by Monica A. Ross, LPC
I often see clients back to back, on the hour every hour and sometimes I see several clients in a row because of the limited amount of office hour time I have to see people in person. This has created the problem of not having enough time to take a break to do things like—EAT.
One would think that with my ability to manage my own schedule, it wouldn’t be such an issue. Just schedule a few breaks during the day for yourself, right? Not so much. Clients have needs too in terms of the times they have available to come in to see me.
In addition, during the current terms of my sublease I only have a specific allotment of hours. Get a new office, someone might say. Not as easy as you think, either. Austin has very limited options in terms of small office space rentals. At the moment, I’m in the best space.
When resources are scarce life becomes unbalanced and we compensate in other ways. I’ve heard from other professionals, like grade school teachers, the same frustrations around being so consumed with work and having to keep such a tight watch on their schedule that it doesn’t leave time to take care of basic needs.
Some professions simply keep a person that busy, I suppose. And now I find myself in a similar situation.
I had a friend recently who even made me bags of snacks to keep in my car to take in to work during the day so that I would have something on hand to grab in a pinch. It was one of the more thoughtful things that anyone has ever done for me. And it caused me to realize that if someone else can take that amount of time and care for me, then what really is stopping me from taking the same amount of attention for myself?
On a day when I see clients back to back, or when I’m working with someone who is going through an especially emotionally trying time it becomes all the more critical that I, too, take care of myself so that I’m better able to care for others. An important life lesson.
Therapists and others in the helping professions are used to giving and come from a place of truly wanting to help. But if we don’t practice our own self-care, we’re really little better off. I took time in September for some self-care at a retreat only to turn right around in October and November and burn myself out again.
But this post is about the eating part of self-care, because eating healthy or eating period is also part of resilience. The reason why diet is so important is because eating healthy does things like reduces stress, lowers anxiety, and assists with preventing illness—all things that those who are aiming for a resilient lifestyle need in order to fight back.
Issues around eating are not new in my family. When I was a preteen my mother was hospitalized for 6 weeks to treat an eating disorder—Anorexia. A former nurse, my mother later went on to teach and advocate for greater discussion around the topic of eating disorders.
Today, I’ve watched my own life in times of high stress and noticed that this one area, eating healthy, is the first to take a hit when life becomes unbalanced. Soooo, I’ve rededicated my life this week to making healthier choices about food intake.
I like this New York Times article on tips for eating healthy by a professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. One of the goals of course, as the article points out, is to eat lightly processed foods less often and heavily processed foods even less often.
The article goes on to talk about the continuum of processed foods. The most heavily processed foods are often of the frozen dinner variety or microwaveable foods, but processed foods are also things like deli meat and crackers, and foods with flavor and texture added like spices, colors, sweeteners, or preservatives.
Lower on the continuum from most to least healthy are canned foods that have been saved at their peak of freshness and also foods that are bagged and frozen. Foods that have been prepped and packaged fresh—like bags of spinach, or nuts that have been roasted and salted—would be at the end of the continuum as most healthy processed.
The article offers some other simple rules such as eating home-cooked food more often, and eating salt and fats as needed, but moderately. Drink more water than alcohol or coffee. Drink as little of high calorie drinks as one would drink alcohol or coffee.
Eat with other people as often as possible, especially those you love, another great tip.
As an aside, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines low-risk drinking as “For women, low-risk drinking is…no more than 3 drinks on any single day and no more than 7 drinks per week. For men, it is defined as no more than 4 drinks on any single day and no more than 14 drinks per week.”
Here is some more advice from mindbodygreen, which calls for the following on the topic of eating habits:
1. Go back to eating meals that everyone in your family eats
2. Commit to reintroducing all food groups into your eating plan
3. Vow to eat variety
4. Pledge to prevent over-the-top eating by honoring your hunger
5. Promise not to punish yourself for emotional eating
Here are some ways to get enough water intake in your diet gleaned from this article:
1. Try fruit or vegetable infused water
2. Drink a glass of water after restroom breaks
3. Always ask for water before ordering your meal
4. Use an app or a high-tech water bottle to track water intake
5. When drinking something sugary dilute with water and ice
6. Always keep a gallon size jug of water on hand
7. Invest in a water filtration carafe
8. Choose sparkling mineral water over soda
9. Eat foods rich in water
10. For every alcoholic beverage you drink, drink a glass of water
11. Use a water bottle that has markings on it for water intake
Having said all of these things about eating healthy, I must add that eating unhealthy from time to time is also good and I think part of leading a balanced life. So that means that it’s okay to eat a donut from time to time or have a piece of cake.
But, if something like eating a hamburger or ordering a pizza for the family at the end of the work and school day and last minute is a rut you get into every night due to lack of time to do anything else, then the question becomes what is causing the lack of time and/or what are some of the family issues around food?
If you or someone you know is recovering from an eating disorder, in addition to the website mentioned above from the National Eating Disorders Collaboration, here are some other resources of the tech variety: Best Eating Disorder Recovery Apps of 2018.