How to maintain a balanced diet while working remotely

Craving to eat your feelings? Tempted to treat yourself for the third time this week? Justifying that midnight junk food binge? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

Over the last year, the pandemic has massively impacted the general population, with studies reporting more pervasive feelings of anxiety and paranoia, irregular sleeping patterns and lethargy, and higher alcohol intake and weight gain.

Physical health isn’t the only thing taking a blow as the COVID-19 outbreak persists; overall mental health and emotional well-being are suffering just as badly. Unbalanced diets have been a particular concern as majority of people are at home and working remotely.

Stress eating has definitely been among the top ways to cope, and it’s steadily increasing risks for cardiovascular issues, diabetes, obesity, and other degenerative diseases for people under 40.

Now, how can we flatten this curve? Here are three recommendations on maintaining a balanced diet while working remotely.

1) Drop “healthy” and go for “nutritious”

Often, unhealthy food choices are just circumstances of not being able to plan out your meals and stock your pantry. It becomes simpler to just order fast food or heat up something from a can, especially when you’re in between Zoom meetings or burning the midnight oil on the kitchen table. 

Instead of repeating what you already know about empty calories, reframe your consumption mindset to the nutritional value of the food you’re eating. Medical experts have emphasized the importance of vitamins and mineralsin fortifying the immune system against the coronavirus. Much of these nutrients can be naturally found in unprocessed food, particularly fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.

Next time you make your grocery list, write it based on what’s in season. Or, have your way with year-round comfort food recipes such as a Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Rotisserie Chicken and just throw in some fresh greens there. Start with small changes like cutting up some carrots to munch on when you have an emotional hunger pang, and just make a nutritional choice available in your refrigerator.

2) Don’t deprive, but thrive

Make your diet fit your lifestyle, especially if you’re working remotely. This makes it easier to adjust to changes and form eating habits that won’t get in the way of your productivity.

Curbing the stress eating without punishing yourself is the real challenge here: how do you make better decisions on food that don’t antagonize your self-image? Besides that, how do you avoid deprivation and starvation – because that leads to bingeing and impulsive decisions?

First of all, don’t stop eating chocolate. In fact, chocolate can give a much-needed energy boost and deliver natural oils for brain stimulation. This triggers satiety, which makes you feel satisfied and actually encourage you to stop eating once you’re full.

How about choosing to do a small farm produce day in a week? Not only are you able to practice eating less meat, but you can get creative with having vegetables in your meals. By designating a schedule, you can plan out when to buy or have the vegetables delivered, and even chance upon when the organic corner stand is selling their stocks before they go bad.

Staple ingredients can make a delicious Spinach and Mushroom Quiche that you can have for dinner or freeze for a busy day when you can’t cook. This way, you get your feel-good high not just from eating but also from getting a little more connected with the community.

3) Listen to your body

Stress eating is a physical response to an emotional deficiency. It’s important to note that these emotional cues can come as intensely as hearing upsetting news to mere boredom. Self-soothing behaviors of hand-to-mouth motions manifest this emotional eating pattern and can be corrected. The key is in listening to your body and recognizing true hunger. 

The human body is complex. It functions in a non-verbal language through feelings, sensations, and movements. Hunger is one such form of communication from your stomach to your brain and it is an actual physical churning that causes salivation, lightheadedness, lack of energy, and even belly growling.

Not that these are signs you should have to wait to experience before having a snack or a meal, but use it as information the next time you feel that you’re hungry and distinguish if you actually are.

Just as you’ve built up to all the steps of your everyday skincare routine and stuck to it, create a foundation for a sustainable nutritious diet that makes you productive, strengthens your immunity, boosts your mood, and improves your quality of life.

Photo by Brooke Lark