, it is such a common issue for people to overwork or over stress and skip meals or snacks throughout the day.  Because of the diet obsessed culture we live in, nobody seems to think this is a big problem…but I am here to tell you that IT IS A PROBLEM!  If your friends or family are making it harder for you to hold yourself accountable with food, try to make meals a social event.  Eat at a time when everyone can step away from work and have time together to NOT discuss the news.  You can also try to plan virtual meal dates if you are living alone or if you can’t find common free time with those in your house.  If you are looking for meal support on a regular basis, follow @covid19eatingsupport on Instagram where eating disorder professionals are going live every hour to provide meal support!  It’s a great resource!

Above all, remember that you need and deserve to eat.  Your body is depending on you!