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Off the rails? Let me help you reset

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I'm having one of those days where it's all going to hell in a handbasket. I have no idea what that really even means (even Google doesn't know and if Google doesn't, who does?) but it feels strangely accurate.

I was barely awake before the washing machine packed up and a few unexpected bills hit my inbox. Then school called to say that Chloe needed to come home. While I was rearranging appointments, a few other admin things hit mission critical and I had to decide — do I laugh or cry? We all have these moments of life overwhelm and I know I'm not alone. Every day I have clients in my office who are in exactly the same spot and it's reassuring in a way to know that we are all in it together.

My job in these moments is to provide the nutrition advice that helps take the pressure off. All too often when life goes bonkers, so does your diet. All those good intentions go out of the window and in comes the caffeine, sugar and alcohol to help you survive your day. The problem is that these short-term solutions end up perpetuating the problem. Sugar, caffeine and alcohol may make you feel better temporarily, but they are nutrient-poor. Not only can they actively deplete you but they take the place of food and drinks that should be nourishing you. Ultimately, healthy eating can be the most amazing buffer for your body in times of stress, but how do you stop the cycle and reset?

I won't pretend that I have all the answers to the overwhelm. I'm not a great example when it comes to personal life admin (working on it!) but your nutrition is something I can confidently handle. So if you have let things spiral out of control lately, let me help you get things back on the straight and narrow. Let's get you off the back burner and actively looking after yourself in a positive way. Then we'll have you feeling better, no matter how crazy life gets.

Nutrition off the rails? Six steps to reset:

Start the day off right

Start as you mean to go on. You are much more likely to make healthy decisions through the day if you got it right at breakfast. If you begin with a bacon sandwich and a triple shot of espresso, you'll probably think, “Screw it, I already messed up” for the rest of the day. So in the morning, when you wake, have a big glass of water and a healthy breakfast. Scrambled eggs with avocado and tomatoes, a veggie omelette or plain oatmeal with vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, berries, nuts and seeds. Make a green smoothie (always add protein — I like the Garden of Life protein powders from People's Pharmacy or the Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein from Supermart). If you're on the run, grab a GoMacro bar (choose one with the high protein tab on the top right of the package) from Supermart and maybe an apple too.

Keep your expectations simple

It doesn't have to be a Buddha bowl with 77 different vegetables to be healthy. Sometimes my lunch is smoked salmon, spinach leaves and raspberries. That's it. Or I will heat up one of the Waitrose fresh soups. Nothing groundbreaking, but you know what it's not? It's not KFC! Try this for something simple that you might be able to stick to:

Breakfast: scrambled eggs, avocado, tomatoes and herbal tea. Mid-morning snack: hummus and veggies. Lunch: salad with fruit for carbs. Use olive oil and lemon juice for your dressing. Mid- afternoon snack: walnuts and dark chocolate. Dinner: Marinaded shrimp kebabs (Supermart) which are super quick and easy to grill, with a side of stir-fried veggies and Lotus ramen noodles (they just take two minutes).

Set up some rituals

Having some healthy habits that you try to stick to through the day can be really grounding. I don't plan any rituals for weekday mornings because I know they're too unpredictable. Too many last-minute uniform crises, forgotten homework or escapee bunnies. But when I get to work, I make a herbal tea and stir in some collagen. I put water on my desk and refill during the day. I have tea again before I pick the kids up from school and a healthy snack to send me on my way. Does that sound overly simplistic? Twice a day, every day, it's a reminder to take a second for myself and do something healthy.

Plan to succeed; plan to fail

For the healthy habits to stick, you have to plan a little. All it really takes is to make sure you've shopped over the weekend, so make yourself a list and get to it. But if it all starts to slide, have a back-up plan too. What's going to be a healthier alternative to your usual stress-reaction snack? If you usually grab a Diet Coke and a muffin, pick up a La Croix sparkling water and a kind bar instead (go for the low-sugar nut and spice versions).

Stay positive

One of the reasons we find it hard to stick to healthy eating is that we see it as deprivation. We feel like we're punishing ourselves and that's not going to last when we lead stressful, busy lives. So the trick is to make a list of all the healthy food that you do love, that you can have, that will nourish you. Focus on what you can have versus what you can't. I have a diet packed full of avocado, dark cherries, dark chocolate, walnuts, salmon, chicken, grass-fed beef, yellow peppers, noodles, broccolini, watermelon…. all things I love. Crowd out the bad stuff with the good!

Take a deep breath

When you're in full-on overwhelm, you're likely to ricochet from one moment to the next without really thinking. That's where the mindless junk creeps in. Twice a day, try taking a pause and doing the 4-7-8 breathing technique. Google it for a quick demo or check Facebook as I'll post it there too. Essentially, you breathe in for four seconds, hold for seven and exhale for eight. It's great for the mental reset that puts you in a better spot to make healthy decisions. It takes just a few minutes and I promise you'll feel the difference.

Catherine Burns is a fully qualified nutritional therapist trained by the Institute for Optimum Nutrition in the UK. For details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or, on Facebook, Natural Nutrition Bermuda

Sometimes life is so overwhelming it seems the only option is to laugh or cry
Planning is necessary if healthy habits are to stick

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Published March 15, 2019 at 9:00 am (Updated March 15, 2019 at 9:37 am)

Off the rails? Let me help you reset

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