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Why Do We Take Worse Care of Ourselves When We Need It The Most?

I have a client in her late 60’s who is going through a challenging time. Under normal circumstances “Betty” would be found whipping up a healthy breakfast, meeting a friend for a nutritious lunch or meeting a workout partner at the gym.

But these are not normal times. Betty has a lot on her plate right now. There are health concerns for her and a close family member. There are additional family members who are sick that Betty is having to care for… and all the while she has a business she runs that requires her daily attention.

In a session with Betty recently she shared that she is feeling the worst she has felt in quite a long time. After further gentle probing, Betty relayed that she was not working out, she was not eating healthy but because she felt so pressed for time with these added burdens and responsibilities she was stopping in the first fast food restaurant she could find once the gurgling of her hungry belly was too much. Too often the idea of going home and still having to cook seemed daunting. She was also stopping off for pretzels, chips and soda for lunch on her busiest days. It was no wonder Betty was feeling sluggish, tired,and depressed. Additionally, she reported brain fog, and an underlying feeling of dread, exhaustion and overwhelm.

If any of this sounds familiar, hear this now. No matter your circumstances, you do not have to stay stuck in this cycle of no time to eat well, living off fast “food” (there’s really very little nutrition and mostly high fat sugar and salt so it’s hard to call this processed stuff food.)

Sadly, Betty is not my only client stuck in this rut. Here’s some ideas of how to strategically break out and start some new and manageable healthy habits:

1. Revisit your health goals. How do you want to feel on a daily basis? Was there a time when you did have healthier habits? What do you recall that felt like? What did you notice mentally, emotionally and physically? What habits were you doing then?

2. Pick one area only to focus on making a small change. If you have let go of all your healthier habits and choices, then choose one area to make positive strides so you can experience a series of mini victories along the way.

3. Replace one unhealthy food or meal with a healthier option. If you are skipping lunch for example because you “have no time” then consider the night before what small healthier item you can prep the night before- even if it’s an apple and a yogurt, that will still be better than skipping lunch or succumbing to fast food, chips and soda.

4. Just a little meal planning can go a long way. Set aside a regular time like Saturday mornings for example and begin to consider dinners for the next 3 or 4 nights. Make a list and let that inform your grocery shopping. Only buy the ingredients you need to meal prep for the days ahead. This will also save you time and money.

5. Create a regular schedule of meal prepping. I know many people who do this on Sunday afternoons or evenings. The idea here is to be strategic because your time and energy are finite. Prep a crockpot meal, as well as have something like chicken cooking on the stove, along with a casserole or lasagna you can pop in the oven. Often times I’ll prep frittata’s on the stove that serves as breakfast for the next 3 days as well.

6. If choosing to get back to fitness schedule a 15 minute walk or other workout. Part of the reason we stay stuck in these areas is we tell ourselves a story that we need an hour to work out to make it worthwhile when in fact any extra movement is a benefit! So take a break at work for 15 or 20 minutes and take a walk, or hit the gym on the way home from work before you get home and are “too tired” to go back out.

Just because you are finding yourself feeling lethargic and unhealthy does not mean you have to stay there! The times we are going through transitions, sickness, extra demands etc. are exactly the times we need to show ourselves more love and self care. Don’t be that person that wears the “martyr badge” and puts yourself last. That comes at too great of a cost. You are worth caring for!

Today make a commitment to engage in one of these suggestions and notice how you feel afterward. Moving our body and eating healthier foods provides energy we need to get through these times of added burdens and challenges. Just take it one step at a time.

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