Don’t Beat Yourself Up
Survival Mode during stay-at-home COVID-19
Below is a link to the audio of this blog. Leave a comment below if you enjoy the audio version!
Members live call focuses on “survival mode”
When I had originally scheduled our monthly members live call, I was going to talk about the 10 Habits of Highly Successful Post-Ops. It was going to be a spin off of Steven Covey’s book only focused on weight loss surgery living.
As the recent weeks have unfolded into the crisis mode that our world, country and respective counties are facing with the COVID-19 virus, it was very apparent to me the topic needed to change.
We needed to talk about survival mode.
I asked members on the call to think of adjectives they think of when it comes to survival mode. The ones that came to my mind were flexibility, self care and stress management.
I had been a mom for one week…
Think of a time when you were living in survival mode. We all have these times in our life. Maybe it is the chaos of trying to pack and sell a house and move by a certain date. Or when you were caring for a loved one, young or old, and experiencing all the demands of putting someone’s needs before your own.
When my daughter was born, she was a tough baby. She woke up every single hour. She was hard to soothe. I was new to nursing and was healing from a c-section after having a breach 8 pound 9 ounce baby.
I had been a mom for a week. I was eating frozen pizza, completely exhausted, and starting sobbing into my slice. I quickly became angry with my husband sitting next to me, still eating his pizza despite his crying wife.
Looking back on this moment, I laugh. Of course he kept eating. He was as exhausted as I was! He was caring for a healing wife and helping soothe a baby that kept waking up. He was so exhausted he could hardly notice the crying wife next to him!
We were in survival mode.
Things are different of course, comparing COVID-19 to having a newborn baby. There are some things about life that don’t feel too hard or too different. We are staying home. (Some of you are working in healthcare or other essential businesses and we are so grateful for you!)
As I took a moment the other night and “listed out” what was hard about right now, it did make me realize this is survival mode. It feels different because we have not been here before, but it is. Everyone’s looks different but we are all out of our normal. This is abnormal.
Being kind to ourselves, using positive talk matters
While on the call I paused and reminded my members that before we start talking about food, meals and stress eating, it is of high importance to remember to be kind to ourselves.
Positive language is a powerful tool for keeping your mind and body well.
When we get hard on ourselves, we feel poorly. When we feel poorly, we tend to make decision out of feeling poorly. It’s not motivating to eat well, it’s defeating and making decisions out of defeat.
Instead of thinking “I am only 20 pounds away from my goal but now with all this, I am gaining weight and I am blowing it” my thought is to spin it around to gratefulness. “I am so thankful this happen now instead of before my surgery!”
If you find yourself being hard on yourself, take a step back and find positive statements. “Of course this is hard! You are okay. What does your mind and body need right now?” More on that in a moment.
Flexibility is key during survival
As I mentioned previously, one of the words I think of during a time of survival mode is flexibility.
Right now is a time to be flexible with your meals. I wrote an eBook just last month about Healthy Relationships with Food. I think this season is a great opportunity to invest in your relationship with food and would highly recommend reading that short book right now.
Being flexible with your meals means it is okay to cook what you have in the house. This is a great time to focus on gratefulness of the food you have and creativity to make it something of your own.
Use language of thanksgiving for your food.
Focus on the quality foods (protein and vegetables) you have, listen to natural hunger and fullness cues.
Take small bites, eat slowly and stop at fullness. Let your body be your guide and don’t stress about perfecting your meal plan, your macros and your food journals right now.
Survival mode is the time to be flexible with food, be grateful for it and be at peace.
I also like to use mealtimes as a mental health break. I enjoy putting on music, taking my time to dice and chop and tune out the anxious thoughts of the world.
Be flexible, but keep a schedule
One thing I do want to say is that flexibility is key with your meals, but keep the meal times consistent.
This is something we hear quite a bit for kids. My daughter’s preschool reminds us to keep her schedule as consistent as we can. I would argue this is true for adults too!
