During any stressful time it seems that nutrition goes out the window. Our minds get preoccupied in survival mode and we seek comfort, normalcy, and a fix to our current dilemma. That’s okay. Our lives will ebb and flow and it’s up to us how we react.
When my family’s house flooded in 2016 and we found ourselves stranded in our car in a supermarket parking lot for a night my six pack was the last thing on my mind. My brain was in survival mode. I was in overdrive trying to figure out where to go, how we were getting there, and if we had enough food.
Over time my mind settled. I ended up doing what everyone else was doing: eating snack/junk food at length. It was easy, available, and convenient. I got to a point where I knew I needed to get into a new routine. I thrive on routine so it was imperative to start soon. Below are a few pointers on what I implemented during that period and how you can too.
Establish a food routine
The days of the diet overhaul should be extinguished. It doesn’t stick. It’s just too shocking and too extreme for most of us. I like to take one thing at a time. For example, many of you know from past posts that breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I have oatmeal, Greek yogurt, and coffee. Simple, healthy, and I love it. It’s an easy one for me to get back to so I start there.
What you can do: Choose some “low hanging fruit.” That is something that is easy, immediately actionable, and realistic. Maybe you just need to start eating on regular intervals instead of skipping breakfast, eating late into the night, or snacking too much. Or maybe you could do what I did and choose one meal to be healthy and then every few weeks change another meal. You could also look at getting in more protein, or healthier carbs, or reducing sugar.
Take one meal at a time
Similar to the above don’t get overwhelmed and try to reinvent the wheel right now. The goal is to establish healthy eating habits, not contest diet trying to get down to 3% body fat. I’m guilty of this. After many years of competing in bodybuilding I still had the mentality of “my next show is right around the corner.” Even though this is no longer true those thoughts still echo in my mind. I needed to let go.
What you can do: Adopt the mentality of one meal at a time. If you choose to be the tortoise and not the hare take one meal and make it better. Two or three weeks later take another meal and do the same. Over time you will have established a pretty solid routine of eating well. Additionally, when the stress passes you will have built up some seriously effective habits.
Shoot for 80%
Another lesson I had to learn was perfection during a stressful time is nearly impossible. If you happen to achieve it it was a fluke. I was very hard on myself. I thought if I wasn’t 100% then it’s just a waste of time. I had to quickly adapt at least partially if I wanted any chance of improving my quality of life. A hard, but valuable and more realistic lesson.
What you can do: Shoot for around an 80% success rate. It’s a unique time in your life, yes, but the world keeps spinning and time moves on. You need to establish routine, better eating habits, and a sense of moving forward, but not perfection. This way you avoid beating yourself up every day.
A pleasant surprise I encountered was the fact that I was open to try new things. Now this was, for the most part, out of necessity. I started eating different foods (more variety), working out at different times, and trying new exercises. I had to adapt to at-home bodyweight-only training. I learn a lot from these times of stress. Again, since necessity is the mother of invention I had no choice but to be more open-minded to try new things.
What you can do: Do you find yourself having only bodyweight training to fall back on? Are new foods the only thing available for now? Do you have more freedom to establish your own routine because now you’re working from home? Embrace these changes and see how much you can squeeze out of each one.
Get up more
One last trap I found myself in was one of inactivity. When going through anything stressful we tend to be afforded one thing that can hurt us if we let it: time. With time comes an abundance of sitting, waiting, and stressing. It easy to get almost restlessly lazy. Not only does the stress raise cortisol levels, but we become extremely unmotivated to get up and practice a little self care.
What you can do: Stay consciously active. Go for walks, stand more when sitting tempts you, establish a solid time of day to workout. Don’t get into the habit of sitting and scrolling through your phone. This is also an opportunity to help with stress levels. The more active you are the better you’ll feel overall.
Try a few of these strategies and let me know how you do. Do you have a few of your own?