QCOSTARICA – Christmas and New Year’s Eve are times of traditional foods with which one easily fall into excesses: tamales, pork leg, Christmas cake, rompope (an eggnog-like drink), dips, cookies, and alcoholic beverages.
The result for many people is reflected on the scale and, even worse, decompensations for the chronically ill.
It happens every year, but in 2020 the risk is greater since there are many emotions that are combined due to the confinement and concern about the covid-19 pandemic and its economic effects.
This is where the so-called “emotional hunger” comes in, which on many occasions does not coincide with the physical hunger necessary to keep us nourished and can “over-nourish” us.
“This year there is a lot of pain. Many have had a loss of a loved one or loss of a job or separation. We have more stress. We have not been able to enjoy ourselves with family and friends, and, in addition, we have been more sedentary ”, explained Georlenny Salazar, spokesperson for the College of Nutrition Professionals of Costa Rica.
She added: “the emotional hunger has worsened. Sometimes we are not really hungry, but that anxiety, that sadness, or loneliness leads us to eat more. And there is also that thought of ‘this year I have had a very bad time, I deserve it’. We want to compensate with food for all that we have suffered, and all this can play against our health.”
For the specialist, something else is added to this mix, the social component.
There are families and groups of friends who plan their first get together in months and then we seek to entertain those people, with which we fill the tables with food even more for our guests or we bring more “bocas” (finger foods) and “snacks” when they invite us to a place.
“There are too many sweets, too much fat, too much, too often,” Salazar stressed.
This affects all ages. Adults need to be aware of their emotions and keep an eye out for those of children.
“The pandemic has awakened many emotions such as sadness, boredom and fear. Parents must ensure that their children channel these emotions correctly and not through food, since in this way they harm their health at a time when staying healthy is more important than ever,” said Sharon Murillo, of the Board of Directors from the College of Professionals in Psychology.
With excesses, our health suffers, both in the short and long term. Endocrinologist Gabriela Muñoz explained that with these binges we subject our body to a stress for which it is not prepared.
“It is more quantity of food, heavier and we do less ‘rest time’ between one meal and another,” said the specialist.
The first problems that people can suffer are digestive ailments such as gastritis, colitis or reflux. Those who already have a chronic disease such as hypertension or diabetes are at greater risk of decompensation and of facing crisis.
If the person is already overweight and gains a few more kilos, greater problems will arise, such as a higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, and with this, greater chances of myocardial infarction or stroke.
What to do?
For Salazar, what we must do boils down to one concept: mindful eating.
“Knowing how to listen to our body, eating when we are hungry and not because of emotion or because “the food looks very good”, eating slowly and stopping eating when there is already a sign of satiety.
“It is not obsessing over and counting every grain of rice that is eaten, it is knowing how to eat,” specified the nutritionist.
Not hungry due to stress? Salazar insists that it is good to have small snacks during the day and eating every three hours without getting saturated.
“If you’re not hungry because of stress, the time will come when you get hungrier and you say ‘I didn’t eat all day, it’s fair to eat all this.’ And that doesn’t work like that, because that’s where bingeing can come,” she said.
Another secret to not overeating is, if we are in a social activity, stay away from the tables of food or the grills to avoid falling into the temptation of eating or trying things.
“It is also very important to be hydrated. Sometimes we say we are hungry when we are rather thirsty. If we feel dry mouth it is because we are already dehydrated. We must be constantly drinking water during the day,” she concluded.