Are you overeating? Break the cycle

The Covid-19 pandemic created a massive impact on human health, causing many lifestyle changes. Over the past few months of lockdown, many found themselves eating more and more, possibly due to loneliness and anxiety, or just plain boredom. 

Experts believe that adjusting to a healthy lifestyle during this pandemic period is not easy. For example, on top of everything else, many have had little to no physical activity. 


Private Kamanzi, a nutritionist at Amazon Nutrition Cabinet in Kigali, says many people find pleasure or comfort in various unhealthy food choices.


He explains that because a big number of people are still working from home, due to the stress related to everything going on in their lives, it’s easy to turn to food as a way of dealing with stress.


This, he says, can turn into a binge cycle, which at some point, will create health complications. 

Find a solution

Joseph Uwiragiye, the head of the nutrition department at University Teaching Hospital of Kigali (CHUK), says that there are tips to evade such unhealthy lifestyles.

The first thing, he says, is to know what’s happening, noting that in some scenarios, some people eat less when they’re under stress.

While on the other hand, some need the distraction of comfort food or unhealthy snacks when things aren’t going well.

“Because the effect is temporary, one may find themselves eating when they are not hungry, or without thinking about it. And that can lead to unhealthy decisions,” he says.

For this reason, Uwiragiye says that it’s ideal for one to always be aware of what they’re eating and the reason behind it.

He adds that knowing what time one eats is necessary as this helps when it comes to tracking their habits and patterns.

This, he points out, can help one set goals that are really helpful when it comes to maintaining a balanced diet.

Another important aspect, Rene Tabaro, a nutritionist at King Faisal Hospital, says is finding out if you are really hungry.

He notes that it’s common to feel like eating every now and then while at home, and that this could be due to the availability of food, or eating because one is bored.

“Determining if you are hungry or not can help guide one in situations where they just had a meal and still want a snack. In this situation, ask yourself if you want that particular snack just to eat or because you are hungry,” he says.

This situation, Tabaro says, in most cases is caused by emotions, which stir cravings anytime regardless of whether one is full or not.

Go for a walk or try drinking a glass of water instead, Tabaro suggests. 

“Water is ideal because sometimes it could be that the body is just dehydrated and needs to be hydrated,” he adds.


Get support 

Francis Kazungu, a general practitioner in Kigali, says while at home, making sure you are able to get support of any kind.

“This can come from family members, friends or any other person that can be there for you in case you are going through a difficult time,” he says.

This, Kazungu says, can help one stick to a healthy lifestyle as well as have someone to share their problems with, therefore making it hard to fall into the habit of eating every time.

Kazungu notes that focusing on goals can help one avoid binge eating.

However, he says an effective strategy should include choosing aerobic activities such as walking or jogging.

Also, he says one can exercise at least 30 minutes three times a week, or even daily if they can.

“Avoid junk food, eat smaller portions and increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables taken daily,” Kazungu says.

Kamanzi also suggests fighting the urge to snack on unhealthy foods by not buying them. When shopping, stick to a strict grocery list of healthy foods.

Kamanzi adds that one should avoid going to grocery stores when hungry, as they might end up buying foods that are not healthy.

Uwiragiye suggests opting for healthy substitutes as they can work wonders.

He explains that if one is craving for sweet foods such as cakes, chocolates, or other refined food products, opting for sweet fruits such as bananas, oranges, mangoes or homemade fresh juice can help ease such cravings.

He also suggests making a salad using tomatoes, onions, and cucumbers, or other vegetables, when in need of a snack.

When the urge to eat yet not hungry surfaces, try out some relaxation techniques, Uwiragiye suggests. 

“Mindful meditation can ease stress and help fight the impulse that triggers stress-eating. Sit in a quiet place and observe your thoughts and your breathing,” he says.

Studies have shown that a good workout triggers your body to make chemicals called endorphins that interact with your brain to calm and relax you. What’s more, it will make you feel good about yourself. 

Nutritionists recommend eating fruits , or salad, if you need to have a snack.  Net photos

Experts say that people shouldn’t be afraid to discuss their eating habits with health specialists, especially nutritionists or even a mental health professionals, for proper support.

“They may be able to provide therapy and tips and identify what’s causing your stress,” says Kamanzi.

Additionally, he says, experts can also give ideas on how to make better food choices and reach healthy goals in life.

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