You+Food=Happy

Photo by Khosrork/iStock / Getty Images

Many of us have a strained relationship with food; we want to eat healthy, but finding the time and motivation (or willpower) can be difficult. Buying, cooking, and even eating food takes time, and time feels like a scarce resource in our day-to-day busy lives. Additionally, the cumulative stress of any given day and the willpower it takes to keep your cool as you go through it can leave you feeling tapped out when it comes to choosing what to eat.

Finding time to buy and cook food

The perpetual task of buying and cooking food becomes a lot more efficient and enjoyable when we implement two time-saving strategies. First, plan to go shopping just two days per week- there is no need to stop at the grocery store every day. Shopping twice per week ensures optimal efficiency and freshness. Before each visit to the grocery store make a list of the things you’ll need for breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and snacks and categorize your list into areas of the grocery store. This will save you time by not zig-zagging throughout the store. Plan to use your groceries in order of shelf life; things that have a shorter shelf life should be eaten first. Second, always plan for leftovers (also known as meal prep). The time it takes to double a recipe is significantly less than cooking an entirely separate meal. Leftovers are essential if you want to eat healthy without a major cooking project every day. Whenever I create a custom meal plan for a client, I include an organized shopping lists and meal prep strategies.

Finding time to eat

Some people are fortunate enough to have meals provided at work, while others save time by buying healthy pre-made options, such as Urban Remedy. However, even when we eliminate shopping and cooking, we may still struggle to set aside time to eat. As a result, we often engage in “disconnected eating,” the act of eating while being completely preoccupied with another task. Common examples include, eating at your desk, in front of your computer/phone, or in the car. This type of dysfunctional multitasking typically leads to eating too fast, insufficient chewing, and poor digestion. We hardly taste our food and only think to stop eating when our fork comes up empty. We also mute the feedback system which tells us how food affects us in terms of satiety, digestion, and energy.

Remedy “disconnected eating” by making some simple changes. First, block out at least 20-30 minutes to eat each meal. Second, get away from your desk or out of your car, and instead eat in an area with peaceful, pleasant surroundings. Finally, start every meal with two deep breaths to remind yourself to slow down, be present, and taste your food. Chew your food completely before putting another bite into your mouth. Savor this brief downtime- you deserve it.

Finding the willpower

At the end a high-stress day, after we’ve used up significant resources to maintain patience and composure around our workmates and family, we may find that we have very little willpower when it comes to choosing what to eat. On days like this, we’re less likely to take time to prepare a healthy meal, and more likely to consume too much alcohol and indulge in junk food. We may even believe that the alcohol and junk food will soothe our stress, but often they do the exact opposite. Rather than getting caught up in a cycle of self-loathing and frustration, start implementing some stress reduction techniques. Whether this takes the form of a 10-minute walk at lunch, 5-minute meditation, or deep breathing exercises, begin incorporating a brief daily practice to reduce your stress. Decreasing stress, even a little, can have a major impact on preserving the emotional resources you need to make healthy food choices.

Start repairing your relationship with food while moving toward your goals for health and wellness by putting one or more of the suggested strategies into action. Every journey starts with a single step- take that step today! 

  • Improve efficiency by scheduling two grocery outings per week and making the most of leftovers. 

  • Savor the precious downtime and pleasure of a good meal. 

  • Practice daily stress reduction so that you have the willpower to make good food choices. 

If you’d like further guidance or to learn more about custom meal plans, contact me for a complimentary consultation.