An independent survey by endocrinologists, psychologists, and pathologists conducted in Brazil concluded that 23 percent of the country’s population gained weight during the quarantine months. The data were released in the first half of 2020, but with the coronavirus pandemic still ongoing and with a high transmission rate, the population’s weight continues to increase.

Psychologist Monise Arco explains that the reason food is considered a source of pleasure and relaxation in stressful or difficult moments is due to the fact that, most of the time, the baby learns to relate the act of breastfeeding to the comfort of someone. This habit ends up accompanying the individual in other stages of life. In other cases, the imbalance of hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphin makes the person look for certain foods which help in the release of these substances, bringing the sensation of pleasure.

“Food goes far beyond ‘starving;’ many people eat out of emotional, not physical, need,” says nutritionist Adriele Salles. “Food also has the role of bringing us comfort and joy, but it should not be limited to that.”

With this in mind, it is necessary to identify the so-called “triggers–” that is, actions or events that trigger this desire to eat to relieve some pain or anguish.

One of the researchers involved, endocrinologist Rosita Fontes, affirms in an interview with the paper Pan News from Jovem Pan, that “obesity predisposes the individual to other diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, joint diseases, and they are more likely to suffer severely or even die from COVID-19.”

Emotional triggers

Arco explains that “the triggers can be different for each individual, as they have to do with their life history, traumas, and dysfunctional thoughts, which lead them to begin and maintain maladaptive behavior.” However, there are some triggers which may be common to many people. Among them are “the subtle triggers that alter the mood, such as, for example, being in close contact with social networks, which can contribute to low self-esteem, over-comparison in the workplace, too much stimulation of series/videos, contact with toxic people, responsibilities that can generate stress or anxiety, among others.”

But there are ways to identify these triggers and to avoid consuming too much or too little nutritional quality. The first tip that Salles gives is to fill out a food diary (download the spreadsheet here). 

“It is a helpful tool,” she says. “In the diary you can write down the day, the time, what you ate and why you ate.” 

Arco adds: “If we understand that mind and body are one and the one directly influences the other, we will understand that a physical aspect, such as a simple bad night’s sleep, can result in a low production of neurotransmitters, thus increasing stress and anxiety, and may generate other consequences that are likely to have a negative impact on the individual’s eating habits.”

How to be healthier

It is also important to exercise regularly. For this reason, physical educator Moabe Queiroz prepared five exercises that can be done at home, three times a week, and help maintain physical and, consequently, emotional health.

This article was originally published on the South American Division’s Portuguese news site

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