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  • Ashley M Lytwyn MS RDN

Embodying Food Neutrality During Social Distancing

I know things might feel tough right now. Things are up in the air about what might happen. We are all nervous about COVID19 and feel scared as we see essential food and life products diminishing from our reach. I know this can be really activating for a lot of people. Especially if you’ve struggled with food in the past or are currently struggling with food.

Now more than ever, is NOT the time to start a diet or weight loss plan. This is a time to create safety and stability around food and self-care. Nourishment is a basic and essential practice of self-care. It is the highest form of respect that you can provide to your body. This can be a time to practice food neutrality.

Food neutrality requires trust—a lot of trust. Believing you can trust your body and learning to trust yourself around food. But this doesn’t happen overnight. It takes practice and experienced guidance.

For myself and my clients who truly embody food neutrality, it feels like freedom around food. It feels like no matter what corner of the world you might be in, whether it's cooped up at home, or traveling abroad, you are okay around food. Well, more than okay—at peace with food and excited about new food experiences. It is when the voice that tells you 'no, you can't eat that' quiets and you no longer feel scared to pick pizza over salad or salad over pizza.

It is liberation.

As we hunker down at home for the foreseeable future, I've created a simple guide that aims to provide relief during this anxiety-provoking time. This list provides ideas for meals, snacks, and self care; to help us all stay neutral and in acceptance of a situation that is unfortunately, completely out of our control.


1) Stick with the same sleep schedule as you would if you were going into work. If we aim to remain on the same wakefulness/sleep cycle, we are more likely to feel stable in our hunger/fullness and moods. This is because hormonally and psychologically, we are sticking with our routine.

  • If you are struggling with falling asleep or staying asleep, ramp up your sleep routine:

  • Read for 20 minutes before bed (or ideally until you can’t keep your eyes open any longer)

  • Play a free meditation on YouTube or a meditation app for grounding and anxiety relief

  • Try melatonin or a sleep aid

2) Make sure you have enough food in your house/pantry right now for at least 2 weeks.

  • Packaged and frozen meals can be part of a healthy diet-there is no need to fear them! Some of my favorites are: Marie Callendar’s Chicken Pot Pie, Trader Joe’s Paneer Palak over white rice, TJ’s Garlic Naan, EVOL Truffle Mac N’ Cheese, and Digiorno Meat Lovers Pizza

  • Shelf-stable items such as rice, beans, pasta, chips, bread, canned produce, shelf-stable milk, cheese, jerky, eggs, frozen produce, nuts and nut butters, granola bars, etc.

  • Create mental abundance by incorporating fun and nostalgic foods - Remember to add in comforting fun food. I purchased sugar cookies, macarons, and different fruit juices, so I am excited and happy about the choices that are at home. Mental abundance helps minimize binges and other disordered eating patterns as it increases satisfaction. We are more likely to achieve food neutrality with satisfaction after eating.

  • Remember, not every day is going to look balanced. There will be days you won't have any vegetables. That's okay. Practice acceptance around this, recognizing that food perfection is far, far, far, from what we need to be focusing on.

3) Don’t isolate

  • Keep your appointments! Ask to see your therapist or dietitian virtually or reach out to loved ones and friends virtually.

  • Have meals with loved ones virtually or in a group FaceTime. I have already rescheduled lunch to be a FaceTime date!

  • Eating disorders love isolation. Reach out to people online via social media, FaceTime, phone, or text.

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