Stay On Track: Eating Healthy When It Gets Tough

Nurses Stress 101


Specializes in psychiatry, community health, wellness.

...So I had another question from a reader. He was discussing how as a busy professional with a high stress job he has trouble eating healthy. He wrote me "when I am tired or stressed I am most likely to reach for an unhealthy food especially if it is right there in front of me. There is the "I deserve it" thinking such as I worked overtime and had a hard day with no break so I deserve this cake". And then he went ahead to discuss that healthier choices are still necessary "even if we don't see an instant result of the cake, or no exercise, or poor sleep. But how?"...

...I myself have struggled with this very same predicament. I also have watched countless people with the same issue. So thank you very much for this question! It is challenging, but very achievable! And it is not about will-power or "being strong" against the urge to be unhealthy. It is very doable if you really want it. That is the key. You have to want the healthy lifestyle. No one can make you do it. No one can tell you what you have to do. And you cannot come from a place of "well I should be..." You have to want it...

Here are my tips for making the healthy choice even when it is difficult:

  • Change your habits: You can actually change a craving. If you get into a routine of eating healthy your taste buds change. Your body will less often crave bad things and start to desire fresh vegetables or fruit. I know from experience. I can honestly say when dinner rolls around I am craving tomatoes, spinach, or squash. The more you eat healthy the more your body will want it.
  • Feelings are not thoughts or actions: Just because you feel you had a bad day or you feel like having a whole pint of ice cream does not mean you have to act on it. Realize this feeling of stress. Acknowledge this thought of ice cream desire. Take a deep breath. Let it go. And move on.
  • Consequences matter: What we do today will haunt us in our future. No matter how small, each bad food choice ads up over time. So if you constantly reach for salty snacks each time you are relieving stress you may come to find blood pressure issues down the line.
  • Decrease choices: Do not have bad snacks around! I repeat, do not have bad snacks in the home! If you cannot find them you are less likely to give in. And if you know where they are kept at work; again avoid that area like the plague!
  • Get a buddy: It is always helpful to have a healthy resource. If you know another co-worker is mindful of how they eat share with them your experience. Talk about how bad days and stress lead to negative eating. Let someone know so they can help you when you are feeling weak and vulnerable.
  • Drink more water!: Heck this is my answer to everything. But really, staying hydrated will keep you focused and less stressed throughout your day. Keeping your water intake high will crowd out the need for sweets and other snacks.
  • Moderation: O.k. so the whole post is about how to avoid bad snacks, but if you must do so in moderation. If you pass a candy jar and feel you have been so good for so long it is alright to take one piece; I do! Just take that portioned amount and stick to it. Do not let one piece turn into one piece every hour. Set your goal for how much you allow yourself to have and stick to it.

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