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‘Give ourselves grace’: Nutritionist Kaitlyn Eck on dieting during global pandemic

<p>The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has disrupted most college students' eating habits. Dr. Kaitlyn Eck described how frozen blueberries can be a good study snack.&nbsp;</p>

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has disrupted most college students' eating habits. Dr. Kaitlyn Eck described how frozen blueberries can be a good study snack. 

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has completely changed life as we knew it, abruptly ending whatever routine college students had. Although social distancing, job insecurity and other concerns are rightly at the forefront of discussions about the virus, there are other issues at hand. One of the many — and less talked about — ways the coronavirus has disrupted our lifestyles is through our diet choices. 

In quarantine, many students are struggling to change their schedules to somehow balance work and home life. Any time students leave school and change their schedules or habits to fit that of others is a challenge, especially when it came so unexpectedly. 

In addition to that tension, it’s hard to escape the #fitspo posts that cover our social media timelines, making it almost unbearable to go on any platform. So many social media users are encouraging their followers to take health and fitness goals to new levels. 

Dr. Kaitlyn Eck, a Rutgers graduate student, is a registered dietitian who studies disordered eating and athletes. In a discussion about how coronavirus is affecting students’ diet choices, Dr. Eck explained why some may feel guilt for overeating or pressure to lose weight.

“I think that you’re seeing a lot of people feeling guilty for eating comfort food,” Dr. Eck said. “We’re stuck at home all day and just tending to eat more comfort foods and mindless eating … you see so much about people feeling guilty about it, and I think that’s leading to some disordered eating.”

Dr. Eck described how although this mindless eating can make people worried about not staying healthy, she stressed the importance of being kind to ourselves during an increasingly difficult time. 

“I think we need to give ourselves grace right now. It’s not the best time to be considering weight loss and prioritizing that,” Dr. Eck stated.

But, if you are concerned about preventing potential mindless eating habits, Dr. Eck provided a quick solution that could help. “If you can make a conscious effort to turn off the TV, try and eat away from the screen so you can focus more on what you're eating. That can be a way to be more mindful about your food and prevent the overeating mindless eating,” Dr. Eck said.

Dr. Eck also highlighted the privilege of the conversation we were having. “I think that for a lot of people just getting food in general is such a struggle at this point so if you have the ability to even think about what’s healthier and how much you’re eating — that’s just a sign of privilege.”

Dr. Eck stressed that sticking to a routine of three meals a day with a snack could help a lot of people feel less stressed about eating habits.  

As for study snacks that can give you a little more brain power, Dr. Eck suggested eating frozen blueberries which can be cheaper and more sustainable to buy than fresh fruit. 

She also provided tips that could be useful to keep a healthy lifestyle during quarantine. Rather than focusing on weight-loss goals, we should be focusing on how to better serve ourselves, which can include going outside for fresh air and finding a book to read. 

Self-care also involves making the decision to remove accounts on social media. Sometimes, choosing to press unfollow can erase added pressure and guilt. Health and wellness should be about feeling good and doing what’s right for you, especially during a global pandemic. 

Although it’s easy to get caught up in social media or stress out about eating habits, it’s really important to remember that none of this is normal. The coronavirus has thrusted us into uncharted territory. We don’t have “more time” to focus on fitness goals or lose weight — we are actually trying to survive a pandemic. 

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