By: Jefferson Health New Jersey
So, you’ve just finished another season of your favorite show, and – look at that – another bag of chips? Don’t be hard on yourself; you’re not alone.
If you’re like many people stuck home during the COVID-19 Pandemic, your mind has probably short-circuited with concerns. Turning to junk food or alcohol to help cope with the stress – or just out of sheer boredom – is common. However, if we aren’t careful, a few days’ worth of poor choices can be the starting point of an incredibly harmful habit.
For many people, in generally good health, overindulging will not ruin their health. Overeating has minor short-term side effects, most of which are psychological. Physically, it may cause lethargy or grogginess, as well as mild stomach irritation, causing indigestion or acid reflux. However, it’s more common that you’ll feel regret or heightened anxiety, explains Dr. Gregory Barone, Section Head of Endocrinology at Jefferson Health in New Jersey.
Overeating becomes concerning when it turns into an endless cycle. The first sign of this bad habit is turning to food in an attempt to feel better. Food is meant to be consumed when we’re hungry, not when we need a “pick-me-up.” It’s important to be aware of this when we eat.
“Overtime, your stomach and appetite will grow in size,” said Dr. Barone. “Continued overeating not only leads to weight gain, but to metabolic disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and hypertension, as well as cardiovascular complications, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol.”
Additionally, when you consume more calories, you put a high demand on your body to produce more digestive hormones, which can increase stress levels, explains Dr. Barone. Other long-term weight-related health risks include gallbladder disease; obstructive sleep apnea; and irritable bowel syndrome.
“Like eating, heavy consumption of alcohol for a few days is also unlikely to pose significant physical damage, unless you make a poor decision. Typical short-term side effects of acute intoxication will leave you feeling tired and headachy.”
However, if you have a hereditary predisposition to chronic alcohol use, or have a personal history of addictive tendencies, the same few days that are “fun and games” for one person, could make your life take a turn for the worst.
Alcohol abuse has many negative consequences, including weight gain; vitamin deficiencies; liver damage; nerve damage; high blood pressure; amnesia spells; permanent cognitive issues; sexual disfunction; a heightened risk for various cancers; and a heightened risk for depression.
Adjusting to a new social-distancing lifestyle can take some time, but finding a schedule that works for you is the most important step you can take to curb the temptation to overindulge, explains Dr. Barone.
“For those able to work from home, make it as similar to your workday as possible. Wake up at a decent time, take a shower, change out of your pajamas, make breakfast, and schedule a lunch break,” adds Dr. Barone. “For those who are out of work, try and create your own schedule. Spend more time catching up with friends or family members (over the phone or online), de-clutter your house, dedicate more time to your hobbies, and try to meal plan.”
Remember, there are healthier ways to cope than overindulging. The more productive and consistent your day is, the better your mood will be, and the less likely you’ll be to grab another drink or snack.