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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I'm stressed! Oh, and hungry too...

Hi everyone!
I can't believe how fast time flies when midterm season comes around. Fun, I know...

First of all, I want to apologize on the behalf of T and myself for not regularly posting. We are still students after all and school is our number one priority- but we really love getting meaningful and helpful posts out to all of you so we will try harder to update the blog when we can!

In any event, since we are in the season of midterms, stress, and feeling plain overwhelmed with life, I thought it would be appropriate to discuss how we view food during these times.

Think about your responses to these questions and see how many apply to you:
Does food help you de-stress? How so? What about food makes you feel happy or help you cope with something?
Do you eat more unhealthily and infrequently when you're overwhelmed?   
Have you ever skipped meals or fasted because of stress? 
Have you ever overeaten or ate nothing at all because of stress? 
What did you choose to eat when you were crunched on time? How many times was that option a healthy one? 

Okay, so I admit that I'm guilty of a couple of these- I find that during times of stress, I just plain lose my appetite and then experience bouts of hunger at strange hours of the day since my internal food clock is just all out of sync. I seem to always be drinking cups and cups of caffeinated green tea just to calm myself down and so I can stay awake longer to get stuff done!

So, if we are guilty of some or perhaps ALL of these, how can we change our lifestyle and the way we view and interact with food during these times of hardship and worry?

Let me tell you, it's not easy. Often times we sacrifice our health to just "get things done" and we are always in a "go go go" pace of life that never seems to slow down.

But trust me that your body will eventually run out of energy and shut down on you at the most inconvenient moment as long as you continue to abuse it.

You should always remember that stress is temporary, but you only get ONE body- so make it a priority to take care of yourself! No excuses! :)

Here are some healthy eating tips to help you during times of stress:

1) Eat regularly and don't skip meals. 
Okay, so most people know this simple golden rule. But why does the majority of the population never follow it? This is beyond me, but it really does make a difference when you're eating three square meals a day and not skipping meals- granted that these are healthy meals!

2) Avoid eating at night- you should be sleeping! 
Again, another hard thing to do- but I promise your body will thank you in the long run. In fact, if you have weight loss goals in mind or want to maintain your current weight, this is an EVEN better reason why you shouldn't eat late at night. Your body has an internal circadian rhythm that dictates your biological clock (ie. hours of wakefulness and rest, eating hours and digesting hours etc) and if you screw it up essentially by eating food when you're supposed to be sleeping, it will 100% lead to weight gain!

3) Avoid processed foods, foods high in saturated fat and sugar, fried foods, sweets and foods that you know are just plain unhealthy. 
You know what I'm talking about. Even if you're tempted, say bye bye to that ramen, cookies, chocolates and cereal for a late night snack or meal. These foods are calorically dense but full of stuff your body doesn't really want or need. Plus, when you're stressed, these foods do you more harm than you might think. Basically, if you're eating excess carbs, your body will eventually store it as fat (interestingly enough, carbohydrates do not readily turn into fat and vice versa; only in excess does your body need somewhere to store all that glucose, so it's last resort is to make fat).

Cute.. but quite deadly

4) When making healthy choices choose foods like...
Fruits: Apples, bananas, oranges, figs, berries etc (fruits are packed with Vit C and antioxidants- use them to your advantage to fight off colds and nasty flues that tend to fly around during stressful times)

Veggies: Dark leafy greens (spinach, kale, bok choy), tomatoes, carrots, garbanzo beans, lentils, beets. PICK THINGS WITH HIGH FIBER! Try to eat less potatoes (and this means no french fries), lettuce, corn and other veggies that are not as healthy choices.

Grains: Opt for whole wheat instead of white bread, eat brown rice over white rice, and eat quinoa!

Meat: If you eat meat, try for lean chicken meat and avoid eating too much red meat. Also, fish high in omega 3 like salmon and other wild fish are a great source of protein too! Yay for fish!!

Dairy: Eat yogurt that's plain and add fruit and honey instead of eating ice cream and drinking whole milk. Limit sour cream and cream cheese. Don't eat slabs of butter either.

5) Drink water. And lots of it!
Think back on your day and recall how much water you actually drank (not taken in from food). And no, sugar sweetened beverages don't count as water. Turns out that most people don't drink nearly enough water that the body actually needs. In fact, the majority of the U.S. population drinks... you guessed it: SODA. Soda is the number one drink that directly corresponds to the obesity epidemic along with a slew of awesome chronic diseases you get from obesity such as: CVD, atherosclerosis, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high LDL and low HDL count etc. And the terrible list goes on...

Do yourself and your body a favor and just stop drinking that stuff! Avoid chocolate flavored milk, energy drinks (Red bull, Gatorade, Monster), juices, alcohol and any other type of sugar sweetened beverage (boba would be a big one here- I'm talking to you Berkeley folk!). Instead, opt for hot tea (no sugar) like green tea or chamomile, plain water and if you must drink milk, try for low fat or non fat milk that is unflavored. You can also try soy, rice, or almond milk but I would be wary and read the nutrition labels carefully!

6) Never abuse food by using it to cope with negative feelings (feelings of worthlessness, pain or anger) 
Abuse of food, in my mind, covers overeating and severely limiting food in times of stress. Both are extremely unhealthy and should not be an option at all. Abusing food won't solve your problems or make them magically go away. Treating food in a positive manner leads to healthier outcomes- don't make food your enemy!  

Along with these simple rules for choosing nutritious foods during stressful times, also remember to get out and MOVE. Exercise is such a wonderful way to let go of stress while keeping yourself fit! Even walking around for 30 minutes a day, playing sports with friends, or dancing that gets your heart rate up is perfect to help you release more endorphins and instantly make you happier if you happen to be depressed, sad, overwhelmed or lonely.  

If you have read this far and can't remember anything else, remember this: Food is powerful.

It is up to you how to utilize food for optimal health and well being.

Make good choices, get adequate sleep and take care of yourself! You are more than whatever you may be facing right now. And as always, it gets better! :)

Good luck to all of you and I'll talk to you very soon!



Great post Kristen! Perfect for the upcoming exams. Keep it up! (: