Somebody asked me:
“How do you stay “on” when life overwhelms you – stress from job, kids, pets, weather etc. I tend to start snacking on unhealthy vegan junk food or overeat high calorie foods like nuts, seeds and nut butters. There is just no energy left to make good decisions.”
What a good one, right?
Yeah, this is everything. Because one thing is for sure: life isn’t gonna automatically uncomplicate itself so that we can have an easier time with food.
In fact, the reason we have a tougher time with the food during these times is because we have a tough time dealing with the stress of life, and food is the learned proxy for that.
It’s not the food that’s the issue. It’s how we deal with the stress.
May seem pretty basic, but what it comes down to is this:
When we feel overwhelmed and stressed, we are looking to take the easy way out with food. Whatever is quickest, fastest. And the brain calls out for high-calorie foods, because really…shhhh, don’t tell the brain I’m telling you its secret: it’s just taking advantage of you in your weakened state.
The brain is always trying to get you to maintain the status quo. Homeostasis.
It thinks that it always wants to just do what its doing now — because it is surviving right now, so it must be doing a good job.
But we know better.
We know that we are in a society with too much.
And that too much is making us unhealthy, in the long-run. So if we can only get our brain to realize this.
One of the best tips for this type of situation is to get ourselves to a state of auto-pilot, where we have done the “right thing” so many times, that it’s just natural.
When we’re in a state of stress, we need to have set up a set of patterns that we can default to whenever we need to.
When I talk about this in relation to my journey, here are three things that have helped me:
I fall back on the set of meals that I know are super easy and will create weight loss (like I talk about using in the Challenge, etc, smoothies, salads, soups)
I need to have practiced this set of meals MANY TIMES before the stress hits, so that I can just go to it when needed
I need to have a certain detachment from my food preferences, when the going gets tough. I call this the “don’t like it? do it anyway” method. :) I can now (after much failure/practice) recognize this tell-tale thought in my head and it goes a little something like this… (and it’s pretty whiney, btw)
“Meh. SALAD. I don’t want salad right now. Egghh. I just can’t bear to make a salad right now.”
That is literally a cuecard for me nowadays to realize that I just need to suck it up and take the extra 15 minutes to make a salad (or smoothie, or defrost a soup, etc), rather than just going for the nuts or dried fruits. And trust me, I’ve been faced with this challenge hundreds and hundreds of times in my years of working on this lifestyle.
But once I finally admitted to myself that I really do always have just a little bit extra energy to pull on if I need it, I realize that I never really have an excuse.
It’s like saying, I’m tired, but if someone came to me and told me they’d give me a thousand dollars if I made a salad for dinner instead of eating nuts, I’d probably get up and make the salad. It’s just a different motivation.
Would you make the salad in the same situation?
So, to make this easier, knowing no one is gonna come over and pay me to make my own salad, what it really comes down to is in the ease of planning, or already having something picked out ahead of time.
So I’m going to leave you with one action step that can make all the difference.
Take a piece of paper and make 5 columns. In each column, write a set of 3 meals, breakfast/lunch/dinner that you can easily make from things you generally have at your house. Make each column’s meals different. This might take you 10-15 minutes, but using my What I Eat in a Day videos can help or be a good start.
For example, one day may be like this:
-Apple Cinnamon Smoothie
-Defrosted Soup from Freezer
-Soaked Oats and Fruit
-Arugula Salad with Apples
-Quick Banana Green Smoothie
Come up with recipes you love already and just keep it super simple.
So once you have this list, tack it on your fridge as your emergency plan, in case you didn’t get to choose something that morning/lunch/dinner.
And then whenever you’re feeling tired or just don’t want to make something:
Observe that you’re doing that, be honest and admit it to yourself.
Tell yourself you’re going to suck it up and just make something (smoothie is a great quick solution in this case).
And check your list for a quick idea.
The more you are successful at repeating this type of behavior, the more this becomes your go-to new pattern.
Ok, what do you think of this one? Would you make a healthy dinner for yourself when you’re exhausted if $1000 was on the line? ;)