Why You’re Eating So Much During Quarantine (and Why It’s Okay)

This article may be upsetting to those who have suffered from eating disorders.

From the sourdough trend to the banana bread craze, it seems like everyone is eating more these days. I wanted to know why, so I dug into the nutrition literature. It turns out that eating is a pretty normal reaction to quarantine. Here’s why we are eating more during self-isolation. 

Environment

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External cues to eat can undermine your body’s own appetite control. It’s common sense: if you’re hanging around your kitchen more, you’re going to eat more. You have to know there’s nutella in your pantry to eat nutella.

Other people’s behavior can also play a role. If everyone around you seems to be eating more, you may eat more as well. For college students who have returned home, family meals could also help increase how much you eat.

Boredom

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Quarantine is boring, and boredom doesn’t feel good. On the other hand, eating food, particularly junk food, does feel good. Snacks break up the day and release feel-good neurotransmitters. If you’re looking for a way to pass the time, eating is something to do. 

Stress

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Social isolation is stressful. You’re away from friends, normal routines, and work. You may worry about health and finances. Normal coping mechanisms are gone. 

When you’re stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. In the short-term, this means that you’ll feel our heart beating out of your chest, your pupils will dilate, and you’ll feel flushed. Part of our stress response, however, also includes feeling hungrier. It makes sense; our ancestors needed more energy to run away from bears. If only we could eat our way out of coronavirus…

Does It Matter?

Don’t beat yourself up about eating more. Quarantine is stressful enough as it is, and dieting might actually backfire by adding to your stress levels. We’re living in crazy times. It makes sense that our bodies are going a little crazy too.

If you’re concerned about disordered eating, reach out to the National Eating Disorders Association Helpline at (800) 931-2237.

Cover Image by Juli Moreira via Unsplash