Sometimes it’s a time thing.

Your schedule is out of whack. You feel like you’re going nuts.

Instead of reaching for a healthy handful of almonds, you hit the drive-thru and grab a greasy burger. Or, you head to the grocery store and pick up easy stuff, like frozen dinners and pizzas, cans of soup, salty potato chips and sugary snacks.

It feels like a never-ending cycle.

I’m too focused on my busy-ness and stress to worry about eating well.

I eat poorly and I’m not getting the right nutrients to fuel my go-go-go days.

My energy drops.

My stress levels peak.

It’s where I’ve been for about a month and I’m embarking on an adventure to break the cycle.

Back to basics

A few months ago, my naturopath put me on a 30-day eating cleanse. I’d been eating everything in sight, everything I’m not supposed to have to keep my chronic pain and inflammation at bay.

I did so well.

I felt awesome. I had tons of energy with no 3 p.m. crashes.

I didn’t just sit around and think about good ideas. I got up and made sure they happened.

I eliminated dairy, sugar and gluten. It became a new way of thinking about food and eating, but it was hard to maintain.

Even with my husband (and house chef) George on board for support, I started to slip, taking a nip of sugar here and a bite of white bread there. If life is really going crazy busy — like they have been — I can even substitute dinner with a big bowl of popcorn, using coconut oil (because that’s healthier … oh, the mind games I can play).

And yet it’s no secret in the stress-management industry that eating right is one of the key ways to alleviate anxiety. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine recommends staying away from high-fat foods, caffeine and sugar and stocking up on low-fat, high-fiber, carbohydrate-rich meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables.

They soothe us without sapping our energy and give us the nutrients we need to boost our immune system.

We’re often tempted to take an easy kick start like coffee or a chocolate bar when we’re feeling sluggish. I need to keep my homemade vegan protein bars with me. Half of one and I’m feeling full and ready to attack the next item on my to-do list.

It takes time

Hey, I’m a busy gal. I know.

It is a lot easier to buy pre-made dinners.

Planning meals, shopping and prepping all take time. Time that we don’t always feel that we have.

And that can heighten your stress!

I’m lucky. George does the cooking, unless I want a salad, then it’s up to me. If it wasn’t for him, I would live off soups, stews and stir-fries! Or popcorn, of course.

Here are the steps I’m taking to get this done:

1. Give myself permission.

First I have to make the decision. It feels hard. I have to give up a lot to say yes to myself. Ultimately, I have to reframe my self-talk from “hard and giving up” to “gaining health and energy.”

When I do, I know:

  • I will lose weight, be healthier and my clothes will fit better.
  • I will sleep better.
  • I will have energy.
  • I will reduce the inflammation and pain in my body.

I have to do something different, different than what I’ve been doing, to get the results I want. I can only do that by giving myself permission to make these changes.

2. Have the right support

My nutrition coach has a new plan ready for me. And George … George is my gift. He’s conscious of what I need and he’s on board in terms of cooking differently. He makes sure the fridge is stocked with cooked protein, always making extra so I have the right leftovers for my grab-and-go style of packing lunch. He also knows he’s not allowed to ask me what’s for dessert.

Many of us need to surround ourselves with friends and family who are going to help. If you know people who are going to say “one won’t hurt you,” it’s best not to be around them until your new nutrition plan becomes a habit.

3. Make a plan

There are three big Ps: plan, prep and pack.

Plan your meals and shop for the food (don’t forget to stick to those outside aisles!); prep the food, whether it’s cutting up fresh veggies or full-on cooking; and pack it in your Tupperware to carry with you through the day.

We should aim for three good meals a day, along with snacks for refueling, and that takes some effort and preparation. Develop an eating schedule and resist from grabbing just anything.

4. Stick to it.

Starting is tough, but maintaining the program may be the most difficult step. I know it is for me.

After a while, I start negotiating with myself. I think, “I’ve been really good lately; I deserve that piece of cake.” But I’m not a runner and I haven’t found my exercise thing yet. I don’t get a lot of exercise, so for me to be at my absolute best, I have to be all-in with my nutritive eating.

[tweetthis hidden_hashtags=”#nutrition #stressmanagement”]Giving into one sweet treat, just one, sets me up for a battle.[/tweetthis]

It’s really easy to let bad habits creep in, especially this time of year when your co-workers are bringing Christmas baking and other treats to the office, or you’re going to parties and festive events where sweets and alcohol are within reach.

It’s a mental battle to keep saying no. It takes energy. It causes stress!

I’m using that stress as a power tool to remind myself how much I need to make this happen.

I’ve been trying to get to this point in my mental health game for 10 years. Today, I know I can’t balk at the rules I’ve set myself.

There is no 80-20 or 60-40 for me.

I’m all in.

I’ve finally accepted that this is what is going to work for me.

What works for you? Are you able to have just one sweet? Tell me how you handle your nutrition battle!

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