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The COVID-19 Fifteen: Mindless Eating During Quarantine Leading To Weight Gain

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - Now that the pandemic has crossed into 2021 the issue of quarantine weight gain has become a serious health concern.

Doctors are beginning to see it almost every time a patient steps on the scale.

So, how do people turn it around, especially with it being the middle of winter when outdoor exercise and activities are more difficult?

Well, for starters, people are not good at estimating how much they're eating, and a lot of pandemic eating is driven simply by boredom or emotions.

According to Cleveland Clinic psychologist Dr. Susan Albers, to turn this around, it first and foremost must be a guilt-free conversation.

"Go easy on yourself, because you are not alone," Dr. Albers said.

She says that people working at home get into the habit of mindless eating.

"It makes sense," she explained. "We are just feet from our kitchens, not only that, we are at home, we are feeling stressed, bored, and lonely. So this is an increase in emotional eating stress, eating, and a lot of mindless snacking."

Dr. Albers says that "mindful eating" is being aware of what you're eating and how you're eating, or as she explains, "following the Three S's."

"Sit down while you eat," she begins. "Studies have shown that people eat 5% less when they're sitting at an actual table, versus their desk or on the couch. The second S is to slowly savor each bite, we are often at the bottom of a bowl before we know it, and we haven't tasted a single bite."

The final S is arguably the most important - stop whatever else it is you are doing.

"When we give food our full attention, not only do we enjoy it more, but we actually eat less because we pay more attention and watch, we're much more conscious of our choices," she said.

Dr. Albers also recommends picking a "snack spot" that isn't your desk and make it a place where you only just sit and enjoy a snack. That tends to get you away from what you were doing and lets your mind relax, again, causing you to eat less.

However, once you're in that spot, that's a big bag of chips and just one more won't hurt, right?

WATCH: Snacking Smartly Through The Pandemic

"Often when our mind says, 'I'm hungry' we make a beeline for food, instead of taking a pause, checking with yourself, asking yourself if you are really hungry or maybe you're feeling bored or stressed," Dr. Albers said.

Now, if it's food, Dr. Albers says consider low-calorie mandarine oranges.

"As you unpeel them, make sure you take a nice deep breath of that orange, studies have shown that citrus aroma is calming and soothing," she said.

She also recommends reaching for pumpkin seeds for the magnesium found in them.

"People who have low magnesium actually have high anxiety levels," she explained. "Brazil nuts are a great snack for people who struggle with emotional eating because they are full of selenium and selenium helps regulate our thyroid and our thyroid runs everything in our body."

She also says that cinnamon is a must.

"Sprinkle it on everything," she said. "And yogurt! Put some in your coffee, on your cereal, this is going to help regulate your blood sugar so that you don't have those sugar cravings throughout the day."

So, what about those late-night cravings?

"Tart cherries and cherry juice are great for helping people get to sleep and clinical studies have shown that they help relieve muscle soreness and aching," Dr. Albers said.

Dr. Albers says that vitamin D is also crucial, and sure that can be provided from a supplement or milk, but she also says move your work location to near a window to get the sunlight.

A lack of vitamin D, she explained, increases emotional eating.

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