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Nutrition Triage

Managing nutritional goals while in a prolonged alternate state of affairs.

Yes, that is a convoluted way to state things, but before we can truly tackle any nutrition issues, we need to try to tackle the cause of those issues. Which words we use matter. Which words we hear matter. They impact how we think about the world and our circumstances.

I’m not going to say, “Don’t worry, everything will be fine.” That ignores your primal instincts and denies your emotions. I’m not going to say, “This is terrible, we don’t know when it’s going to end, so good luck!” That taps into your fear response and completely shortcuts the rational part of your brain.

What I am going to say is that we don’t know a lot about the future. The unpredictability of life has been exposed (remember, it was always there). Right now, normal is off kilter and our usual reliable predictions for tomorrow are no longer useful. On top of that, there are a lot of facts that haven’t yet been sorted, there are a lot of facts to discover, and a wide array of opinions about what those facts mean. We can be fairly certain that we are in a prolonged state of alternate affairs. So now, more than ever, we need to take this one day, one hour, and one meal at a time.

Step one: Check-in

What are you trying to manage right now? What are you feeling right now?Take five deep breaths, close your eyes, and take two minutes to feel how you are feeling. Tension in your body? Breathe into it. Fear in your gut? Breathe into it. Stress in your jaw? Breathe into it. Chaos in your brain? Breathe into it. A laundry list of to-dos? Breathe into it. Anxiety in your heart? Breathe into it.

However and whatever you are feeling is 100% right. There is nothing wrong with you or how you are feeling, no matter what it is. There is no right way to feel about what’s going on in your life or in the world around you. As much as you may try, you cannot control your emotions. By acknowledging them and naming them (to the best of your ability), you can now choose how to respond to them.

Step two: Make a plan

Take a look at the next day or week, whatever feels manageable. What are you going to eat? While following a provided meal plan and grocery list may not be an option, you can still make a plan. Take inventory of what you have. I bet you have more than you think. Determine what else you need. Here’s a baseline of what I would recommend for each meal:

  • Eat protein. Every meal should contain protein. Keeps you satiated, maintains your muscle mass, supports neurotransmitters.
  • Eat vegetables and fruit at every meal. There is no truly magical vegetable or fruit. Eat what’s available in your cupboards and at the grocery store in a way that you like. Now is not the time to dread vegetables.
  • Fill in the rest of your plate or meals with foods you enjoy, foods that make the round out the meal and make it delicious. Healthy fats (butter, coconut oil, olive oil, cheeses) make meals enjoyable and delicious. Carbohydrates are not your enemy.

This might seem simple. Maybe it is. I’m guessing there’s enough going on that even just doing this might be hard enough. Don’t get it twisted, doing just this will go a long way.

Step three: Take action

  • Eat slowly. No matter what you are eating, eat slowly. One fully chewed and swallowed bite at a time. Put the fork down. Even if it’s junk food. No handfuls, just single chips. Determined to eat the whole pint of ice cream in rebellion to what you “should” do? Go for it. Just do it slowly. Even slower. If you don’t have time, make time, or wait. Challenge yourself to slow way way down.
  • Prioritize protein and vegetables. If you need help strategizing, eat at least half of your protein and vegetables first – SLOWLY – and then see how you feel. Nothing is off limits, but prioritize what you need to eat.
  • Pause.
    • As you are eating your meal, pause when you’ve eaten a quarter of your food, half, and when there is a quarter left. Check in. Are you still hungry? How full are you? Maybe talk with your family a bit between bites.
    • As you are reaching for a snack, pause and check in. Are you hungry? Bored? Anxious? Take moment to figure out what you need. Are you still legitimately hungry after your last meal? Could you take the time to make a better snack? A more protein based snack? If you are feeling rushed, try and slow down. Hint: One deep breath can make a big difference.

Slow is smooth and smooth is fast effective.

This is one of those great ideas: simple, true, and applicable in a myriad of situations. In this case, I’m talking about slowing down your thinking and feeling and actions. This will give you space to notice and name your feelings, think more clearly, and act more effectively towards what you want.

What’s the best way to combat mindless eating? Be more aware.

What’s the number one way to eat healthy things? Slow down and take the time to make healthy meals. Plan ahead.

What’s the best way to manage fear? Turn and face it. Size it up. Make a plan to tackle it. Move forwards.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable.

It’s okay to be uncomfortable. It’s okay to be stressed. It’s okay to be anxious. It’s okay to be whatever it is you are feeling. Notice it. Name it.

Take a deep breath.

Then, if you still want the cookie, go eat the cookie.