Coronavirus in UAE: Residents binge-eat their way out of boredom
Dubai - For many, it is simply the stress of dealing with overwhelming issues at home or even unending boredom.
By Nandini Sircar
Published: Wed 18 Mar 2020, 7:00 PM
Last updated: Thu 19 Mar 2020, 11:28 AM
House-bound residents battling the coronavirus solitude are now increasingly aiming for the fridge. The danger of a few extra pounds pales in comparison to the real threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For many, it is simply the stress of dealing with overwhelming issues at home or even unending boredom.
Shukri Deria, an American expat living in the UAE, who was a regular at Zumba classes, suddenly feels she is losing grip on all things healthy.
"I am eating so much - I stay up late at night, mostly reading from my phone. Midnight snacking has definitely increased. I am not a chocolate and nachos person at all and normally don't eat these things. But these days, I am bingeing on them. Usually, I am always out, running errands, so food is not the focus. Now, I am often seated in a couch and the fridge is only a few feet away," she said.
Farooq Sheikh, an Indian expat who is working from home, pointed out that these long indoor stretches are unusual for him, and therefore boredom is the main reason for the food overdrive.
"I was a regular at the gym but that's not happening anymore, so sometimes I feel depressed due to lack of exercise. I am also more glued to the phone these days. The bombardment of news on coronavirus increases anxiety levels: From money worries to keeping kids from going stir-crazy at home, weight gain due to constant snacking, is now beginning to feature prominently."
Resisting the temptation to overeat, Jordanian resident Amal, who is a mother of three, shares her sentiments.
"It's more chaotic with kids at home. Life is not as organised as before. So there is less attention on meal planning as compared to earlier. I feel I am not choosing healthy food and definitely not eating on time."
Make a meal plan, stay hydrated
Nutrition experts say the situational lifestyle change, and stress-eating, is not so uncommon.
"Binge eating is likely to affect more people as currently many are leading a sedentary lifestyle. So, there is a tendency to eat more out of boredom as the pantry is just a few steps away. Second, people are experiencing emotional and stressful situations. So, lack of meal planning can lead to poor quality of life, depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety", pointed out Janani Satchithanantham, senior dietician, Aster Hospital, Qusais.
She added: "Stay hydrated. At times, thirst is also mistaken for hunger. Keep yourself hydrated throughout the day. Drinking adequate water has lot of health benefits."
Meanwhile, specialists are also advising against fasting, and instead urging on adjusting diet plans if exercising has reduced. Sometimes, a nutritional overhaul could be vitally important to good health, they emphasised.
"I am against any kind of fasting, because that would lead to greater cravings later. Ideally, a balanced meal would help keep one healthy during these slow days. Prepare a meal plan for the week and focus on five small meals a day," advised Nadine Aoun, clinical dietician, Medcare Women & Children Hospital.
Eat healthy to live healthy
Turning to nourishing foods during the pandemic can help one's immune system fight off illness.
Motivating oneself to do indoor exercises and productively engaging with children, could aid people emotionally and psychologically. This would help stop the open mouth, insert food stress-snacking cycle, said experts.
"Avoid eating until you are 100 per cent full, stop before that, and don't eat if you are not hungry. Focus more on plant based diets - try to shift 60-70 per cent of your food to whole grains, lentils, beans, fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds. These give you the essential phytonutrients and antioxidants to boost your immunity and prevent infections. Try to eliminate white sugar and junk foods to help keep immunity strong," pointed out Sakina Mustansir, clinical dietician, Prime Hospital.
She added: "I always ask my patients to deep breath to strengthen the lungs and use them to their full capacity."