During this time, there may be some adjustments that make sense in your schedule. If you usually have to get up early for a long commute to work, it is okay to use this time to sleep in later than what is normal. Adjust your meal times according and keep your sleep pattern and meal pattern as consistent from day to day as you can.
Survival mode = self care
If you remember nothing else, I would commend you to keep this phrase on your mind:
“What does my mind and body need right now?”
That is all that self care really is. Being in tune to your needs for your physical and mental wellbeing. There may be moments that you can just sense you need fresh air. You are craving a long walk. You need to talk to a friend.
I can always tell when I need go to bed early. I have no shame in canceling plans to go to bed early when I really need it.
Here is a list of things your body or mind may need:
Survival mode and stress
I knew we needed to talk about stress eating on our live call. Who doesn’t need help in this area right now?
I mentioned on the call we are seeing so many memes about weight gain and honestly, I do not think they are funny. Jokes about weight have always frustrated me as I feel it’s a misunderstanding about obesity as a disease. Pictures of large night gowns at Walmart with a caption that says “Easter Dresses 2020” does not make me laugh.
Rant aside, the memes do tell us something. Everyone is struggling with emotional eating right now.
What that means for you is that you are not alone. There is nothing wrong with you. It also is not a free pass to throw our hands up in the air, but instead I hope it is empowering to say “of course this is hard, it is hard for everyone. What do I need right now?”
Before we get into emotional eating, I think it is always important to confirm that there is nothing physical going on. If your meals are way off, you have not had enough water, you had a softer textured protein at breakfast, these things are sending you signals of true hunger and you need either a good filling protein or more water in your day. Try not to miss physical needs and label them as emotions.
When it does come to emotions, one thing I want to say about “stress eating” is that first we have to identify if that is really what it is. Often times we call emotional eating stress eating, but it DOES matter to confirm that you are feeling stress versus anxiety or fatigue.
I feel stress when I have a lot of demands coming at me. My kids need me, I’m trying to get work done, I’m running late for something and I have a pile of laundry towering over me. I feel stressed.
If I feel anxious, I am worrying. I am worried about things I cannot control or things that are not here yet. It’s a different emotion.
It matters to identify the emotion so you can identify what you need.
Go back to the basics and ask yourself “what does my mind and body need right now?”
Sleep, water, fresh air, music, phone call with a friend, prayer, scripture, a fresh scent (love my oil diffusor and an open window).
Identify the emotion, name it and then prescribe something to yourself. You are okay.
What you can (and should) do logistically
There are some logistical things in your house that will help set you up well.
This is your home turf. I’ve been telling members for all my 10 years as a dietitian to set up your home turf for success. You cannot control the world outside (when it comes to food) and there are somethings you cannot control within your house (if you live with other people) but you can control a lot when it comes to your home.
Put tempting foods out of eye level. This means in the fridge they go in the back, or a bottom drawer. For the pantry, it goes in the back, the bottom or way up top. The shelves that are eye level should house your best options, hydrating drinks, lean protein and fresh produce.
The other thing you can do in your home turf is leave yourself encouraging notes. I mentioned before, positive words are powerful. Post a note for yourself that says “Of course this is hard!!! What do you need right now?”
What about a note that says “Fill up your water and step outside. You are okay!”
As a person of faith, I love to use “breath prayers” or memorize scripture to recite to myself when I’m washing my hands or doing dishes. The more I do this, the more my mind goes to those things when I am in my kitchen.
In summary, be kind to yourself and invest in your relationship with food
Here is a reminder to read the short eBook on Healthy Relationships with Food. May it be an encouragement to see this as a time to break away from all or nothing thinking.
Keep a schedule, but stay flexible. Stay in tune to what you need and how you are feeling.
If I could go back and tell that young mom crying into her pizza anything, I would give her a hug, tell her it’s going to be okay and to go take a nap. I would not tell her to work harder or that she wasn’t doing enough.
You’re okay. Go take a nap (or a walk) whatever you need right now.
All my best to you and yours,