Managing Stress and Crisis

 

The past 3 weeks have been …difficult.  Actually, the words stress and crisis leap to mind.  Since September 25th, I’ve made exactly one post on October 4th.  Much of the stuff that has been going relates to family illnesses (not mine).  But, there has been other stuff as well.  I don’t want to get into all of it here.  I think that most of it will work out OK, but it has been rough.  The things that I consider to be the least stressful of the stressful things are things that would normally be very stressful.  I guess it is just a matter of perspective.

What I want to address here, though, is the effect of all this on my weight maintenance, fat loss, and exercise.  It has been very difficult during this time to stay on track. I haven’t done my October weigh in yet at Weight Watchers. Unofficially, my weight has held steady over this period of time, varying up and down about a pound during it.

From that standpoint, it sounds like the stress and the anxiety and the tiredness, etc. didn’t really do much to affect me with regard to weight.  In reality, though, it has taken a lot of effort to keep my weight stable.  So, just some of my thoughts on things:

    1. I continued to track every day.  This was critical in just not losing it entirely.  At times, when I was eating almost mindlessly, it was a big help to look at MyFitnessPal and see how much I had already eaten.  If I had gone by memory, I would have had no clue.
    2. Taking snacks with me helped.  Lately, I’ve been eating a lot of the Kay’s Naturals protein snacks since they are low calorie and high protein.  Keeping a bag of those and a Quest bar in my purse helped when I was away from home and wanted something to eat and none of the choices I had of food to buy were very good.
    3. Even in a hospital cafeteria there can be foods that are better than others.  Once, I was literally picking up almost every package to find one that seemed somewhat reasonable.  I finally chose the Turkey Wrap.  It was way more processed than I liked, but was the best choice I had.  When faced with bad choices, I was tempted to just pick the one that was most self-indulgent but I reminded myself I would be unhappy if I did that.  So I made the best choice I could out of bad choices.
    4. In the midst of the most stressful times, I was often not that hungry.  So, that helped.  But, if offered food, I tended to mindlessly eat and sometimes would eat more than I intended.  I had to be careful not to accept something just because someone offered it to me.  If it didn’t fit within my plan for the day, it was OK to just say no.
    5. I managed to put that one really bad meal behind me.  One day, we went to Texas Roadhouse for lunch.  To be honest, I was feeling sorry for myself.  I was stressed and exhausted and was truly looking for food to make me feel better.  I ate a meal of over 1700 calories and MyFitnessPal says my total for the day was 2112 calories (49 Weight Watchers points).  I didn’t check the foods before I ordered them (Texas Roadhouse apparently only has limited calorie info available so I had to estimate a lot of stuff).  And, I was really shocked by the total.  The key, though, was that I put it behind me and didn’t use it as an excuse to get off track for the entire rest of the week. I honestly think that being able to put this behind me quickly is why I didn’t gain during this period of time.

Eating that one bad meal to make me feel better didn’t really work for very long.  Yes, I enjoyed it while I ate it.  But, even two hours later I wished I had made better choices.  Ultimately that meal just made me more stressed, because I had to be more careful what I ate for the rest of that week.  I think I’ve finally gotten it through my head that overeating because I feel sorry for myself doesn’t really work for long enough to make it worthwhile.  I felt much better the day that I went to Which Wich but ordered my sandwich without a bun (a bowlwich) and had chips, but skipped the cookie.

I think I’ve done fairly well overall on eating.  I found that I couldn’t manage to do everything that I usually do.  Some of things I usually do — or at least try to do — on the healthy living front:

  1. Don’t eat too much food.
  2. Eat 81g to 100g of protein at least.
  3. Eat more fruits and veggies.  I want 5 servings a day.
  4. Limit artificial sweeteners. I usually have them in a Quest bar.  I don’t usually drink diet soft drinks except once or twice a month.
  5. Avoid highly processed foods (yes, the Quest bars are very processed, but I’m OK with the ingredients in them).
  6. Exercise 5 to 6 days a week.  Two of those days are strength training with a personal trainer.

There are other things, but those are the big ones. What I found out was that in a time of great stress, I had to pick my priorities.  I didn’t have the physical or mental energy to do all of these.  I had to decide what was most important. I’m not entirely sure that I made the best choices entirely.  Let me see…

 

  • Don’t eat too much food. – I did the best on this one.  Ultimately I prioritized this one at the top.  I had that one really bad meal and a few other days I ate a little more than I normally would.  Still, I’ve maintained my weight so I am happy overall with how this went.  Since I mostly focused on this, I was able to mostly succeed with it.  I think if I had tried to do everything, I would have failed on this one.
  • Eat 81g to 100g of protein at least. – I did pretty good on this.  Over 21 days, I ate below this on 5 days.  Most of those misses, though, were still in the high 70s.  Given that I was often eating out or eating while going from one place to another, I am reasonably happy with this.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies.  I want 5 servings a day. – I didn’t do well on this at all.  It was just not something that was easy for me to do and I just didn’t have the mental strength to focus on this.  I did this sometimes, but it wasn’t a priority.
  • Limit artificial sweeteners. I usually have them in a Quest bar.  I don’t usually drink diet soft drinks except once or twice a month. – I have been drinking Coke Zero a lot.  During this past 3 weeks I’ve had a lot of trouble sleeping.  I’ve had to stay up really late a few times (once I was literally up the entire night).  And, when I get stressed, my insomnia really kicks in.  So, I’ve been tired a lot when I get up in the morning and caffeine has helped.  I honestly don’t plan to keep doing this.  I see this as an unusual time and have no intention of going back to routinely drinking diet soft drinks.
  • Avoid highly processed foods (yes, the Quest bars are very processed, but I’m OK with the ingredients in them).  – I still avoid them at home, but when I’ve been away from home I’ve had to compromise on this at times.  I found myself almost buying a highly processed protein snack for home the other day.  I literally put it in the grocery cart, then turned around and took it out.  It was fine to have that kind of thing away from home, but I didn’t need to buy it for home.
  • Exercise 5 to 6 days a week.  Two of those days are strength training with a personal trainer. – I did OK on this the first week or so, but last week I exercised on only 1 day.  I wish I had done better on this.  But, if I had focused more energy on this when I was so exhausted I am not sure I could have managed my food as well as I did.

The big takeaway on this is that during times of stress and crisis, I can’t do everything.  I have to pick my battles.  The battle I mostly picked was to watch how many calories (or points) that I ate.  Doing that, I’ve managed to maintain my weight.  Had I tried to eat perfectly during the time and tried to exercise perfectly, I would not have been able to succeed at anything.  I had very little energy for meeting many goals during this time.  So I poured what little energy I had into watching how much I ate.  Everything else mostly went by the wayside.  And, that was OK.

Things are still not back to normal here, but they are getting better.  I was able to do a full exercise session with both cardio and strength training.  I’m paying more attention to what I’m eating, and not just how much I’m eating.  And, posting here helps me to keep my head thinking about weight and healthy living.

 

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