Kick the habit! How to avoid overeating when working from home

If you’ve been working from home this past year, then you might have picked up some new eating habits. You may have found yourself in the kitchen snacking throughout the workday more often than usual, and now you’re thinking: how can I avoid overeating when working from home? If this is you, then read on for tips on how to break the habit! 

overeating when working from home

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Understanding why you overeating may be overeating 

You may have heard that unhealthy eating on the job is now considered to be an occupational hazard according to the World Health Organization. For years, employees have been munching on unhealthy snacks and drinking gallons of coffee every working minute. Employers often believe that offering food is a great way to boost workers’ moral and short breaks mean that getting quality food isn’t always an option. Most people end up opting for fast food and sugary snacks. 

If you’re struggling now while working from home, you may be asking yourself: Why? Well, one possibility is old habits are hard to break. If past eating habits have been ingrained in your mind from your traditional work environment, then you may be seeking to replicate those habits now. Familiarity is comforting. Do you find yourself constantly going for another coffee? Or reaching for just one more cookie or bagel? You may be looking for old comforts, but without anyone around there’s no one stopping you when you end up eating the whole box of cookies or drink that whole pot of coffee! 

Another reason why you may find yourself overeating when working from home is simply brain chemistry. These are stressful times we’re living in. The COVID-19 pandemic has radically changed our lives and made the future landscape unpredictable. 

In an article with BBC, Las Vegas-based clinical psychologist Cortney Warren says, “A lot of people are struggling with their eating right now – and probably in different ways than they’re used to. There is certainly a great deal of research to suggest that when people are in a crisis situation, when they are highly stressed, one of the first things that will change is their eating behaviour.”

Foods make us feel good. The body tends to crave high-calorie and high-sugar foods during times of stress. These foods provide short-term bursts of energy that help get us through the moment. Additionally stress leads to higher cortisol levels, which can increase your appetite causing you to seek out a quick fix. Sugary foods also generate dopamine which is the neurotransmitter associated with motivation and reward. So eating can literally make you feel better on a chemical level during times of high stress.

While the science says it’s making us feel good, it may not always be the healthiest coping mechanism. If you feel you’ve been overeating too much while working from home, then here are a few tips to help break that habit. 

Here are some tips on how to break this habit and avoid overeating while working from home 

Don’t work near the kitchen: Put some distance between you and the source. You’ll be less tempted to check the fridge and if you have to get up frequently and walk all the way over to the kitchen for your snacks, then you’re more likely to stop yourself before you get there. 

Meal prep ahead of time: If you have your meals and snacks for the day already planned and prepared, then you’re less likely to mindlessly snack throughout the day. One big cause of overeating or mindless snacking is convenience. We like things quickly available. If you take the time to pre-cut fruits and veggies for snacks and prep your lunches, then your healthy foods become “fast food” too! Keep a “menu” for the day or work week and hang it on your fridge as a reminder. 

Portion out your meals: Like meal prepping, it’s important to properly portion your serving sizes to avoid overeating. Never eat snacks straight out of the bag or container. Many snacks like chips are designed to be very tasty and addictive. Once you start snacking you may find it hard to know when to stop if you’re eating straight from the bag. Instead, you could divide that large chip bag into smaller zip bags to have ready for when you want that quick snack but don’t want to overeat. 

Stay hydrated: Did you know, your body often confuses thirst with hunger? Sometimes you may think you’re hungry but you’re actually just thirsty. Dehydration can also lead to headaches and fatigue. So make sure you’re staying properly hydrated throughout the day and you may find that you’re no longer craving as many snack breaks as before. 

Don’t buy unhealthy snacks: If junk food isn’t around in the first place, you’ll be less likely to eat it when looking for a quick snack. Instead stock up on healthy snacks such as yogurt, nuts, veggies or fruit. In other words: If you can’t kick your cookie cravings, don’t buy them to begin with.

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If you’ve been struggling with overeating while working from home, don’t feel bad or guilty because you’re definitely not alone. Food is fun. Food makes us happy. And habits can be hard to break, especially during a stressful year like 2020 when we’re all just looking for ways to cope and feel better. But if overeating is a habit you’re looking to kick in the new year, then give these tips a try. You’ve got this! 

Victoria Arena

About Victoria Arena

Victoria Arena is a writer and student, passionate about writing, literature, and women's studies. She is bilingual, fluent in both English and Spanish. In 2017, she received her Associates in Fine Arts for Creative Writing from Brookdale Community College. Now, she is working toward her Bachelor's in English Literature at Montclair State University. Along with literature, Victoria is interested in Gender and Sexuality Studies, which she is pursuing as a minor, focusing closely on women's issues, gender inequality, and LGBT issues. These studies provide her with a feminist lens, which influences her work from both fiction to academic writings.
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