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Food and Mood in Quarantine

Has your food intake risen since being in quarantine? Do you find yourself reaching more to those unhealthy items? Are you eating even when you’re not hungry?

Well, it’s not a surprise. Food acts as a source of comfort as well as a good distraction from current events. It can also act as a coping mechanism from stress and boredom and helps to create feelings of joy. Being stuck inside all day is boring and you may find that your level of boredom is rising as the weeks go on.

Then there’s the level of stress you may have from finishing coursework and preparing for your online assessments, or stressing about what the future holds. Therefore, in the short-term, food helps to soothe or block these negative feelings as well as give you a sense of happiness. In the long-term, it can create feelings of guilt or regret and obviously bad eating habits are not recommended.

Protein, fats and carbs are key in sustaining hunger

Moreover, have you found yourself grabbing for a bag of crisps or a chocolate bar when trying to work on a piece of coursework? Whilst doing an endocrinology module, I learnt that the brain is in a constant state of hunger and different foods cause us to feel different ways. Protein, fats and carbs are key in sustaining hunger and creating a sense of fullness.

Additionally, there are certain hormones in the brain which affect our mood. For example, the hormone serotonin (often known as the feel-good hormone) is found in potatoes, so eating carbohydrate rich foods causes a rise in this hormone which makes you feel happy. However, exercising daily will also allow the rise in serotonin which is a reason why people feel happier after exercise.

Dopamine is another hormone relating to mood, which causes feelings of pleasure and happiness. It’s related to wanting rather than liking of sweet rewards. Therefore, foods that are rich in fat and sugar are associated with the reward system. Repeated consumption of these foods can lead to prolonged dopamine signalling that causes you to want more sugar and fat.

as we are spending most of our time indoors, our food consumption should be less

This is an issue because being in quarantine means that most people’s level of activity has decreased. Moreover, when your energy expenditure is less than your energy intake, it results in weight gain. So, technically as we are spending most of our time indoors, our food consumption should be less. Despite craving foods high in fat and sugar, we should try to control our eating habits.

What can we do to control our eating? Get yourself into a routine. Plan your meals the day before and what time you’ll be eating (with consideration of how much food you have and how long it needs to last you for). Set yourself an alarm for the morning, have the breakfast you’ve decided and try to stick to the meals and times you’ve planned. Try to use up your fresh ingredients first and be mindful of your portion sizes. Keep a bottle of water with you so it encourages to stay hydrated throughout the day. Try to do some form of exercise as this will help your serotonin levels to rise and you’ll hopefully feel happier.

Remember, it’s okay to treat yourself but try to avoid munching all day…well, the brain is in a constant state of hunger!

Lujain Alkhalaf

Featured image courtesy of Lola Williams via Flickr. No changes made to this image. Image license found here

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