Overeating during the pandemic to numb out feelings caused by stress can be dangerous, experts warn

Posted at 6:22 PM, Nov 18, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-18 18:22:23-05

Many people joke about gaining 15 pounds because they're isolated at home and overeating, better known as Covid 15.

But an eating disorder specialist says using food to cope with stress and anxiety is no joke and can be dangerous.

"We're trying to help individuals create a new relationship with food and a new relationship with their bodies," said Marissa Jones, the Regional Director of Operations at The Center for Discovery's Eating Disorder Division.

Jones says the isolation caused by COVID-19 can cause stress and anxiety, pushing some to use food in unhealthy ways.

"A lot of times, people are using food to cope with emotions, to maybe numb out their emotions or to avoid their emotions. And that's not a helpful adaptive way to cope through this challenging time," she explained.

Jones says many eating disorders can feel out of control, often filled with secrecy and shame.

So they teach patients to have a healthier relationship with food using the terminology 'All Foods Fit.'

"'All Foods Fit' just means that it is OK to consume all food groups, which I know can feel controversial, especially when we live in a diet industry. A 70 billion dollar diet industry that tells us this food is bad, this food is good or this food is a junk food. We really try to shy away from using any of that language," she explained.

A healthy body image is also important, so Jones teaches 'Health at Every Size.'

"When we use 'Health At Every Size' meaning that health can truly come in all different shapes and sizes. No matter what you weigh or what your body type is, you can still be healthy," she said.

Therapy is the best treatment for eating disorders, but Jones also recommends finding a hobby or ways to unwind during this pandemic, instead of numbing out with food.

"Whether that's learning to play tennis or going for a walk or scrap-booking, just finding something to fill your time so that you're not leaning on some unhealthful coping skills to get through this time," Jones said.

The Center For Discovery Tampa is an evidence-based eating disorder treatment center.

You can call the center for more information at 1-855-200-6435.

Center for Discovery Tampa

  • 2111 W. Swann Avenue, Suite 202, Tampa, Florida 33606
  • 855-200-6435

Other helpful organizations include:

  • The Alliance For Eating Disorders Awareness, which provides programs and activities aimed at outreach, education, early intervention, and advocacy for all eating disorders.
  • Overeaters Anonymous, which is a community of people, who support each other in order to recover from compulsive eating and food behaviors.