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How to Avoid Stress-Eating While Working from Home

BY Beth Peterson

Social distancing has many of us working all too close to the kitchen. Here's how to keep your nutrition on track while working from home.

In the midst of a global pandemic, many of us are working from home for the first time in their lives. For hungry athletes, this means being out of our normal routines, a kitchen full of goodies never too far away. Add elevated baseline stress and anxiety levels, and we have a recipe for overindulgence.

As a registered dietitian, I have seen a marked increase in clients waving the “SOS – I am eating everything in sight—how do I stop?” flag. Below you’ll find a few tips to help you establish and maintain a healthy work-from-home routine.

Plan, plan, and then plan some more.  

I often tell the athletes I work with that a healthy diet is simply a matter of planning. Just as you would plan when you are going to do your workouts for the day, you should also plan what you will eat for the day. This is true in regular circumstances, but even more so if you are working from home. Create a plan for each day and stick to it! “Breakfast is at 8 AM, and this is what I will eat. My mid-morning snack will be this at this time. Lunch at noon, sharp and I will be dining on this.” And so on, and so forth. Planning what you are going to eat is more than half the battle! 

Stick to a routine. 

You are disciplined at work, largely because you have a routine.  Feeling lost without that routine at home can set the stage for unhealthy habits. To fight back, do your best to recreate your office routine at home. This will also help you stick to the meal plan you’ve set for yourself.   

Stay Hydrated.

Keep a water bottle or a hot mug of tea on your desk, and sip throughout the entire day. This will keep your hands busy, keep you hydrated, and keep you feeling full.   

Distinguish between physical hunger, and emotional hunger or boredom. 

Before you walk into the kitchen for an extra snack, or go rogue on your meal plan, ask yourself “Am I really hungry? Or, am I just bored? Stressed? Anxious? Some of the above? All of the above?”  Stop, think it through from these perspectives, and then make your decision.   

Get dressed! 

Okay, this sounds a little silly, but in all honesty, it’s probably one of the most practical ways to keep yourself in check. Because I’ve worked from home for the past six years I know, first-hand, that it’s easy to get into the routine of wearing, shall we say, ”comfortable” clothing, which tends to have a very forgiving waistband! If you choose to wear your more-tailored work clothes in the morning, you are a lot more likely to notice how your normal clothes feel. Believe it or not, this turns out to be quite the deterrent to over-eating!   

Think of your time from home as a great opportunity to practice “perfect” nutrition and to get into some good habits! As a registered dietitian I often hear that athletes don’t have the time to eat breakfast or make a salad for lunch, because they are rushing out the door to work. Now, with commute time drastically reduced, there should be no excuses to get in plenty of fruits and vegetables, to eat every two to three hours, and to practice balance and consistency in their diets. Here’s to nutritious eating, to help keep us happy and healthy during this stressful time! 

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About Beth Peterson

Beth Peterson RD, CSSD, LDN is a Registered Dietitian and Board Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Nutrition from Penn State University where she ran cross-country and track and field. In addition to working as a Core Diet dietitian, Beth is the Operations Director and Head Coach for The Run Formula, the run-only sister company of QT2 Systems. Beth competed as a professional triathlete from 2012-2017, but has since retired to enjoy running marathons and racing her mountain bike. She started her career as a dietitian at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, where she worked clinically for 12 years covering everything from diabetic diet educations to managing intravenous nutrition in critically ill surgical and trauma patients.

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