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What to Do If Coronavirus Triggers Binge Eating

March 25, 2020 Victoria Peel-Yates

The coronavirus triggered binge eating for me. The binges were triggered for me because the outbreak of coronavirus in northern Italy directly impacted me. 

I was due to travel to Piemonte on February 25th. With difficulty, I had decided to cancel my trip, leaving my at-risk partner — whose family is from the region — to travel there alone. Initially going for just four days, his trip ended up lasting nearly three weeks due to a death in the family.

Meanwhile, at home in Barcelona, I was plagued by loneliness and anxiety. Working from home in an isolated part of the city, I went days without talking to anyone but the cat. I was worried about my partner and his family. Not only were they at risk from the epidemic, but they also had the shadow of imminent death hanging over them. 

When Coronavirus Troubles Triggered My Binge Eating

Because of the isolation caused by coronavirus, I found myself triggered to binge. I noticed myself slipping into old, obsessive thought patterns around food, which triggered binge eating disorder cravings, shame, and guilt in the midst of coronavirus mayhem. The more I thought about food, the more I ate. The more I ate, the more I thought about food. 

I binged two or three times during those three weeks. Once, I tried to break the cycle with a 24-hour fast, telling myself it would "reset" my body. But, deep down, I knew it was the old restrictive behavior that often follows my binges. When my partner finally arrived home after driving through the night, we didn't speak. We just hugged and cried. The next day, Spain went into lockdown.

The Emotional Roots of Bingeing (With or Without the Coronavirus)

After his return, the obsessive thoughts about food subsided slightly, reminding me that my binges can always be traced back to emotional roots. That is why restrictive measures, like my 24-hour fast, rarely work. While the fast itself may have helped ease the physical food addiction, it did nothing to address the underlying emotions.

My emotions are still running high as my partner and I mourn the loss of our family member, comfort his widow, and stay in touch with at-risk relatives in Italy and the UK. But at least we are together and can support each other. I'm still experiencing some obsessive thoughts around food, as well as my usual cravings. However, actively managing my emotions is helping me keep them under control.

How to Manage Negative Emotions

People often hope that if they ignore their negative emotions, they will go away. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Unreleased emotions stay stuck inside you, undermining your mental health.

One of the most effective ways to release negative emotions is to acknowledge them instead of ignoring them. Talking can be beneficial, but often I prefer to process my emotions by myself. My favorite way to do this is by using this simple journaling exercise. In a notebook or on a piece of paper, write out everything you feel, for example:

  • "I feel anxious about the future."
  • "I feel bored and trapped at home."
  • "I feel sad because I can't see my friends."

When you have finished writing all your emotions, you should feel some of their weight released. If you want, you can also rip up or burn (safely) the piece of paper. Next, write about all the things for which you are grateful. It may be the food on your table, the roof over your head, or the chance to spend more time with your dog. Doing this practice every day helps me manage my emotions, which in turn helps keep my binges under control. I hope it will help you too.

Is the COVID-19 crisis triggering your binge eating disorder? How are you coping? Let me know in the comments, and let's support one another. 

APA Reference
Peel-Yates, V. (2020, March 25). What to Do If Coronavirus Triggers Binge Eating, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2020, October 25 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/bingeeatingrecovery/2020/3/what-to-do-if-coronavirus-triggers-binge-eating



Author: Victoria Peel-Yates

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