I am sure you have faced many minor stresses in your life, from a broken refrigerator, a flat tire to a dead car battery. These stresses are not really life altering, and the way our body responds to them is actually helping us to stay focused on solving the problem at hand. It is what we call the “fight and flight response”, a mechanism that allow us to prepare or adapt and defend ourselves for sudden dangers or threats. However, when the stress response is turned on all the time, it can have an impact on our immune system, weakening it and preventing it from fighting off diseases. If you are reading this article you are probably dealing with one of the highest levels of stress triggers: “divorce”. Because this journey is so stressful and taxing, it is extremely important that you make YOU a priority and take care of your mind and body.
That’s easier said than done, though. I know, because when I was going through my divorce the stress also triggered fatigue and sometimes depression, so healthy eating took a back seat and foods that were quick or comforting and often loaded with fat, salt and sugar became part of my escape. Although I never gained weight, I did become a sugar addict that really started impacting my health. Ultimately it made me feel worse, and my escape strategy backfired badly.
I knew I was doing myself a disservice all along, so why did I keep indulging and why is it that we fall into these patterns of self-destructive eating habits?
Because high calorie comfort foods can stimulate the release of certain chemicals in the brain that make us feel good—at least in the short term—and also make us want to keep eating. So as much as we know it isn’t good, we crave to feel those “feel -good” temporary feelings. That is why we often get into this vicious cycle, of unhealthy eating habits or overeating which can lead to weight gain, which again increases psychological stress. And that, in turn, can lead to more overeating. So you see it’s a vicious cycle, and the only way to stop is to make a commitment to yourself that in order to help reduce your stress level you are willing to stick to a plan that will get you back on track, living your life healthy and to the fullest.
Here are 5 Healthy Eating habit tips to help you manage your Divorce Stress (or other stresses)
While you might not be able to make the stress of your challenging marriage or divorce go away, there are things you can do to help you manage stress levels and the way in which you respond to them.
- Eat balanced meals.Try to include some lean protein with each meal, like poultry, egg whites, low-fat dairy, lean meats, fish or soy products. Protein satisfies hunger and also helps keep you mentally alert. Round out your meal with fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains. I love throwing in some chickpeas into my salads, or a can of tuna or grilled chicken cubes to get my protein into my diet. (am not a meat lover – so I made a list of alternative protein rich foods).
- Eat regularly and don’t skip meals. When you’re stressed, it’s easy to put meals off or even skip them altogether. I used to do this all the time and then binged on sugar loaded foods. But energy levels will suffer as a result. And you might end up pigging out when you do finally eat. If stress is an appetite-killer, try eating smaller amounts of food more often during the day.
- Try to avoid using food as a stress reducer. A brisk walk or a cup of herbal tea might work instead. If you feel the need to eat, hard crunchy foods help relieve stress by putting tight jaw muscles to work. Try snacking on a handful of almonds, soy nuts or baby carrots. (I love baby carrots)
- Cut back on caffeine. This was the hardest thing I ever gave up. I used to be on 6-8 cups of coffee daily. People often feel a lack of energy when they’re stressed and turn to caffeine as a pick me up, but it can disrupt your night’s sleep and causes internal stress. If caffeine keeps you awake at night, drink decaffeinated coffees and teas.
- Try to keep mealtimes pleasant and separate from work or other sources of stress. If you’re eating at a desk while you work, or paying bills while you eat dinner, something’s got to give. Take a little extra time to slow down and relax while you eat. That way, you’re likely to eat less and enjoy it more.
I hope you will be able to implement some of these tips in your life. They were a real game changer for me and I am thankful to myself for staying the course and getting myself back on track. You can do it too!
If you are struggling and feel overwhelmed and alone, feel free to reach out for your complimentary “Unleash your power” complementary session. Click here to schedule your appointment.