Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders


How to manage your eating disorder during quarantine?

How should you react to your anxieties when you are stuck at home with a full fridge?

As an ED specialist, I will give you some tips to help you.

Eating Disorders (ED): An additional stress during quarantine

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders

For people with an ED, being stuck at home with a fridge full of food is a real challenge. Anxiety sets in, because we can no longer put in place the tricks that usually allow us to keep our fears and our compulsions at bay.

There is no escape, we are facing a source of food but also facing our compulsions, defenseless. We can clearly see how, at that time, the body becomes an enemy. This body that sends us signals of hunger, that gets bigger even if we do everything to restrict it, and that is always present when we would like to forget about it. We have to make a plan of attack to "control" it.

And there begins a vicious cycle that will no longer stop: you restrict yourself, you ignore the signals your body sends you, you binge eat* the entire cake that you were trying to ignore for a few hours, you feel guilty, and you restrict yourself again.

* Binge eating refers to the absorption of a large amount of food in a short time accompanied by a loss of control.

Where do these impulses come from?

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders

Food compulsions are often symptomatic of two types of eating disorder: bulimia nervosa and binge eating disorder:

  • Bulimia nervosa is defined as episodes of rapid and uncontrolled absorption of large quantities of food under the influence of a stress felt as more or less irrepressible, and typically ending in induced vomiting.
  • Binge eating disorder is defined as recurrent episodes of binge eating, without vomiting or elimination practices, which can lead to obesity.

These two disorders have in common recurrent food compulsions which correspond to the following characteristics:

  • eating much faster than usual
  • eating until you feel uncomfortably full
  • eating large amounts of food without feeling physically hungry
  • eating alone, because you feel embarrassed by the amount of food you eat
  • feeling disgusted with yourself, depressed or very guilty after eating too much

These disorders have a saving function for the individual's psychic apparatus, it helps them to fight against their anxieties. This saving function is so powerful and it helps to contain such important anxieties that it is difficult to get rid of it.

These compulsions often serve as emotional discharge, meaning that they express through the body, emotions that overflow us and that we can not process.

How not to give in to urges more than usual?

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders

In this particularly anxiety-provoking context of quarantine, our food compulsions may be more present than usual. Many try to control these impulses so as not to let them win the battle and not to sink into crises of "binge eating" and self-esteem.

However, through this process, a new battle begins with our own body and our own emotions. The purpose of this battle is to silence these negative emotions that give our body the urge to eat.

This will prevent a part of us from expressing ourselves, and therefore will result to a relationship of mistreatment with ourselves. The more active this process is, the more we will prevent our emotions from being expressed, the bigger our discomfort will be and the more the food compulsions will be present.

For people with EDs, dietary restrictions and control can be a double-edged sword: first experienced as protective, then the control revives our anxieties and therefore our compulsions. Does this mean that you have to give in to all your impulses so that you are no longer anxious? Not really, since, as we have seen, these impulses express uneasiness and harm our body (vomiting, nausea, bloating, pain).

We have to learn how to listen to these impulses, to take them into account, without giving in to them. It is a question of setting up a benevolent listening towards your body, letting it express itself to avoid loss of control.

Mindfulness meditation: a way out of this vicious cycle

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders

I'm being vague on purpose because this whole process is very personal, it depends on the interiority of each one. As a psychologist, my posture is not to say what to do to get better, but to help find the solution that is most suitable for everyone.

There is no magical recipe. It’s not about changing who you are. It's about being able to accept yourself and living well with what you are. On the other hand, there are some options to explore in order to be able to put in place this sympathetic listening of yourself in this period of quarantine.

Mindfulness meditation is an interesting option. It is about observing our feelings in the present moment without devaluing, or without comparing ourselves to others, which allows not to filter the feelings that reach our consciousness.

This is a time when the goal is not to be demanding with oneself, but on the contrary to accept all our emotions, including those that we would prefer to ignore.

In everyday life, we rarely take the time to start this process, but right now it may be easier to make time for ourselves. We can thus listen to our own emotions, let them express themselves without judging or putting them aside. Sometimes it's a complicated process.

Intuitive eating: differentiate between need and compulsion

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders

You can also practice eating intuitively. For people with EDs, it can make all the difference. If we manage to do it, we can avoid giving in to our impulses since we take the time to ask ourselves if we agree with what we are going to eat, if it pleases us.

And sometimes we can realize that what we eat does not make us particularly happy or that after eating it we feel bad. Maybe that means it was more of a compulsion than a treat or a need. Intuitive eating is not about eating only "healthy" food. To achieve intuitive eating we should start by getting rid of food labels: "healthy", "unhealthy", "bad", "good". Food is either high or low nutrient dense. And both are okay. Our body needs both.

One of the biggest fears around intuitive eating is binge eating, and eating only "unhealthy" food. Your body is smart, trust it! At the beginning, there is a chance that you will overeat, but this is not a result of intuitive eating. It is a result of years and years of restriction. After a while, you will learn to listen to your body. By removing labels and respecting your cravings, your body will start to make its own choices. You will be surprised by how beneficial these choices are.

