Mindful eating while working from home

Mindful eating while working from home

When you're at home much of the time, it is important to schedule an actual lunch break.


Have you been struggling with mindless eating, emotional eating or stress eating while working at home?

If so, you aren't alone: It's a natural reaction to reach for comfort foods during uncomfortable times, according to Susan Albers, Psy D. of the Cleveland Clinic.

“There are many factors that contribute to mindless eating during quarantine including stress and uncertainty, more access to food throughout the day, boredom, emotional eating, and new duties and schedules,” Albers said.

Albers offers an acronym for helping to remember how to snack mindfully: SNACK.

"S" stands for slow down. “Consciously choose a snack. Don't just eat what’s handy or convenient. Actively and intentionally choose something that’s tasty and reduces hunger,” she said.

"N" means to "notice" your hunger level on a scale from one to 10 with 10 being completely full and one being extremely hungry. "Notice whether you are eating because you are hungry or just because you are feeling uncomfortable or emotional,” Albers said.

"A" means to ask yourself, "What are my options?"

"Name three possible snacks you could have right now or name things that you could do to help cope with that emotion,” Albers said.

"C" stands for choose thoughtfully.

"Ask yourself, ‘Will this snack meet my needs? Will it take the edge off my hunger or craving?’” Albers said.

"K" is for kindness.

"As you eat the snack, ask yourself, ‘Am I being kind to my body right now? Should I stop right now or keep eating?’ If you want more, pick up another bite and continue to ask yourself this question until your answer is 'I'm satisfied,'" Albers said.

Albers said it is a challenge for people to eat healthy while working at home. “It’s a challenge to be mindful of your eating at your home office,” she said.

Albers said the first step toward mindful eating is to designate a snack spot away from your makeshift/stay-at-home office.

“What's most important is that you make your desk a snack-free zone. You will be more focused and mindful of how much and what you are snacking on if you are at an actual table. You can cognitively associate having a snack with a particular place in your house that is not your desk,” Albers said.

Albers said it is important to schedule an actual lunch break. “Instead of snacking and grazing throughout the day between Zoom calls, make sure you have an actual lunch break where you can eat a proper meal. Filling up on a hearty lunch will prevent mindless snacking throughout the afternoon,” she said.

Albers said it is important to go outside whenever the sun comes out.“Take a call outside. Move a chair onto your porch or rooftop. Going outside for just 15 minutes has been shown to reduce your blood pressure and boost your mood, which cuts down on emotional eating,” she said.

Albers said when you eat, you should just eat. “Make this your motto: It's fine to have a snack, just stop everything else you are doing. Put down your phone. Eating in front of a screen has been shown to increase how much you eat by 30-60%,” she said.

Albers said at-home workers should load up on citrus snacks. “The drastic change in work environment is taxing and stressful on your body. Your immune system is likely to take a big hit. Not only are citrus snacks like oranges and berries sweet, they give you a boost of Vitamin C, and the citrus aroma has been clinically shown to be calming,” she said.

Scheduling nonfood breaks is essential too, according to Albers. “It's easy to use snacking as an excuse for a time-out from work. Instead, allow yourself some mini nonfood breaks,” she said.

Hydration, as always, is a necessity.

“Fill a big glass of water before you start working. Before you head for a snack, refill your glass and drink up. Or link a glass of water with a work-related activity, like before a Zoom call or after you finish an email,” Albers said.

Bonnie Willis, manager of clinical nutrition services at Wooster Community Hospital, said mindfulness also applies to grocery shopping.

“Shop the perimeters of the store,” Willis said. “Most stores have produce at the entrance, then fresh meats and then dairy. All the processed foods, which are the least nutritious, are in the middle of the store.”

Willis said www.choosemyplate.gov is a good resource for nutritional information. “It offers good resources like recipes, good dietary guidelines and frequently asked questions,” she said.

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