5. To Eat or Not to Eat
Caregiver Series - Part 5

I have lived with serious digestive health issues for all of my adult life. When my son sustained a spinal cord injury, I spent months at inpatient rehab with him hundreds of miles from home. I actually had a great deal of trouble eating for the longest time. Plus, I was also doing a lot of walking in and around the rehab hospital daily. I lost about 15 to 20 pounds and was starting to become concerned about my weight loss.

However, once back home with my son, I was not walking the long distances routinely anymore. I was also surrounded by certain food choices my son was making since he purchased his own groceries. I could not control his choices (believe me, I tried) and the temptation was there for me every day. After a few months, I started gaining weight due to “stress eating”. While my weight loss was not done in a healthy manner, neither was my weight gain. I realized I needed to start focusing on making healthier food choices, especially since I had significant health issues and was under a great deal of stress.

As caregivers, we can tend to struggle with depression and anxiety which in effect, can cause problems with our eating habits. It can be hard to make good food choices when under such constant stress. I have found that by planning ahead and keeping meals simple, I have much better control over my eating habits. It can be difficult to do that on days when things are particularly busy though. Thus it is always good to have healthy snacks on hand to nibble on.

I like to start my day with a probiotic smoothie. I often add fresh or frozen fruits to it and put them in a blender. Sometimes, I will throw in spinach as well. Truthfully, the best approach to eating healthy is to not have poor food choices in the home at all, yet that is not always the easiest approach either. Whatever you do, don’t go grocery shopping hungry! I think we all know that trick. Also, ask yourself why you are eating. Are you eating because you are hungry or stressed? Stop and think before grabbing something to eat. Be careful of eating on the run. Try to find just a few minutes to sit down and really enjoy your meal. I will often delay eating until a time when I know I won’t be interrupted or when I will enjoy it the most. Make sure to eat slowly. Give your brain a chance to tell you that you are no longer hungry.
In my journey to eat healthier, I have started incorporating simple things into my routine. The number one thing I do is drink water with lemon throughout the day. Drinking water can help fill you up and make you less hungry. Some other ideas that might help you are:

  • Plan ahead before going grocery shopping and try to purchase mainly from the perimeter of the grocery store where all the fresh items are located.
  • Order online and then pick up your groceries. This can help save time and money as you will be less inclined to buy additional items.
  • Make simple but nutritious meals and make enough to have leftovers that you can place in the freezer.
  • Exchange recipes with other caregivers that are quick to make and nutritious to eat.
  • Talk with your doctor about supplements that might help you. Twice daily I take dehydrated fruits and vegetables in a capsule form.
  • Make a few small changes a week to your way of eating. You want this to become a lifestyle and not just a diet.
  • Plan a “treat” meal once a week or go out for a nice meal. Too much denial can also sabotage changing your eating habits.
  • Don’t try to embark on a healthy but complex diet at this time. You could be setting yourself up for failure. Keep things simple!
Care giving takes such a toll on you emotionally, mentally, and physically. We need to take the best care possible of ourselves so we can provide the best care for our loved ones. One way to accomplish this, is to recognize when and what to eat or not to eat. Love you as much as you love others!

Happy and healthy eating to you all!


Click here for Caroline's Part 6 Caregivers Series

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