How to stay consistent with food when under stress

cutting vegetables on a cutting board

As a dietitian, you’d think I would be 100% all over how to manage my nutrition during the busy weeks. As nice as it would be, this isn’t something you learn in uni. Looking after my own health has been something experienced through trial and error.

Recently, I’ve stepped into my own business and my days are no longer just filled with client work but now managing 3 employees, marketing, presentations and planning. During this transition, I had to be intentional in managing my own nutrition and exercise. Here’s what I do:

Plan food and training 1-2 weeks ahead

I schedule a time for the gym in my calendar and treat it like any other appointment. I also plan my food for the week so that I can make sure I have the right groceries. On longer days, I know that I’ll need more snacks at work and will likely not feel like cooking when I get home. This means that I’ll need to have a meal prepped or will coordinate with my husband to get him to do the cooking.

Order groceries through click and collect

This one is a huge time saver! Once you have your meals planned, you can easily have a Woolworths or Coles tab open on your computer and intermittently add groceries to the list when you have a 5-minute gap. All that’s left to do is stop by the pick-up zone after work the next day (you need to order one day ahead). I also find that this is a great one for preventing those impulse buys which can save calories and your budget.

Easy & quick meals

As much as I love food and do enjoy the process of cooking, when I’m busy and tired spending a couple of hours in the kitchen is the last thing that I want to do. During these times, I’m the world’s laziest cook, and yet I love the flavour and fresh meals. Nothing is easier than spending 5 minutes chopping some veg and coating meat in a spice or sauce and letting the oven do the rest of the work.

Here’s some ideas for you to try:

  • Moroccan spiced chicken with roast pumpkin, baby spinach and feta salad
  • Cajun-spiced chicken with baked sweet potato wedges and pre-cut salad mix
  • Sweet chilli kebabs (just use sweet chilli sauce) with baked potato wedges and pre-cut salad mix
  • Garlic and lemon baked salmon

Stir-frys are also another super quick & easy meal. You can even use pre-cut vegetables and meat to speed up the process further. Our Mongolian stir-fry recipe is so tasty!

Cook meals in bulk

Personally, I’m not one for a Sunday meal prep. Many of my clients find them extremely valuable. However, I just prefer to spend my Sundays relaxing or ticking off other jobs. Instead, I will cook in bulk a couple of nights of the week. Rather than cooking for a single evening’s meal, I’ll cook enough for at least four meals. I’ll then create single portions and freeze a few for a night with a later finish or a gym night.

Prioritising sleep

This is a tough one at the best of times, let alone when I’m busy! But I don’t think that I’m alone when I say that I’m more likely to go for sweets or savoury treats when I am tired. This is because our body is built for survival, and having enough energy is pretty critical for survival. When you’re tired, your body looks for ways to increase energy levels, and it knows that sugar gives you a spike in energy and high-fat foods give you a lot of energy in a small volume. This leads to those strong cravings or the drive to constantly graze through the day.

Your hunger cues are also affected when you’re tired. Your hunger cues are controlled by 2 key hormones: Leptin & Ghrelin. When you are sleep deprived, these hormones are also affected so that you are hungry more often and full less often.

There are many ways you can manage your busy weeks and months and there is no right and wrong. I’ve found that these strategies work for me but even amongst my clients, each person has found different things work for them. Be curious, strive for growth but be patient. Don’t compare this phase in your life to a phase where you were less busy and life was easier. Seek to learn and improve your self-management skills.

Please reach out if you have any questions!

Hannah Wilson is an Accredited Practising Dietitian and Nutritionist directing her own private practice, All Bodies Services in East Brisbane and online. She is passionate about working with her clients to assist them in understanding the relationship between our feelings, thoughts and behaviours around food. To book in a consultation, contact Hannah@allbodiesservices.com.au.

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