If something in your daily life changes, whether that be something in your schedule or symptoms, would you still be able to feel good about your food and how you were eating?
You have likely experienced the unpredictability of your brain injury or chronic illness:
Maybe you planned to visit some friends, but when the time came your symptoms were so awful you had to cancel.
Maybe you were returning to work but despite the pacing plan, you had to leave early because the overstimulation was over bearing that day.
Or, maybe you’re trying to do more chores at home – you set aside a day to organize all those piles of clothes, containers, and papers, but when the day came your brain screamed at you “noooooooooo!”
If any of this rings true for you, my dear you are certainly not alone!
In fact, I’m actually writing this after unexpectedly having to take an unplanned day off — I was “supposed to” write this yesterday, but fatigue set in so hard and I was so light sensitive I spent most of the day under blankets on the couch.
And even though it seemed all my brain and body wanted to do yesterday was sleep, I still needed to provide it another physiological need — food.
My name is Krystal Merrells. I’m a registered dietitian and a concussion warrior in Ontario, Canada.
I’ve had multiple concussions and I’ve seen how food can become this big stressful thing after a brain injury. I am here to help you move towards feeling good with food.
This is Food Love. A 14-day mini-series exploring your relationship with food.
Today is day 9: Flexibility
In my 12 years of working as a dietitian, I have noticed a common pattern that can really affect a person’s relationship with food.
Yesterday we explored what “healthy eating” might mean for you.
And we often try to achieve healthy eating on our best, high energy days — the days where we have all the time and ability to make things from scratch, using only the freshest of foods…
But truth is those days might be fewer and further between then we would like.
So, I have often seen clients go through periods of being able to do all the home cooking and eat closer to their ideal idea of “healthy eating,” then inevitably “fall off the wagon” as they may say.
It’s just me. I just need to get back to it.”“
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I just can’t keep it up.”
In other words, during these “off waggon” periods, I often hear my clients get down or even berate themselves for it.
So if this sounds similar to your situation, let me just clear something up for you:
There’s NOTHING wrong with you for having ups and downs.
Even I as a dietitian, who studies, talks about, and helps others with food every single day, I have pizza days, rely on canned soup from time to time, and have weeks where I just don’t want to meal plan.
As much as I and you strive for consistency, and as much as I help my clients get more consistency in their food habits, we have to acknowledge that our lives are pretty up and down in nature. Nothing is constant. That’s the nature of… Nature…
I mean, I doubt birds get down on themselves when they fly south for the winter. They’re likely not saying “why can’t I just stay in one place? What’s wrong with me?”
When the trees lose their leaves in the fall, I’d be surprised if they were like “why can’t I just keep this up? I just got to try harder and get back to it.”
We don’t scrutinize the weather if it’s not gloriously sunny every single day.
We shouldn’t hold it against people for needing a vacation after a stretch of work.
We can’t even expect our hair to look great every day, no matter how we try to style it.
Things naturally tend to happen in waves. And that’s the same for your eating pattern too.
Part of having a good relationship with food for you is likely being OK when things change.
Accepting and expecting some flexibility.
Being OK when you come to those periods when your food might not be your image of your ideal “healthy eating.”
Because just like waves crest and fall…
Just like your breath fills you up then syphons out…
Just like any emotion can peek and might feel like it will last forever, it then comes down and transitions into another…
Your food habits will likely go through these ups and downs too.
So today’s reflection question asks you, how might you ride that wave?
What might you need to tell yourself, or a journal, or what coping mechanisms might help you acknowledge and accept the downtime, so that you’re open and ready for the next chance to rise up?
Because even though I may have days and weeks where my own nutrition feels like a struggle, I know how to meet that struggle. I expect it’ll happen again. I accept it when it does. And then I move on making the choices that are right for me.