Taking Action


Psychiatrist explains why we crave carbs during a crisis

Posted at 11:55 AM, Apr 08, 2020

NORFOLK – Have you noticed it’s harder these days to put down the donut or stop eating potato chips?

You are not alone.

Many of us find ourselves stress eating with high carbohydrate foods like cake and cookies to cope during this coronavirus pandemic.

Nationally celebrated psychiatrist Dr. Dion Metzger told News 3 there’s a scientific explanation.

“When we’re anxious or feeling down, our serotonin levels tend to be down,” explained Dr. Metzger. Serotonin is often referred to as the “happy” or “feel good” chemical in the brain that promotes happiness.

“Those carbs and those sugars actually give us a little serotonin spike,” said Dr. Metzger. “So we really are craving it and we’re looking to it as comfort foods where it’s actually boosting our mood temporarily. The thing is, it’s very short lived so that’s why we don’t like to use that as a way of treatment.”

Metzger said exercise is a healthier way to boost happy chemicals in the brain.

“Exercise really is a game changer. It really does make a difference,” she said. “Not only does it help to boost these serotonin levels, we’re also boosting our physical health.”

She continued, “If we’re trying to kind of battle off this ‘quarantine 15’ that everyone’s referring to, go ahead and exercise so we can fight that,” she explained.

Dr. Metzger also warned against pressure to achieve lofty goals during a crisis.

“We’re in a public health emergency. This isn’t like we’re just sitting in our house and we’re off in cabin and we can write that book we wanted to,” she said. “We’re in a chaotic time. I really want people to give themselves a break. You can’t do everything now.”

Dr. Metzger said it’s important to practice self-care.

“It’s okay to take care of yourself right now,” she urged. “Find what brings you peace and try to incorporate it into every day. We are in a high stress situation right now and the best way for us to respond is to take care of ourselves so we can manage everything.”