The Real Reason People Are Eating More Junk Food During The Pandemic

It's safe to say that most of us didn't expect the pandemic to last this long. After more than a year of social distancing, frequent hand washing, and mask-wearing, though, things are slowly starting to return to normal as more and more people get vaccinated in the U.S.

The pandemic has had some long-reaching effects, though. There are, of course, the many people who have died from the virus. The pandemic has brought grief into many of our lives, and processing that will take some time. We've also changed our shopping habits and even how we eat. CNN reported that data from several reports from the American Society of Nutrition shows that many people have been consuming more junk food during the pandemic. We haven't been chowing down on more carrots to balance out those sweets, either. A study of more than 2,000 found that people are eating fewer veggies and other healthy foods compared to before the outbreak of the pandemic.

Why? A 2020 study in the journal "Obesity" found that a lot of people have gained weight during the pandemic as many of us have turned to stress eating as a coping mechanism (via The New York Times). A study from health insurance system Blue Cross Blue Shield found that 46% of adults have been eating more during the pandemic.

Here's how to deal with stress eating

It's understandable that so many of us turn to a bag of chips or a bowl of ice cream when we're feeling stressed out or upset. There's a reason they're called "comfort foods," after all, and the pandemic has been exceptionally stressful. "It's a distraction strategy in the same way that people might use alcohol or drugs or sex or TV as ways to create a buffer between themselves and whatever difficult feelings they might be experiencing," nutritional psychologist Amanda Baten told Time of stress eating.

To avoid the urge to stress eat, Baten recommends a distracting activity like taking a walk or calling a friend. It's also important to get your stress levels under control, whether through lifestyle changes or seeing a therapist.

"It's important to pay attention to our feelings before they become so intensified that we can't think clearly," she said. "Emotional eating is happening because there's an emotional need that isn't being fulfilled."