Are you stuck at home more during COVID-19 and finding yourself battling increased cravings related to stress or boredom?
Or finding it harder to manage your previous emotional eating now that you are home more and the fridge a few steps away?
Then this mini-guide will help you - you'll learn the 3 Step Nutrition Strategy to conquering ISO cravings more effectively (and it's Sports Dietitian approved)!
One of the biggest obstacles to managing calories and staying on track with your nutrition during the current COVID-19 pandemic is the ISO cravings. With stress being elevated and being at home for extended periods of time becoming a reality for many, the convenience and temptation of excessive snack eating (with high-calorie foods especially) can lead to falling off track.
Well, I’m here to save the day. I’m going to share the 3 strategies I am using MYSELF and for my clients to manage binge eating and regain food control during quarantine.
These EXACT strategies have helped me stay on track with my calories during the current Coronavirus isolation, and my clients are still getting weight loss results!
Strategy 1: Switch The Convenience
I call this the ol ‘Convenient Switcharoo’. Essentially, the way it works is you make the lower-calorie, healthier foods and snacks MORE convenient than the foods you’ve been excessively making friends with during your time in self-isolation.
See the reality is that during isolation you won’t be getting visitors but the fridge will be getting regular visits from you. So you need to influence the environmental influence around you. You need to make these foods less accessible and the snacks you SHOULD eat more of, a lot more accessible.
The aim is reducing decision making friction. The right choices need to be easy enough to become appealing, even during times of stress. And no, it isn’t that simple and easy. I understand that food is more than just fuel and has emotional aspects to it.
However, emotional eating requires a targeted long term approach. This strategy is more for boredom snacking and also as a tactic to help alleviate some of the impacts from binge eating behaviour (i.e. it may not overcome all emotional eating but can give you some wins on the road towards achieving full control over your food relationship).
So you may be wondering...how can you utilise this strategy?
Here are some examples for your convenience:
Strategy 2: The Power of Self Reflection
If you find that your excessive snacking is more deep-rooted and can’t be overcome with some simple changes to your environment and shopping habits, then you need to take it a step further. You need to dig deeper and harness your inner control. This is a crucial step in all journeys but the time when you need to work on it will depend on the person and will vary from individual to individual.
This process is simple but isn’t easy. It requires ongoing work and will need to be reinforced and practised repeatedly to truly become a strategy you can harness when needed. So how do you do it?
The first step is the concept of “separate & divert” which is where you want to stop yourself before the behaviour occurs and divert your attention to another task - thereby hopefully allowing you to make a more informed decision.
However, there is an extra step I have my most successful clients use and I’m going to share it with you now. Use the power of the 5 questions to help empower you by ensuring the decision you end up making (e.g. whether to indulge or not) is INFORMED.
At the end of the day, a decision is a decision but what separates the right choice from wrong in the case of cravings is how informed that decision is. That’s what you need to establish. The principles of flexible nutrition state that there is no ‘bad food’ and therefore it follows that eating ‘treat foods’ also isn’t bad in that sense.
Let’s use chocolate as an example as that was what my client told me this morning.
Eating chocolate isn’t bad.
Eating chocolate isn’t good either.
It just is (what it is).
What determines whether that behaviour was positive or a negative depends on how informed and in control you were over, your decision when you made it. And of course how well it moves you towards the outcome goal you desire, is also an important consideration.
Well here are the steps to implement this strategy effectively:
Step 1: STOP and think - the point is to not indulge right away.
Step 2: Ask the 5 questions:
Step 3: Divert
Choose another task such as cleaning, going for a walk, hitting the gym, gardening, or whatever you feel like doing. The point is to transfer your energy and mindset into something non-food related.
Step 4: Make your decision
And live with it. The point of this step is to make the decision and embrace it. Doing this allows you to learn from the experience & empower yourself. You’ve already stopped, reflected, and allowed yourself time to think - now you need to make a choice.
Note: for this to be done the right way, you can’t feel guilty even if you indulge. The point was making an informed decision so as not to perpetuate impulsive snacking and craving indulgence.
Please understand this is a working progress and you will get better. The point is taking the steps and implementing them so that you continually self improve.
Strategy 3: Discipline Through Elimination
This final strategy of the 3 is quite simple. In fact, it should only be done if the first 2 prove ineffective as this strategy challenges the lifestyle that flexible dieting aims to create for you.
However, the truth of the matter is that sometimes you need to make more drastic decisions so that you can be more flexible later on. So as long as this strategy doesn’t become your norm, you can still be a successful flexible dieter like my clients and myself.
So how does discipline through elimination work?
You literally restrict access to your “trigger foods” - which are the foods that trigger your ISO cravings and excessive calorie intake - by not having it in the house and making it’s access (and therefore consumption) conditional.
“What on earth do you mean, Aleksa? Conditional?”
I’m glad you asked because this is where a lot of people get it wrong.
See temporary complete avoidance can be justified on a case by case basis (we humans are unique and require customised solutions), but even for ISO management, it shouldn’t go on too long. That is why ‘elimination’ refers more to the art of restricting availability without full avoidance.
I say art because if you don’t tailor this approach to your lifestyle, you won’t succeed. It’s about strategic control vs. absolute elimination.
So the way this strategy would be implemented is you would significantly or completely reduce access to the food in your house so that you can work on strategically including it in your diet. And by making it’s consumption conditional you touch back to strategy 1, by actually manipulating the convenience of the ‘treat food’.
Here are some examples but you need to personalise it:
As you can see, this strategy doesn’t feel too flexible, does it?
That’s the point. But for that reason, it’s also the last resort and should only be temporary alongside a wider strategy to work on your behaviours and craving control. Sometimes it simply comes down to the fact that a behaviour is easier to manage when the exposure is regulated more strictly.
In that sense, this should form part of a long term strategy for improving your food relationship and empowering your nutrition journey. This is just one of the many invaluable ways you can benefit from working with a dietitian 1:1 to change your life.
Hopefully, now you have 3 new tools in your toolbox to wield against the forces of ISO cravings and boredom eating. I personally use these with my clients and I want you to consider trying 1 or 2 for your own benefit.
Remember, that the 3 strategies are in essence 3 steps in themselves too. Each one should only be used if the former didn’t work for YOU. It’s a progressive process and should form part of your overall nutrition strategy.
And while nutrition may appear simple (and it is) on the surface. It isn’t easy as it seems, as I’m sure you would agree.
That is where you may need to get the guidance and accountability of an expert - a Sports Dietitian. That’s some food for thought.
Your nutrition strategy needs to be a solution, and that is where a coach can help.
P.S. If you want me to personally help you implement the above as well as help create a lifestyle plan for you that not only empowers you but helps you harness the power of flexible nutrition to double your results with less than half the restriction…
Then send me an email and say the words “COACH”. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Don’t feel you need to wait until COVID is over. You want to stay on track and go the distance and I’m helping my clients not only do that but also THRIVE.
Want to join my team of action takers and start on your journey to reach your peak potential?
Get in touch or CLICK HERE to apply now for a FREE Nutrition Audition Call.
Hi there! My name's Aleksa Gagic - i'm a Brisbane Dietitian & Nutritionist. The aim of this blog is to provide value and spread quality evidence-based nutrition information to counter the BS floating around.