Keeping an emotional journal

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders

Sometimes it’s hard to listen to yourself without support. Writing can be a good way to make your emotions more concrete. You can, for example, keep an emotional journal. It is about writing our emotions in response to a situation so that we can observe and analyze them.

For example in the case of EDs: "I ate an entire box of cereal because I am in quarantine and I did not think of buying other snacks for small cravings in the afternoon. I felt bad, I had the feeling of having eaten too much and not loving myself. "

After this observation, we can make a suggestion, a way to manage this situation like: "Buy snacks that I can eat in reasonable quantities, which do not wake up my food compulsions".

Or also: "I was anxious this afternoon because telecommuting really puts me under pressure. I can do a meditation session before eating so I can try to calm my emotions. ”

Of course, we can also relate our positive emotions of the day and analyze them in the same way.

This quarantine will of course end one day . And even if you gained weight during this period or if you had more food compulsions than usual, you will be able to analyze this moment as a real challenge which imposed itself on you. You survived this pandemic and you survived this difficult period.

And even if you feel guilty, you would have done your best to respect your body in these stressful times.

Coronavirus quarantine and eating disorders
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Most Helpful Girls

  • SezzySwann
    With me, I'm almost always feeling hungry/neutral, and the more I ignore hunger (I know I have just eaten enough and don't need more) the worse it becomes until I start feeling like I'm starving myself and it makes my depression extremely bad. But if I give in and eat I feel depressed because I've put on so much weight and can't get any of it off. I had just begun to try and get help from my psych in regards to my binge eating disorder (I didn't think for a long time that it was a disorder; I thought I was just weak minded and that I was making excuses for myself being a fat piece of shit) and now I'm not able to see her for my sessions and I don't want to pester her for phone sessions or video calls because I know she's got a lot of patients in the same situation who could be doing it tougher than me. Anyway, if anyone knows of any online support groups or wants to DM me so we can help each other and keep each other on track I'd love that. I feel like having someone to vent to, help motivate and to motivate me in return could work in keeping myself and others on track
    Is this still revelant?
  • weasley8
    I don't know if this really applies since it's not so much psychological in the traditional sense as it is physical, but I haven't felt hunger since I was a kid, for reasons which I'm not going to get into. But if I'm not careful I very easily forget to eat, and I don't realize it until I'm dizzy and can't see straight. Having a routine helps, but since I'm currently stuck at home, that has kind of gone out the window. What I find helps me is attaching food to an activity that I already like. For example, I don't normally watch television, but lately I've been watching one or two episodes of something per day. I make myself eat something before I can watch anything, or even just make it before and then eat it in front of my computer.
    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?
    • You must be really slim then, unlike me who needs to lose a few pounds. I gain weight just having food in a dream. You are so lucky. Plus you also suck!

    • weasley8

      Oh? I can’t tell whether or not the last part is sarcastic. Sarcasm doesn’t come across well in text. If the last part is sarcastic, which I’m guessing it is, then yeah. I guess I’m some ways I am pretty lucky. I can’t gain weight even if I want to. I’ve tried working out, and it takes me about ten minutes to look like I have abs, but that’s just because fat doesn’t stick to me, for various reasons. So toning is fairly easy. I’ve tried to gain weight with muscle instead, just to see if I could, but that doesn’t work either. But it’s also not good health wise. Because I forget to eat, and then 30 or so hours later I’ve made myself sick. Besides, I think that most people are too hard on themselves as far as their weight is concerned.

      If I’m wrong in my assumption that you’re being sarcastic, then I’m not really too sure what to think.

    • I was giving you a hard time because I would gladly trade places with you. I'd rather have a hard time gaining than losing weight.

Most Helpful Guys

  • genericname85
    for me, more than meditation or caring about emotion, keeping an objective calory journal does it.

    it works by having an eating schedule and attaching a certain amount of calories and macronutrients to that schedule. this schedule must be ticket off every day.

    this forces one to constantly reflect and adjust. meditation is good to become more conscious in general. but having a thing that you can objectively look at, takes your emotion out of the picture for this particular issue.
    Is this still revelant?
  • blutwolfe
    I have the opposite problem, I usually eat more when I'm active or doing stuff, so during the work week I'm pretty ok, but weekends I'll tell myself I'll eat and I never do, I just drink all weekend sitting around cause the virus epidemic. Been losing weight and not in a good way. I'm one of those the more I eat the better, I'd love to gain weight back on.
    Like 1 Person
    Is this still revelant?

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What Girls & Guys Said

  • SydneySentinel
    Intuitive eating is amazing. Instead of feeling guilty for eating something, I'll consider how I will feel later before I even touch it.
    I also like the part where you mention getting rid of the "bad" or "good" label. Foods that that high nutrient dense usually make me feel good after eating them! Low nutrient dense gives me a temporary satisfaction and leaves my body wondering where all the nutrients are!

