Feeling snack-y?

Heart shape created from young woman’s hands on pastel pink background. Love and happiness concept. Empty place for emotional, sentimental text, quote or sayings. Closeup. Top view.

“Hey mom,” my daughter poked her little face around the corner of my home office. “I’m feeling snack-y,” she said as she made a little heart shape with her fingers.

I looked up from my computer screen, curled my fingers into a similar heart shape and said, “And you’re gonna be hungry soon if you all don’t stop eating up all the food.”

During this time of self-isolation amid the uncertainty that comes with a pandemic, my family has been feeling ‘snack-y’ much more frequently. Apparently, they aren’t the only ones.

An article in Bloomberg news had caught my eye earlier that morning. “Chocolate, ice cream, popcorn and potato chip sales jumped for the week ending March 7, according to data tracker Nielsen. Pastry purchases soared by more than 18%.”

That’s just in the US, and only during the first week of March. That’s before many states were asked to shelter in place, before schools were closed, before many communities even had known cases of COVID-19, and before people began hoarding toilet paper.

Look at the items that jumped most in sales – chocolate, ice cream, popcorn and potato chips (crisps). Nutritionally, these foods have little to offer beyond empty calories. Moreover, these are all foods that raise blood glucose, and subsequently raise insulin.

Chronically high insulin is linked to hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The inflammation associated with hyperinsulinemia can also lead to high blood pressure over time.

Among all that we don’t know, what we feel pretty confident about is that COVID-19 has a higher mortality rate in people who are older, have cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. Therefore, eating foods that contribute to those mortality factors isn’t likely to increase one’s chances of survival.

In other words, for those who struggle with any of those risk factors, now is the time more than ever to reverse them. Sticking to low carb or keto is a proven effective way to do that.

Dr. Scher, our medical director at Diet Doctor, recently wrote a really helpful post about immunity. Spoiler alert: “…at Diet Doctor, we believe the evidence is strong to support the many health benefits of eating low-carb diets.”

There are a lot of nuggets of information in his article that you will want to read and perhaps share with others. Dr. Scher explains why the evidence points to being your healthiest, especially if you’re someone with diabetes, high blood pressure, or cardiovascular disease, can potentially help if you get COVID-19.

What if you’re still feeling ‘snack-y’? Is it okay if you’re snacking on low-carb foods like my family?

Well… it’s probably still not ideal. Here’s why. Each time we eat, the body produces some insulin, which isn’t necessarily bad if you’re metabolically healthy; however, chronically high circulating insulin is a problem, leading to hyperinsulinemia.

One way to treat hyperinsulinemia and insulin resistance is fasting. If you avoid snacking and leave more time between meals, then you allow the body to rest. Constantly feeding the body can be counterproductive, even if you’re eating only low-carb or keto foods.

For many of us, including my family, snacking is one way of trying to comfort ourselves during this difficult time. We’ve even made a joke out of saying that we’re not stress eating, we’re panic eating. Like the people purchasing the junk food pointed out in the Bloomberg article, we are all looking for comfort amid the pandemic.

Some of us might also be looking for entertainment. Movie theaters, malls, and even gyms are primarily closed. In addition to managing stress, we all need something to do.

Fortunately, having something to do can both relieve stress and keep our fingers from feeding our face in between meals. Plus, being active and better managing stress are also excellent ways to help fight insulin resistance.

Let’s keep talking about how to avoid emotional eating including stress eating, eating from boredom or using food for entertainment.

Join me to talk about hunger, stress eating, and coping in general with this new normal we’ve been handed.

/ Kristie Sullivan, PhD

Related posts

Mom’s using again (published Jan. 2020)

If wishes were potato chips (published Sept. 2017)

My article from last week about resiliency and how our children and grandchildren will learn from what they see us do.

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