As I write this blog, the date is April 12th, 2020, more than three weeks into the coronavirus shut-down here in Boston. I continue to counsel clients from my virtual office. I am talking with gym rats and athletes alike who are stuck at home and are spending too much time thinking about food (Am I hungry—or just bored?). They are feeling anxious about overeating.
When life feels out of control, athletes commonly end up trying to control other things, such as food, exercise, and weight. Some may be striving to eat a perfect diet (no fun foods) and chisel themselves into a perfect body (no excess body fat). Unfortunately, the same dedication and discipline that help them be top athletes are the same traits that foster eating disorders. If you are relentlessly pushing yourself hard right now out of fear of getting fat and losing fitness, please consider being gentler on yourself. This is a difficult time for many folks. Little is wrong with a bit of comfort food in the midst of chaos and crisis. And a cookie will not contaminate your body nor ruin your health forever. You need not eat a “perfect” sports diet to have an excellent sports diet.
When food has power over you
Are you spending too much time stuck at home trying to avoid the goodies enjoyed by others in the family? If you are trying not to eat (Fill in the blank) ____ (cookies, cheese, ice cream, chips?) because you can’t eat just one serving, think again. Depriving yourself of your favorite foods makes them even more enticing. They can needlessly become too powerful. To take the power away from a “binge food,” you need to eat it more often. (Trust me!) Here’s the analogy:
Pretend you are caring for a four-year-old boy. You take him into a room filled with toys and tell him he can play with all of the toys except for the green truck. You leave the room and then look through the two-way mirror. What is he playing with? The green truck, of course! The same analogy holds true with food.
If you give yourself permission to eat, let’s say, some Oreos every day, after a few days, you’ll either have little interest in yet-another Oreo (because other foods actually make you feel better) or you will be able to eat just one Oreo; it will no longer have power over you. Yes, to gain control over foods that have power over you, you have to allow the food back into your life and eat it more often. Be curious; give it a try?
My hope is this tip will help you find a bit more peace with food. Enjoy food for nourishment and try to survive the coronavirus shut-down with sanity.
Boston-area sports nutritionist Nancy Clark, MS, RD CSSD counsels both casual and competitive athletes, helping them eat to win. The new 6th edition of her Sports Nutrition Guidebook is a best-selling resource. For more information, visit www.NancyClarkRD.com.