Friday, January 4, 2013

When the Going Gets Tough

Sometimes in life the going gets tough.

And when the going gets tough there are many options to choose from: buckle under pressure, be self deprecating, or get tougher. Within the past month I underwent all 3 of these phases and only one proved successful. Life threw me through a loop.

In the midst of some major life curveballs I found myself reaching for familiarity. The familiarity found in comfort foods. I was juggling  my students, night classes, studying, a second job, a social life, and a few of the most devastating events one could encounter all at once. The more and more things got tough the more I found myself reaching for vegan treats: cookies, pastries, ice cream, and pizza. Eventually, vegan treats were no longer enough and I found myself wanting non-vegan treats. I no longer had time to plan my meals, exercise or eat regularly. Food was no longer for nutrition it became a source of comfort.

In one month I watched the scale creep up an extra 5lbs. I was in an emotional and physical rut my new diet left me with less energy, breakouts, and a constant craving for sweets and salt. Ironically, one day while studying for my nutrition final I was snacking on cookies.
My stomach growled as I flipped through my class notes and my mind veered away from possible test questions to serious life questions like: how can I teach others about balance and nutrition if I buckle under pressure? How will I be able to hold others accountable if I am not holding myself accountable? Why would I choose foods that hurt me when I feel hurt or stressed?

The questions struck a nerve and then and there I threw away the cookies, took a big gulp of water and began devising a plan of action. First, I wrote my health/fitness goals. Next I made a list of foods I crave when I feel sad, unhappy, or stressed alongside each food I listed the reasons why I chose the food and how it makes me feel. Then, I made a list of foods that make me feel good and happy. I noticed a drastic difference between the two lists and quickly I realized a “change gon come”.

Stress Foods
Happy Foods
Chocolate Chip Cookies: I feel happier, full, comfort.
Milk Chocolate: I feel deserving, rewarded, special, relaxed, pampered
Vegan Donuts: I feel excitement, comfort, rewarded
Kale, strawberries, grapes, red Pepper: I feel clean light, healthy, clear minded, balanced, accomplished, energetic.

I ate stress foods to feel better yet, I felt worse after eating them because of what they do to my body and it was only a temporary fix. However, my happy foods list made me feel consistently and ultimately encouraged me to eat even more of them. From that moment I decided I would never turn my back on my health. No amount of stress, loss, or work will ever make me turn my back on my health.

After a one month hiatus from strict veganism and regular exercise. I now feel more dedicated than ever to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Although reaching out for quick/junk foods during tough times may seem like a quick fix it only makes things worse in the long run. Now, when I am feeling overwhelmed or down I reach for easy go-to snacks like sliced red peppers, a handful of grapes, or peanut butter and apple. These fulfill my sweet and savory cravings without sabotaging my health or stunting my fitness progress.

I completed my study session with a little extra zeal knowing that this experience will make me an even better dietician because I know what it’s like when the going gets tough-and I know what it takes to guide both myself and others to GET TOUGHER.

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