It has become easier to get hold of many foods in the last few weeks, but some things could still be difficult to find. It’s very understandable to have concerns about this, but there are things that you can do. It could be good to talk to people in your support network about meal planning, what foods you feel comfortable with, and what support you can put in place during mealtimes. They can also help you to think about substitutes for things you’re really struggling to get hold of.
Planning in advance and writing things down can help reduce anxiety and encourage you to stick to your plans. You could try a traffic light system on your meal plans, noting which foods you consider to be safe (green), challenging but manageable (amber), or very challenging (red) – meals involving more red or amber foods could require more support, and you could plan to have someone with you during those meals, over Skype or FaceTime if they can’t be there in person, if you think this would help.
Think about which safe foods have a long shelf life – while we know there are issues with getting hold of non-perishable food in many areas, by planning as far ahead as you can, you may be able to gather the food you need more slowly. You could make a backup plan if you do have to buy more perishable food, and make things in bulk and freeze them. You could also let a group of trusted people know what foods you’re missing so they can pick them up for you if they see them.
If you find having your meals affected is causing you lots of anxiety and making you want to purge or over-exercise, you could see if it's helpful to make a note of distraction techniques to use during and after a meal.
Lots of advice around avoiding the urge to binge is still helpful when thinking about coronavirus. You may find a meal plan helpful, and limiting the likelihood of bingeing due to hunger by eating three regular meals and three regular snacks a day. If your binges are triggered by emotions, you may find it helpful to think through BLAST – are you Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stressed, or Tired? Try and make a list of distractions for each of these categories so you have an action plan for each of these scenarios. You may be living with, or now able to meet up with, someone else will be able to help take your mind off the idea of bingeing, but there are lots of things you could do on your own, from reading to laundry to playing a game.
Think about whether you could keep food somewhere less accessible – would it help if it was stored in a lockable cupboard that someone else has the key to, for example, or could you even think about storing some food at the houses of friends or family members and picking it up from their front door as and when you need it? You may want to try a few different things, and different methods may work at different times. Be kind to yourself and give yourself time to figure out what works best for you. You could also consider some things that will help distract you from negative feelings if you do binge. Try not to be too hard on yourself if this happens – things are very difficult right now.
If you have noticed that you are binge eating more since lockdown started, you could see if it’s helpful to keep a record of what you’re eating, when, and what you are feeling before you binge. Are your binges happening at certain times of day? We know that the most effective way to stop bingeing is first to look at whether you are hungry. If you have lost structure to your eating (three meals and three snacks ideally), think about who you can open up to and reach out for support to get back into regular eating. You might feel lonely due to self-isolation at certain times of day. Try and think of ways you can connect with people so you’re not using food as a way of soothing your distress around being on your own. Make a list of ways you feel connected to people and plan these in at times when you know you’re vulnerable.
Having to step outside your comfort zone or having to put your food shopping in someone else’s hands can be really scary. If you write your anxieties down or talk about them with another person, this could help the anxieties feel less powerful.
You may find that even shops you have been comfortable with are harder to deal with at the moment, as various rules are in place to encourage social distancing that make shopping a very different experience. If you know the layout of the shop reasonably well, you could think about what order to pick things up in before you go in to limit the amount of time you have to spend in there. Many shops are allowing only one person per household in at a time, but you could speak to someone on the phone if it would help you. If you find a shopping list helpful, remember to write this down on paper if you’re going to speak to someone on the phone.
There are a few different ways to get hold of food without going to the shops yourself, including getting someone you trust to go for you or ordering online. It’s becoming easier in many areas to get delivery or collection slots, and many smaller supermarkets are delivering via food delivery apps now as well. There may also be a scheme in your area where you can ask a volunteer to collect food for you. Think about what you would feel the most comfortable with. If someone goes to the shops on your behalf, you could speak to them on the phone while they’re there if it would help.
Giving yourself permission to rest during lockdown or if you have to self-isolate is important, but we understand that this can be really challenging. It could be helpful to make a list of reasons why it’s important not to compensate if you’re not able to exercise – remember your body still needs nutrition to carry out its normal daily functions. You could also refer back to anything you’ve found helpful in your journey so you can remind yourself why it’s so important to sustain positive changes you have made. This may include things like mantras, recovery goals, and mindfulness techniques. Rest and nutrition is essential – the pandemic has really highlighted the importance of good health.
A number of people have mentioned to us that their exercise has increased due to anxiety around being ‘stuck at home’, as well as listening to the Government’s messages around being able to exercise every day. Some people have said that this has driven them to exercise more. It might be worth sitting down and looking at what activity you’ve done over the last few weeks and setting some limits around this. You could also try planning your exercise for the day or week, which could help you avoid doing exercise in response to emotions or food, and also help with routine.
Remember, it’s important to define what health means for you – it could look different to what it means for other people. Remind yourself that your wellbeing is the priority. Your treatment team may have given you guidance on how to manage urges around exercise, so refer back to this if you need it, or ask them about it if you haven’t been offered this.