A few weeks ago, I was enjoying a late-summer walk with a close client of mine. She had been experiencing a plethora of stressful situations in her life, and managed to turn what one would anticipate to be a total s**tshow of a nutritional approach --- into an enlightening, nourishing experience. Her ability to articulate the thought processes she experienced was quite impressive to me, and inspired me to dive a little deeper in to the idea of "comfort food."
As we walked, she mentioned to me a particularly stressful day she had had...after a therapy session, facing some difficult decisions...and hungry! She found herself heading to Glen's Garden Market (woot! #kalesalad) ... and getting deeply excited to fill her plate with a grilled chicken breast and kale salad. She was taken aback by how good she felt, not only with her decision, but with how appropriately the meal hit the spot. It took some time for her to realize just what was happening. In her (even recent) past...the go-to on this high-stress day would've likely included a trip to Shake Shack for a famously juicy cheeseburger, some swedish fish, and/or maybe even some milk chocolate. Surprisingly, however...the thought of those foods didn't even begin to orbit her thoughts until well after she was thoroughly satisfied by her nutrient-dense meal. <insert "hmmm" emoji man>
Could it be, that she had been able to redefine her version of "comfort food?" While explaining this epiphany to me, she mentioned that she found herself excited to do something nice for her body. She found joy - and comfort - in providing her physical self a healthy (still delicious!) meal...which, in turn, rewarded her with the same feelgood that Shake Shake would've (temporarily) given her previous self.
Even wikipedia defines comfort food as "food which provides a nostalgic or sentimental value to the consumer, and is often characterized by its high caloric nature, high carbohydrate level, and simple preparation." Why is this? Yes...I'm sure you've heard about comfort foods increasing levels of serotonin - aka the happy hormone - in the body. So...it's clear that the Ben & Jerry's that's calling your name after you got your heart broken MUST make you feel better. Right?!?
But what about how guilty, terrible, bloated, and like a failure you feel an hour after? You're not only left with your broken heart....but also feeling less powerful in your own skin, with reduced self-confidence, and feeling like you need to run 3 marathons to "burn off" your transgressions. This cycle isn't healthy for anyone experiencing it...so maybe it's time we learn from each other...and try to redefine this whole "comfort food" idea.
I wanted to put together a few things any of us can do...in those times of high stress...to bring us back to having a deeply rooted desire to truly nourish ourselves and our bodies.
Express gratitude...For Yourself
People have been chatting about gratitude journals for a while now. But they're typically geared towards being thankful for external sources of happiness in one's life. Give yourself the opportunity to be appreciative for things about yourself! What did YOU do today, that was amazing? Maybe on those really tough days...your amazing feat was merely getting out of bed. But guess what?!? You didn't have to! And you did!! High five!! #gratitude
On those stressful days, when you really want to grab a jumbo slice and a coke because you just bombed an exam....take a peek at your journal....and have a look at all the amazing things you've done!! Slowing down enough to enjoy these positive sentiments about yourself should provide you a dose of serotonin that's much more fulfilling than jumbo slice will ever provide you. ;)
3 minutes of reflection
I debated a bit with myself on this one. My first inclination was to go for the standard "5 minutes." But, reality says most of us aren't patient enough for even 5 minutes of relaxing, particularly not when in the heat of a stressful moment. So I decided to dial it back a bit and go for 3 minutes. Not a time-out. Not a "man, I have to stop and do nothing before diving in to this giant bucket of truffle fries." I want you to take three minutes...180 seconds...and take a look at your stressful situation from as objective a perspective as possible. Does it deserve the privilege of controlling your actions? To make you feel even worse about yourself after the greasy truffle fries leave you on the couch for a few hours, while stressed out yet again?? Maybe the better option would be to have a nutrient-rich meal (assuming you're hungry), and treating yourself to something nice, outside of insane amounts of carbs and fat. A really high quality cup of coffee, a phone call with your best friend, or some puppy cuddles might take you a bit further than those truffle fries will.
Plan Your Escape
If you find that it's difficult to go for the kale salad and grilled chicken vs. apple pie and cheetos, do your homework!! Think about this in a restful time of peace and happiness. What foods do you see as being particularly nourishing for yourself? Those things that really hit the spot, but give you a feeling of satisfaction that you're giving your body wholesome nutrition as well? Maybe it's cauliflower pizza, topped with prosciutto and arugula. Or maybe it's banana protein pancakes with a side of black forest bacon. Whatever it is...figure out what satisfies all levels of nourishment, for the body and soul, and be excited to feed yourself these delights in a time of need.
Are these the ultimate remedy for preventing your nacho and (craft) beer binge after hearing that you got passed up for a promotion at work?? Probably not. But...it's a start!! The point is---slow yourself down and think about how you want to treat yourself. Will copious amounts carb heavy, fat-laden consumables get you that job?? Probably not. And you'll likely have a helluva lot of guilt - and gut issues - afterwords. But treating yourself to a high quality meal, filled with things that get you excited about eating, as well as fueling yourself with good stuff...will at least be a positive step in the direction of increased self confidence (#swag!)...which will get you that pep in your step that seems like it's disappeared.
PS. Don't forget...if you "screw up" and find yourself halfway through a monstrous milkshake after your best friend moved away...remind yourself that "its ok!" We all fall down sometimes. Don't beat yourself up too much. Just re-read the blog and be ready next time! :) xoxo