I’m writing this as we have just entered into the 3rd National Lockdown in the UK – even though I live in The Netherlands, I’m British and I’m pretty sure it’s not just women in the UK that are needing to hear this.
Lockdown is stressful enough without feeling the added worry of how to tackle your eating now that many of us are stuck at home and seemingly joined at the hip to the fridge and/or your children’s goody draw!
Alongside this, there is anxiety-provoking news around food scarcity (I’m not even going to mention toilet paper…🤭!). All of this combined with disordered eating – chronic dieting – binge and emotional eating – pre-lockdown, is enough to send the best of us into turmoil.
So I’m going to give you 4 tips on how to navigate food stress during this difficult and strange time.
But first, I think it is important to tackle the scarcity mindset in general.
What is a scarcity mindset? A scarcity mindset in the general feeling of there never being enough. So all of your actions are driven by this lack, by this “not-enoughness”.
Especially if you are or have been a chronic dieter, always restricting certain food groups or calories, you have been telling your brain for months or even years that there is not enough food. That food is scarce. And because your brain stem (the oldest part of your brain) is always in survival mode, its’ only job is to keep you alive so it won’t always be responding rationally. It is always reacting to the situation.
If you are constantly telling your brain that you must restrict – you can’t eat that – don’t eat too much, stick to these food rules etc then you are telling your brain that you are in a famine. And because this part of your brain is the most powerful part due to its purpose being to keep you alive, it will demand your biology to react the same way it would if there were a real famine.
So now it’s only job is to seek out food! We actually think it’s self-sabotage when we end up binging and eating a lot of food but it’s actually self-protection. All it wants to do is to store as many calories as possible because it thinks that there is a current or impending famine. Makes sense right…? Albeit not helpful to what we desire!
So that’s what the scarcity mindset is in regards to food. Basically, it’s your brain acting on impulse survival mode which in reality appears to us that we are just “crazy around food.”
With COVID19 currently going on, the scarcity energy and action is all around us. People hoarding things 🧻 and panicking if there is ever going to be enough.
How are you feeling right now? How is the pandemic affecting your life?
How our brain works
When our brain stem (the primal survival part of our brain) sends out a signal to us that we’re in survival mode, there is not enough, must seek food etc – it’s first point of call is to notify the part of our brain that is responsible for emotion.
And so it’s like “hey, we need to panic and be scared because there’s not enough food.” If it didn’t create this emotion then we wouldn’t do anything and in the brain stem’s eyes, we would die.
When we feel any emotion – in this case, panic and fear of lack – the next communication point is the prefrontal cortex. This is the newest part (2-3 million years old) of our brain which is responsible for rational decision making. It’s where our higher thinking comes into fruition – you can think of it as the best version of you. We want to be operating from this part of our brain as much as possible.
The world right now is feeling all of this fear and scarcity and lack (lack of connection, lack of resources, lack of freedom etc) and if you’re reading this then you are most likely experiencing stress and worry around food too. All of this creates stress. And stress causes our immune system to take a hit which leaves us more susceptible to illness. (There is some positive help in this blog I promise 😆)
This is why it’s so incredibly important to lower your stress during these times. By reducing our stress response (the fear of lack), we can start operating more from our prefrontal cortex (the rational thinking brain) and make decisions that are going to serve us.
I can teach you some tools to get you out of the fear-based thinking so that you can keep your immune system as strong as possible and to reduce your stress around food and in general.
Tip #1 – Box Breathing
Box breathing, also known as square breathing, is a technique used when taking slow, deep breaths. It can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever. It’s also called four-square breathing.
What you do is you sit comfortably with your back upright and your feet on the floor to ground yourself.
Breathe out for the count of 4
Hold for the count of 4
Breathe in for the count of 4
Hold for the count of 4
If you’re new to box breathing, it may be difficult to get the hang of it. You may get dizzy after a few rounds. This is normal. As you practice it more often, you’ll be able to go longer without the dizziness.
Ideally, you’ll want to repeat the box breathing cycle 4 times in one sitting.
Do box breathing several times a day as needed to calm your nerves and relieve stress.
Box breathing activates your rest and digest response which puts you in a parasympathetic state. This gets you out of the sympathetc fear, fight or flight state.
Because it helps us to relax, it also allows us to get into a higher thinking state. It strengthens that prefrontal cortex – our logical thinking part of the brain. It’s like taking it to the gym. It gets stronger the more you practice.
It is a form of meditation as you are sitting quietly and focusing on your breath. And meditation increases the gray matter in your brain (the really good part that helps with learning, memory, cognitive processes, and attention.)
And not only does box breathing and meditation help almost instantly, but it also helps create long-lasting change in the brain. Every time you sit down to box breath or meditate, you are building up the grey matter and working out your brain for the good. Which will lower stress whooppiieee!
Tip #2 – Community & Connection
We are all feeling the lack of connection to others at the moment. Personally, I find it very weird not to hug my friends or family when I see them. Being part of a community, socialising and sharing thoughts and emotions with others, releases oxytocin. Oxytocin is typically linked to warm, fuzzy feelings and shown in some research to lower stress and anxiety. Oxytocin is sometimes known as the “cuddle hormone” or the “love hormone,” because it is released when people snuggle up or bond socially.
In these times, we feel ourselves missing a tribe, lacking a place of belonging. And a lack of tribe and belonging causes our brain stem (the primal, survival part) to feel unsafe which create stress.
It’s SO important during these times to globally come together and create that feeling of belonging and support for ourselves and for others. We are so blessed to have the technology that allows us to do that. We are all in this together. Reach out to loved ones, make connection a priority to create a sense of community and connection.
Join my Victoria’s Secrets To Self-Love Membership Community! It really is such a wonderful sacred space for women to come together to work on their self-love and body image and you are fully supported by me and the other women. You get coached by me, we have monthly workshops and workbooks, journaling prompts and all the juicy things.
Come hang out with us, you will LOVE it! AND it’s only 50 pounds a month with no contract. You get SO much value and support for that investment.
Tip #3 – Stop Consuming Fear
I get that you want to watch the news to keep up to date but do you really need to watch it THAT many times?
Anything that we consume from the TV, conversations we have, reading, listening etc has more of an effect on our mental wellbeing than you think. The news is literally filled with negativity and even the way the newsreaders read the news is depressing!
So stop consuming the message of fear, lack etc. By doing this, you’re telling your brain that you want to seek more fear. Because whatever you focus on expands. So if you must find out what’s happening in the world, either ask someone to update you (as I do) or only consume the parts that you think you need.
And why you’re at it, stop talking about COVID to every person you speak to and focusing on what you can’t do. Instead, ask yourself, how can you shift from lack to abundance? What CAN you do?
Remember before COVID hit, you were constantly saying things like “If I had more time, I’d do this or that”…? Do the things that you didn’t have time for! Learn a new language, treat yourself to an adult colouring book, draw, start a business, red a book/s. Invest in yourself and join my monthly membership, start 1:1 coaching…
Don’t let this difficult time become your reality. Prime your brain to focus on the positives.
I also love how FEAR has two different meanings:
F – forget
E – everything
A – and
R – run
F – face
E – everything
A – and
R – rise
Which do you choose?
Tip #4 – Give yourself Permission
Give yourself permission to eat! This is scary, I totally get it! But seriously, remove all of your food rules. And instead of telling yourself what you can’t eat, start focusing on what foods make you feel good. Allow yourself anything you want with no mental or physical restrictions or impending diet. Committing to this long term WILL bring you great freedom and – even though you might not quite believe it – health too.
There are a lot of layers to this and if you have disordered eating, are a binge/emotional eater or chronic dieter, you will need support on this journey. Reach out to me I am expert in this and I can show you the way. In fact, when I was writing this, an idea came to me about creating something that was affordable for almost everyone in the realm of food freedom. Let me know if you’d like more info.
Sending you all SO much love and high vibes!