Q: Between my graduate classes and full time office job, I’m exhausted and stressed out. I don’t have a lot of time to eat during the day since I’m so busy, so I usually grab fast food cause it’s quick and I survive on a lot of coffee. I wish I could be one of those girls who blows off steam at the gym, but I’m not. I unwind with a pint of ice cream or an entire pizza. It makes me feel better in the moment, but then I end up getting so upset with myself. I’ve gained a lot of weight in a short amount of time and it’s concerning. Any help would be appreciated!
A: Exhaustion and stress are a terrible combo when trying to lose weight. On the flip side, they are also great motivators to do so! Think of it this way-if you start eating healthier, you will have more energy to get through your day and you will feel better about yourself. Eating junk gives you spikes of energy (aka sugar highs) as it raises your blood sugar levels, so you do feel better in the moment. But then your body crashes. I used to work an office job and quickly learned my lesson that I could NOT eat bad because it left me feeling so unfocused. I’d want to literally fall asleep at my desk. If you get motivated to eat healthier, not only will you feel more energetic to tackle your classes and job, but those extra pounds will melt away and that’s one less thing to stress over.
Comfort food is called that for a reason. We’ve been conditioned to turn to food when we’ve had a bad day. And it does make us feel better…for a few minutes. But then we feel crappy again once the sugar boost is gone and we’re left with regrets. It’s a negative cycle, but one you can take control of. First, you have to be at the point where you are ready to make changes. You’re writing to me, so it sounds like you are. You’ve created some habits that are no longer serving you, Now it’s time to replace them with positive habits.
Let’s start with your motivation. Why do you want to start making healthier eating choices? Post your list somewhere you can see it daily.
What’s your intention? This is different than setting a goal to lose 20 lbs. Intention is about a creating a lifestyle. You might have the intent to eat foods that nourish your body and make you feel vibrant, as an example. Way better than saying I have to restrict myself for the next 4 weeks on this diet and then gain it all back.
Now it’s time to create an action plan so you can replace those habits. Success is found in your daily routine. You’re short on time, so why not order from one of those healthy food services that delivers ingredients or precooked meals? Or dedicate an hour on Sunday for meal prep for the week. Stock up on healthy snacks for the office, like nuts, apples, berries, yogurt, granola, veggies, hummus etc. Try taking your time when you eat and be more mindful. Enjoy each bite and stop eating when you feel full. (Fun fact: it takes 20 min for us to get the full sensation of fullness.) Maybe find a coworker who also wants to eat healthier and hold each other accountable.
Also, can you get up just a half hour earlier and workout at home? Getting your endorphins pumping first thing in the AM has it’s perks. “You will be more awake and ready to tackle your day by giving yourself that extra energy boost. Working out can increase your mental clarity for four to 10 hours post-exercise,” according to the Huff Po. You continue to burn calories throughout the day, too. I know that exercise isn’t really your thing, but there are a million ways to get moving. Pick one and give it a try-ride your bike, walk, yoga, dance, pilates, find short workout videos online, kickboxing, weights, tennis, jogging, sports.
Will you have days that you screw up and eat something you regret? YES and that’s okay. This is a process and there will be progress and setbacks. Strive to create a balanced way of eating. Also, check out my post on using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills to manage your eating here.