I Was Eating My Way Through Quarantine—Here’s How I Stopped

They're called "comfort" foods for a reason—and I was definitely using them!

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eating quarantine coronavirusCourtesy Josie MaurerWe’re only a few weeks into quarantine, and already I think my mind is playing tricks on me. No, I’m not talking about hallucinating a Caribbean beach (although I wouldn’t object to that!). Rather, I’m talking about the siren call of my kitchen. It doesn’t matter that I set up my home office on a totally different floor and there are three closed doors between us. It doesn’t even matter that it’s not my normal mealtime or that my stomach isn’t growling. No matter what I do, I can still hear my refrigerator beckoning me. It seems that simply being home makes my brain think it’s hungry.

Normally, I’m a pretty disciplined eater. Right before New Year’s Day, I started a sugar cleanse and was able to not only break my addiction to sweet stuff but also lose 10 pounds as a happy side effect. Throughout January and February, I was exercising, eating well, and feeling really good about my body and my health. Then the end of March came, and we—my husband, two of my four children, and I—were all put under a stay-at-home order, like most of the country.

My life was turned upside down

Quarantine and the coronavirus changed absolutely everything about my life. Everything felt discombobulated and strange. I’m normally a pretty calm person but suddenly I found myself anxious and stressed. My focus was all on learning everything I could about the illness and figuring out how to best help and protect my family. I was also trying to figure out how to work entirely from home and help my kids adjust to online classes. Diet and exercise went right out the window, and I found myself coping with my anxiety and boredom by eating.

It started with my shopping trips to stock up in preparation for quarantine. I bought lots of extra snacks for my kids, thinking that this was one small way I could try to keep some normalcy in their upended lives. I don’t normally eat their snacks, but having them around all the time meant that sometimes I’d look down and realize I’d just eaten a couple of Oreos or a handful of chips without even thinking about it.

But while the sweets were a temptation, the real issue for me was just overeating in general, especially high-carb foods like hot white rice and creamy mashed potatoes. I enjoy cooking for my family, and it was easy to lose track of what I was eating as we all ate together. Carbs are comfort foods for me, and I was definitely using them that way!

I realized this wasn’t me

Then, about a week ago, I found myself standing in front of my fridge, looking for something to eat, again—even though it was only 10 o’clock in the morning—when something clicked and I finally realized what I was doing. And I didn’t like it! I felt bloated and foggy, and even though I’m not a big fan of weighing myself regularly, I could tell I’d regained a few pounds. It made me mad. This wasn’t me! I’d worked too hard to ditch sugar and improve my health to let it all go now. Plus, I didn’t want to gain those 10 pounds back.

I resolved to get back to eating and exercising in a healthy way. I certainly couldn’t control the pandemic, but I could take charge of myself—I was no longer going to feel like a victim of my circumstances. I’ve gone through the process of losing weight and getting healthy in the past, so I knew what I needed to do. Here’s what that has entailed.

Start my day with a cup of hot water

Nice Hot Cup of Tea or Coffee at Homeamesy/Getty ImagesThe first thing I do each morning is drink a cup of hot water with a capful of apple cider vinegar in it. It feels soothing and takes the edge off the morning munchies. Plus, drinking plain hot water has a host of surprising benefits.

Put a water bottle on my desk

I love drinking water, but I’d been walking down to the kitchen to get a glass…where I’d also get a few other snacks while I was there. So now, one of the first things I do every morning is fill up my giant water bottle and keep it right on my desk, where I can see it and remember to drink it.

Plan a treat every day

Now is not the time for me to go zero sugar or ditch all carbs. However, I don’t want to eat sweets mindlessly and not even enjoy them! So, I plan a splurge or two each day. When a craving hits or I see the package of Oreos on the counter, I remind myself that I’m going to have a better treat in a little while, so I can wait. Another way to approach this?

Exercise daily

This is where peace beginsLumiNola/Getty Images

Surprisingly, my workouts have gotten better during quarantine! With more time at home and a less-busy schedule, I’m able to plan my workouts the night before, and I don’t feel like I need to rush through them. Exercising every day helps me feel strong and healthy and reminds me of the goals I have for myself.

Meditate and pray every night

Every night, I take some time to relax by meditating and praying. I lay in bed, put on headphones and an eye mask, and play some calming music in the background while I clear my mind. This helps me sleep better at night and reduces my anxiety and stress during the day.

Manage my carbs

I know what one serving of rice looks like, and I know that I was eating a lot more than that. Now I make sure to be conscious about how much of the foods I’m prone to overeating I’m putting on my plate. I also try to choose the healthier option, like brown rice instead of white and sweet potatoes instead of russets.

Move the snack foods to the basement

crisps potato chips in bag ready to eat - snack food backgroundAngyee054/Getty Images

I took all the Costco-sized packages of snack food and moved them to a table in my basement. That way, the kids can still get them, but they’re not right out in the kitchen, where I have to see them every time I go in there. I’ve also started to get my kids snacks that they like but are less tempting to me.

Have set hours for eating

Intermittent fasting has worked well for me in the past—so much so that it has just become a normal part of my routine. So this was one of the first things that I brought back into my new routine. Now I try to eat only between 12 and 8 p.m. However, I also try to be flexible, because these days having a meal with my family is more important to me than sticking to a strict schedule.

Stop the catastrophic thinking

Quitting overeating in quarantine and taking charge of my health has really been about making a mental shift. I loved my pre-coronavirus life! I miss it! And sometimes it’s tempting to despair and want to give up trying. But I’ve had to let go of that all-or-nothing thinking. We’re all trying to create a new normal in the midst of a very weird situation, so I’m cutting myself some slack while I figure things out. I’m not trying to be perfect or even be what I was before. I’m just aiming to do a little better than yesterday and taking it one day at a time.

Learn more about how to navigate your way through this unprecedented situation with our comprehensive Coronavirus Guide.

To follow Josie’s healthy-living journey, check out her YouTube channel.