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I have a very fraught relationship with food. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I can’t stand the very thought of it. However I feel about it, though, it’s important to eat regularly and well. Which is hard, when even looking at food makes you want to be sick.

When I’m on a good run with eating everything happens the way it “should”: I do stuff… I get hungry… I eat… I do more stuff. These are the good times, but they’re also the times when I let things slip, because with food, as with everything in life, habits are important.

Here are some of the important habits I’ve picked up to help me with food:

Notice what you eat!
When I’m on a good run I can eat pretty much anything that’s put in front of me. When I start feeling shit about food, though, what whets my appetite gets a lot sparser. For a long time I just took it as a blanket “I don’t want to eat as much” but when I started paying attention I noticed that my appetite for some foods dropped quicker than for others.
For me, starchy foods are the first to go, with dry starchy foods in the lead. If I’m having trouble eating then I almost certainly won’t want a sandwich, and pasta will last a bit longer but soon I won’t be able to face that.
The last things to go are usually fresh fruit. I can generally stomach an orange or some grapes no matter how bad I feel.

Knowing the order that you lose interest in things can help in more than one way. Firstly it can help you keep a stock of the things you can almost always eat for emergency situations, and secondly it can help give you warning when you’re starting to slip. If I turn up my nose at a nice pasta, for example, I know I’d better fill myself up with salads before I get bad enough that I won’t touch *anything*.

Breakfast!
While you may be bored of hearing the old phrase “breakfast is the most important meal of the day” there is still some truth to it.
I don’t eat particularly *good* breakfasts, but I do make sure I eat breakfast every day without fail. It’s a good meal to turn into your anchor point because there’s so little stigma attached to *what* you eat for breakfast. I eat choco hoops, because they’re cheap and I’ve never yet felt like I couldn’t possibly face them. But there are lots of other options, such as fruit, yoghurt, sausage rolls… the list goes on and on. As in the point above, pay attention to what you can always eat and what you can only eat when you’re on a good day. Make plans for a constant supply of an ‘always good’ option for your breakfast so at least you don’t have to worry about that one meal. Quick to make also helps make it less likely that you’ll skip it, which is another reason that I like cereal. So long as I have milk and cereal I can have breakfast ready and eaten before I’m even fully awake.

Lunch and Dinner:
It’s traditional to think of meals in terms of Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner, or at least in some variation of three meals a day. If you’re trying this and it’s not working for you, however, it can be worth trying a different tack. Do you find it easier to eat in small portions rather than large? perhaps four of five smaller meals might be worth more than the traditional three if you can fit them into your schedule. It also means you don’t have to pay attention to every single meal being balanced. If you have a small carb heavy meal at noon to keep you going until a more vitamin filled salad at 3 then that’s fine. No meat at 3 but chicken wings and sausages for a later snack? That’s cool too.

Alternatively, if you prefer to do your eating in big portions there’s nothing wrong with a big breakfast and then fruit juices or suchlike until a kind of ‘High Tea’ in the late evening… if your body works with that then go with it.

Food and Sleep:
When you’ve missed meals your body sometimes runs out of energy, and tries to solve this by getting sleepy and using less energy. If you have a history of missing meals then be very wary when you feel like you need a nap when you wouldn’t normally. Have you eaten recently? If not, then make sure you eat *before* you nap. Napping reduces the demands on the body’s energy supply, but doesn’t do anything to refuel you. If you give in to the urge to nap without eating first you can find yourself waking feeling even worse, and it will be even harder to get yourself up and moving to find food then!
Food alternatives:
You can get meal replacement drinks or supplement drinks fairly easily these days. I don’t advise replacing meals with them, but I do find it very worthwhile to keep some in storage for those days when you just can’t face food but know you should get something into you. Likewise multivitamin fruit juices or just varied juices can fill in on vitamins if you’re doing okay with eating your meat and fibre but aren’t up to facing veg.

Ready meals and processed food:
Fresh homemade food is better for you than ready meals… but do you know what’s worse for you than processed food? No food at all!
If quick and ready meals make it easier for you to eat regularly then do it. Simple as.

Treat foods:
Is there something you absolutely love? A favourite restaurant, or a particular ice cream? Remember it. Even if it isn’t “good for you” it can help to jump start your interest in eating when you can’t really face the thought otherwise.

Snacks:
Healthy snacks are so useful if you have trouble bringing yourself to eat. I personally like munching on cherry tomatoes or grapes, with raisins or other dried fruit if I’m going to be out and about. It makes a world of difference to have things like that to hand. If fruit’s not your thing then crackers, popcorn, little cheeses, nuts… find something and make it yours!

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