The Real Barrier to Healthy Eating Is... STRESS!
Obesity trends are on the rise as we battle our love for cheap, convenient packaged and fast foods. If as a culture we keep on the path of eating fast, easy, and unhealthy foods, we know what consequences will be-- so why is it so hard to change our eating habits? Why, even in spite of our kids getting larger around the middle, knowing the health risks associated with being overweight, are families not making the appropriate changes in lifestyle?
If I had to narrow it down to one main culprit, it would be STRESS. Families are under more stress today than ever before. Not only do we spend more hours at work to make end meet, at the same timr as encountering a profound loss, in the absence of community and extended family support in raising our kids> So much more is expected of parents today then in previous generations. This lack of support and growing responsibility is taking a toll, naturally its easier to choose what is fast and convenient to eat. Eating real foods takes time and preparation and for those of us who are burning the candle at both ends, its a challenge to eat right.
I remember a conversation I had with my Grandmother, asking her why she believes having two kids today is so much harder than having five kids when she was raising her kids in the 1950’s -70’s. She said that life was easier then, parents were expected to take care of their kids basic needs, food, clothing, shelter and that’s about it. They were not expected to be their child’s teachers, tutors, chauffeurs or coaches and they certainly never imagined having to financially provide for all their child’s “necessities” such as sports, lessons, brand name clothing and electronics. Back then, mom’s main job was to provide hot meals made from scratch, now with most mothers working outside of the home, we are even more pressed for time and making meals gets put on the back burner.
When we are stressed we tend to self medicate. Although it can take many forms, the easiest, cheapest and most convenient method of self-medication is through the food we eat. The ironic part about that while we opt for the fake food ‘quick fix’ which succeeds in providing immediate feel good brain chemicals, it does so at the cost of our worsening state of health. All the while the real food which can help us improve our health, provide nourishment to our bodies can also help can help us reduce stress. But when you are really stressed out, it’s hard to keep in mind the long term effects that your current method of coping is having on your health.
As much as I would like to irradicate junk food of the face of the earth (and out of your cupboards) and start fresh, I know this is not the best approach to lasting change. My whole philosophy on life is 1) moderation and 2) making baby steps over time will make all the difference. All you need to do to start to do better and feel better is to start with a few small changes; the feeling grows along with your motivation to do more.
Step one, lets deal with the stress shall we? First, fuel ourselves with stress reducing nutrients.
Provisions- always have snacks on hand. I learned this when my kids were young, low blood sugar meltdowns are easily eradicated by toting snacks in your purse and car. Let’s not kid ourselves-- this is just as effective for busy adults as well! Keep snack containers or baggies of almonds, walnuts or trail mix, in your purse, in your car, on your desk- where ever you (or your children) need may them. This simple snack will not only curb the 'edge' off your hunger pangs, it will keep your blood sugar level while providing healthy fats to improve brain function which also has an overall calming effect!
Eat the right kind of carbohydrates. Oh how we villify carbs... but the fact is good carbs prompt the brain to make more of the brain chemical serotonin. Serotonin calms the brain, reduces depression, increases sleep quality and decreases appetite. For a steady supply of this feel-good chemical, it's best to eat complex carbs, which are digested more slowly and don’t cause blood sugar to spike.
Good choices include:
whole-grains such as brown rice, quinoa and barley (just cook it up like rice!)
oatmeal (slow oats or steel cut)
lentils & beans
Veggies such as spinach, lettuce, asparagus, and cucumber.
Challenge yourself a to eat one whole grain and one salad a day, what helps you to feel good, will eventually help you to look good too!
Get more Vitamin B in your diet. Vitamin B is known for its stress-reducing properties and your best bet for getting more in your diet is as mentioned before- whole grain and salads!
B1 (Thiamin): whole grains, green leafies, berries, eggs
B2 (Riboflavin): whole grains, eggs, peas
B3 (Niacin): fish, eggs, beans, lentils, potatoes, peanuts.
B6 (Pyridoxine): brown rice, fish, whole grain cereals
B12: meat, egg yolk, poultry, milk.
B9 (Folic acid): green vegetables and whole grain cereals
Pantothenic acid: meats, legumes and whole-grain cereals.
These foods are healing and help to reduce stress!