I'm not a dieter. I hate trendy food cults. But it is true that you are what you eat. Food effects us deeply and it's effects are not just instantaneous. What we put in our bodies has ramifications for days, weeks, and even months. While food is out of your system in about a day, what it does to your mental and physical health can send you spiraling out of a self care routine and into a very damaging place.
1. Junk foods is a slippery slope.
I try to eat well but I fall off the wagon a lot. The two foods that I usually fall for are chicken fingers (with buffalo sauce or anything from Cluck U), and raw cookie dough. Those two will get me, especially when I'm not in a great place. But I pay the price. The greasy fried food or intense sugar slows me down. I'm probably shot for the rest of the day. Then the cravings start and I want more. If I really fall off the wagon I continue to eat these things on and off for a week or so. Then, I feel the effects for almost a month. All I want is fried foods and sweets. I start craving soda (something I almost never want) and other junk foods. Portion control goes out the window and along with it I notice my routines fall apart too.
I'm not the only one either. I see my colleagues reaching for "comfort foods" when times get tough and I see those tough times get longer and longer until eventually they shift back to healthier eating and miraculously life gets better!
2. Junk food aggravates stress and Compassion Fatigue Symptoms.
My sleep suffers, my energy plummets, and I have an underlying feeling of dread. That leads to depression, intense Compassion Fatigue symptoms, and overwhelming lethargy. All from some damn chicken fingers or cookie dough!
It doesn't just stop with symptoms either. It's easy to snowball into dropping a self care routine all together because the couch now looks too inviting, video games or the smart phone are too enticing, and other unhealthy habits came back as well.
3. Healthier foods, regardless of what they are, can significantly improve mood and health.
As I write this I am currently on an up swing. One I hope to hang on to for a while, because while crappy foods beget misery, healthy and wholesome ones make me feel fantastic! As I write this I am munching on a bowl of Kiwano and Cactus Fruit. I have a small problem with the exotic fruits department... But I prefer these fruits because they give me fiber, energy, fill me up, and are lower in sugar than regular fruit so no crash at the end. And my parrot loves them too.
You don't have to eat healthy foods you don't like either. Start out slow. Pick something you like, such as fruit, nuts, or even dairy to replace greasy, fatty, or processed foods. Don't let anyone make you feel like you have to make over your diet overnight. Most people who eat a lot of processed foods do not have a pallet for green leafy veggies and other healthy stuff so you will fail if you charge full steam ahead. Replace a couple of foods at a time and see how you feel.
4. Eating healthier food makes self care easier.
My upswing has been going on for about a week and I feel the effects deeply. I have significantly more energy. My mood is much better. The last 2 nights my sleep is better and I wake up happier. It is actually a very big deal as I usually feel horrible in the morning, but that is for another post.
I want to do better for myself when I feel this way. I want to take the time to ensure I stay this way. My friends and colleagues report that their clients seem happier, the recruit better clients, and in general their animals are happier too. All because we can feel and act our best, just by not eating processed junk.
5. How you choose your food is a huge reflection of how you're taking care of yourself.
Usually when my self care derails I can point to my diet being the first sign. It was that trip to Wendy's, or that soda at the gas station. Usually it's because I'm rushing between clients. And if I'm rushing between clients, I have a self care problem. If I can't take the time to pack a lunch, or stop somewhere half decent, then I am not taking enough time for me. That is a problem that needs correcting because in a week, or a month, something is going to fail. Paperwork is going to get lost. You will say yes to a client that is a terrible fit. You will make a mistake, get bit, or hurt yourself. And if you went back and looked, you could see the road that lead up to it started when you stopped taking care of yourself.
Go to your local market and pick out one thing that is relatively healthy and buy it. Even if it's not cheap. Treat yourself. See how you feel an hour later. Repeat this tomorrow. Set aside 1 hour for lunch tomorrow. In that hour either savor your packed lunch, take the time to prepare something with love and kindness for yourself, or purchase something that is healthy and special. Examine it as you eat. What is the texture? Are there flavors you didn't notice before? What else might those ingredients go well with? While eating, plan tomorrow's lunch. Then execute it. You've got this. One day at a time!
My husband and I made a 30 day commitment to a pescatarian lifestyle. I am writing this on day 4. I say lifestyle because it is a choice we hope to do for the rest of our lives. With tiny cheats of course ;) I can't be vegan, at least not right now. My body is too used to animal protein and after a few attempts in the past, I know that I will crash, make myself very sick and in the process, do a poor service to my clients. Instead I am focused on self care, healthy choices, and a gradual replacement of foods that make me feel crappy to foods that make me feel great. I am far from perfect and I know I will chow down on my beloved chicken fingers after this 30 days are over, but that's okay. Moderation is the key.