How to Cope With Food Guilt During Quarantine

There are many reasons why you may be experiencing guilt around what and how much you are eating during these uncertain times. For many reasons, our normal eating patterns and routines have been thrown for a loop. This could be due to our disrupted sleep schedules, heightened levels of stress, inability to afford nutrient dense food, and overall being out of touch with our natural hunger and fullness cues. 

First and foremost, the most important thing you can do to cope with guilt around food during these times is to practice self-compassion. Cut yourself some slack; these are moments to nurture our minds and souls. Many of us have plenty to worry about outside of food: money, social isolation, loneliness and a freaking global pandemic! That being said, here are a few strategies to shift your inner dialogue around food and body shaming: 

Arianna Tucker-Girl Putting Hair In Ponytail Arianna Tucker / Her Campus

1. Don’t punish yourself 

It can feel like a natural reaction to want to “make up” for “overindulging” when we begin to feel guilt or shame around what and how much we are eating. However, it is in our best interests to avoid restriction or over-exercising when we feel as though we over-ate or ate the “wrong” thing. By punishing ourselves, we are opening the door for a terrible cycle of restriction and overeating. This is not only extremely unhealthy; it is also dangerous. 

Shifting your inner dialogue to be self-compassionate, understanding and loving is ideal when coping with feelings of guilt. When you begin to feel guilt or shame shift your thoughts from “I’m so gross” or “I need to burn off all those calories!” or “I can’t eat anything tomorrow!” to “It is okay that I feel this way, but things are hard right now and it is understandable why I am eating the way I am. I choose to still love and accept myself and move forward in a way that feels best for me”. This can be a hard transition and can sometimes may feel like you're lying to yourself. However, by doing so you are building an internal environment of self-love, understanding. and awareness. 

2. Do your best to practice intuitive eating

Intuitive eating is an approach to eating that involves getting in touch with your body's natural hunger and fullness cues. The practice involves trusting your body and getting in tune to what your body is telling you. Intuitive eating allows you to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger (this can take a lot of practice but is a truly self-compassionate practice). Another philosophy of intuitive eating is to challenge the “food police” and to avoid deeming foods as “bad” or “good”. There is plenty of information on intuitive eating out there and I recommend reading about it. It can truly be a therapeutic practice for those who struggle with food guilt. 

3. Try to have balanced meals 

This goes into practicing intuitive eating, but by doing your best to sit down and eat filling, balanced meals (with protein, fats and carbs), you are giving your body the nutrients it needs, which prevents mindless or emotional eating. Although, make sure to do your best to get in touch with what you're craving: is it protein? Carbs? Fats? Fruit? Veggies? Or perhaps you are experiencing an emotional craving? By practicing how to distinguish these, you are able to provide your body and mind with what it needs. 

4. Put things in perspective

This is not going to last forever. Yes, quarantine may feel like it has been dragging on; but this is not our permanent new way of life, and it is important to keep that in mind! So what that you had that third slice of pizza, or those few extra Oreos; we are in the midst of a pandemic! Be reasonable with yourself, it is okay to let loose a little bit and understand it is natural for your habits or behaviors to change during stressful times. In times like these, it is important to practice love and support for ourselves, and for others, during physical isolation from one another. 

Couple watching television Philip Goldsberry Overall, it is normal to be experiencing guilt or shame around your eating behavior during quarantine; but it is also a choice as to whether you let it add to your stress or anxiety. Remember that you are beautiful, worthy, and that we will all get through this!