    Great writing! Thank you for sharing ❤
    Like 1 Person
  • RLovesD7792Always
    This is the first time on here I've actually fully read one of these mytakes because the woman I love has an eating disorder which is why I read this thing through to get a better understanding of what she's going through during this time of quarantine. She's actually doing the exact same things you mentioned in this article the meditation and journaling or at least I think she's journaling I'm not sure about that but I do know she's doing a lot of meditation which I don't think is something she's ever really done before. But anyways when you mentioned emotional journaling I was thinking the exact same thing when I was reading this mytake since that's a great way to express how you're feeling at the time and a great way to keep it private and look back on it later when you need to and when you need time to reflect on your inner most thoughts and feelings. Also you could try eating in moderation or only eating enough to satisfy the craving then stopping. I'm not sure if that's a good idea or bad or a slippery slope. It might be best to talk to a dietician or somebody who's more aware of this area than I am to see if that's advisable. I wish you all the best of luck in this matter I genuinely do from the bottom of my heart because like I said the woman I love is going through the exact same thing and doing all the things you're doing at this very moment and I only want to see the very best for her. God bless.
    • That's actually a great idea to writing positive thoughts feelings and emotions down that you had during the day as well as the negative ones. That way you can look back and say "Hey I actually had a great day today I wonder what I can do to replicate this kind of day I had and do it on a continued basis" Stuff like that would help out a lot which was a very good point you raised in that last part of your mytake.

  • Sugar100
    I wish I had that issue. I can’t eat solid food due to anxiety and I choke. I’m underweight and sick weak. On soft food diet. With stress it’s opposite I get neck tense up and makes me not able to eat food. While people with stress overeat. This sucks 😞
    Like 2 People
  • paolalopez118
    I live in a large apartment with my family and it is true, if we do not seek to do what causes us to eat, thank goodness there are many books and activities to do with the smallest of the house, in my case it is not easy because it seems I was hungry all day and to pass the moment I start exercising with my daughter and doing household chores because it always has to be done, even if we don't go out.
    Like 1 Person
  • heavyjordy
    I've noticed whenever I eat in quarantine I eat until I'm nauseous even though I'm not hungry. This is very useful for me and may help stop this habit.
    Like 1 Person
  • tiajoka
    That scale doesn't really work for me. I'm typically growling, nauseous, bloated and hungry/neutral all at the same time.
    Like 2 People
  • FGaines18
    I had/have anorexia and exercise bulimia and of course still struggle with food sometimes. For me personally, I have less access to food and resources during the quarantine. This means that its been hard for me to stay on track with eating consistent healthy meals and snacks. Therefore I am feeling triggered to when I used to starve myself on purpose. I can also see this being difficult for someone with a full fridge and not so great relationship with food. I would say staying busy and remembering that there is always something to do (housework, remote school and work, meditation, outdoor walk) would keep my mind off of the kitchen.
  • s2firestar
    Not eating up the whole fridge is the easiest thing to do.

    Besides, anxiety should cause stomach problems, yes? Hunger is the least concern for most that have an anxiety attack.
    Disagree 2 People
  • Secret6620
    What a great article... I suffer from bulimia and this was helpful... 🎀
  • helva
    I need to pratice some social distancing with the fridge.
  • WowwGirl
    Please read psychology of a Pandemic I think you would like it
    LikeDisagree 2 People
  • NatalieKeller95
    I thought ED was erectile dysfunction when I first saw it
  • Silver158
    I find it helps to have some form of goal in mind. like I wanna lose fat and build muscle during lockdown so that's what I'm eating for.
    Like 1 Person
  • John_Doesnt
    I could go for some spaghetti carbonara right about now.
  • ericsteve
    Eat lots of warm water, you can take Fig with honey because it contain that ingredients which fight against virus. avoid junk food.
  • andrermm
    Track what you eat with myfitness pal or fatsecret. It will help you know how much you're consuming
  • Mijopapiii
    Wanna know how I am gonna manage it? I am gonna eat whatever the hell I want.
  • Oullou
    Great, useful and well written, although it’s so long.
  • Cryptic-Game
    Stress can cause people to eat more than they want.
  • Malachi69
    Sometimes eating small portions more times a day helps
  • apple24
    I am going to replace one habit for the next.
  • Silence00
    Why? Fear of death... or financial death?
  • Anonymous
    I'm struggling. I'm stressed, so my eating is something I have control over which is why I struggle with eating disorders to begin with. I used to be bulimic years ago. My life was crazy when it started.

    I starve myself now. So from one extreme to another. It feels good to have control over something other people can't control, if that makes sense.

    I also was very strict on my calorie intake with those food logs, and exercise. I stopped doing both, because I wasn't do it for the right reasons. I was obsessed.
    I still kinda am with my calorie intake, one meal a day type thing. Especially if I feel like I ate too much the day before.

    I will always have a weird relationship with food and my body image of myself.

    I'm sorry if this answer is everywhere.
  • Anonymous
    This is a really nice article! I personally didn't binge then purge, i just purged if i felt guilty. I feel like im over it, but it sometimes crosses my mind. I also just stay away from certain foods (eg. a bag of Cheetos) because i can't resist NOT throwing it up.
    Like 1 Person
  • Anonymous
    I’m suffering so bad with binge eating at the moment. I needed this.
    Like 1 Person
    • Anonymous

      I'm glad it could help even a little. Know that you are not alone in this <3

    • Anonymous

      Thank you 💖