Nutrition, Stress and the Caregiver
As a primary caregiver, you are constantly juggling activities for your loved ones, family and yourself. The constant balancing of activities can be stressful. Stress causes certain hormones to be released that may cause cravings for high sugar, high fat foods. These high calorie foods can have a temporary calming effect on the body; however, over eating these foods can lead to an increased amount of fat being stored. Excess weight is associated with chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and even sleeping problems such as sleep apnea..
So, while you may take the time to make sure that your loved one eats properly, it is also important to ensure good nutrition for yourself to help reduce stress and weight gain. One way to ensure healthy eating is to keep healthy foods handy. For example, place a bowl of apples and bananas (or any other fruit that does not require refrigeration) on the kitchen counter, and keep washed, bite sized vegetables, almonds or other nuts, low fat cheese sticks and yogurt in the refrigerator. They will not only satisfy your immediate need to eat, but they will also offer important nutrients. There are even foods that will actually help reduce stress and anxiety, such as blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Cashews, in which a 1 oz portion provides 11% of your RDA of zinc can also help relieve stress. Low levels of zinc have been linked to both anxiety and depression. Since our bodies have no way of storing zinc, it's important to get some every day. Chocolate has an undeniable link to mood and there's evidence that, in moderation, chocolate does actually make you feel better. Dark chocolate, in particular, is known to lower blood pressure, adding to a feeling of calm. The key is moderation. A one ounce portion is all you need.
It is important to learn what is triggering your overeating and understand how to address it in a healthy way. Try to find other ways to relieve stress such as talking with a friend, keeping a journal or taking a brisk walk. Remember, it is important to listen to your body and take care of it for both you and your loved one. Good nutrition will improve your mood and contribute to a better life.