Quarantine Cravings: Part 1

Sugar and chocolate and carbs, oh my!

So we’re approaching 60 days into this new world of the coronavirus and social distancing. When I sat down to write, all sorts of unsettling images – images that weren’t in my mind a month ago – flooded my brain. At first I felt compelled to list them all, but my heart thought better of it. Yes, it’s been a hard couple of months for all of us. Some more than others. And we’ve all been tasked with flexing our creative muscles. I’ll admit, some days – actually quite a few of them – I’ve had to dig pretty deep to stay positive and productive.

Where are the positives, the wins however small among this uncertainty and chaos? Well, I surprised my husband with chocolate chip cookies on a Tuesday afternoon. This was significant since it’s been more than a year since I made cookies. Which is probably a good thing. We’re now working our way through batch number two. And my dogs are appreciating longer walks each day. There’s plenty of time for walking. And it’s good for all of us. And I’ve had more time to plan. And I am most definitely a planner.

But, back to those chocolate chip cookies. I keep them in the freezer so they’re not quite so readily available. But really. How hard is it to take a couple out and microwave them for 30 seconds? And I’m at home with them all day! These cookies are my number one Quarantine Craving. Are you having them, too – Quarantine Cravings?

  • Sugar cravings
  • Irritability
  • Sleep difficulties
  • Headaches

These are all symptoms of excess cortisol, which has a direct correlation to stress. Stress coordinates our cortisol levels. The immediate output of cortisol in response to a stressful situation helps us deal with the strain of an argument with a coworker or the trauma of a near miss collision while driving. But those are temporary. They resolve relatively quickly and cortisol levels return to normal.

When we’re under chronic stress, cortisol levels stay elevated and can cause the symptoms above in addition to brain fog, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and weight gain. We are most certainly in a time of chronic stress, my friends!

So these Quarantine Cravings aren’t really surprising. The good news is there are some simple things you can do to help deal with these cravings. First, when cravings hit, acknowledge them. Then try one – or a combination – of these tips:

  1. Deep breathing in for a count of five, then exhale to a count of five. Repeat for 10-15 cycles.
  2. Wait 15 minutes. Do something constructive to fill the time like take a short walk outside or a few reps of bicep curls with weights (or jug of laundry soap). This wait-out time actually allows for changes in your brain’s chemistry!
  3. Be present. Try to identify what you are feeling emotionally. Is it frustration, boredom, discouragement or feeling overwhelmed? Or perhaps it’s optimism or feeling empowered or passionate. While we tend to associate cravings with perceived “negative” emotions, we also tend to use foods as a reward for so-called “positive” emotions. Awareness can help you manage cravings.
  4. Journaling. In conjunction with #3, keeping a journal can help you identify your personal emotional triggers. Consider this experiment: Focus on where in your body to you feel this emotion.
  5. Have a glass of water. Dehydration can mask itself as cravings, especially for sugar.

These tips are designed to help you deal with Quarantine Cravings when they hit you. They do require a level of awareness, which is something I work on with all of my nutrition clients. Next week, we’ll look at some long-term dietary strategies to help deal with the effects of chronic stress (aka high cortisol) in Quarantine Cravings: Part 2.

Feel free to give me some feedback on how you’re doing and what your experience is with any of these Quarantine Craving tips!

Eat well. Be well.

2 Comments

  1. Matt Baione

    Hi Dianne,
    Great post on cravings and the emotions and stress that they cause on our bodies. Balancing working from home and caring for a toddler has definitely led to more sustained stress over these past two months. I like your tips – many have helped over the years deal stressful times. What helps me these days are listening to meditations, getting exercise and taking a nap (when I can). Thanks again and keep the posts coming!
    -Matt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *