need more fewd
July 29, 2009 11:05 AM   Subscribe

Help me eat better / more often...

I have problems with anxiety (diagnosed) and adult ADD (not diagnosed officially - yet) and sometimes this causes me to not eat.

I do not have a classical eating disorder, I love to eat and savor all kinds of food.

My problem is that sometimes (err...often) I get really worked up and anxious and feel overwhelmed and too busy with whatever I need to accomplish in a day. I end up putting off getting something to eat until I calm down, which usually isn't until I clear most of the tasks from my to-do list. This is especially bad with lunch at work. I almost never eat lunch because of this.

When I get home, I am usually too exhausted to really cook or eat anything (and also to prepare any lunch food for the next day). Sometimes I fall asleep on my couch before I even eat anything. Other times, I'll have something super quick like a microwave personal pizza or burrito.

I do not get feelings of hunger when I am anxious or exhausted, but I do, obviously, feel like crap. I just seem to be missing the brain trigger to remind me that if I ate something, I would feel a little better.

The only time I consistantly eat every day is breakfast. I love breakfast and I am a cranky crab if I don't eat something within an hour of waking up.

I was recently hospitalized and told that I need to up my caloric intake and eat more nutritious food. My question is how can I chill out and remind myself to eat? What are some techniques you use to make food prep not feel like more work after a day of work? Any general advice pertaining to adequate nutrition with budget and time constraints? What kinds of foods keep well and are easy to carry around all day (with my comute factored in, I'm usually away from home about 12 hours a day). Thanks.
posted by WeekendJen to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Can you add meals/snacks to your To Do list? Or schedule it in your calendar as a reminder?
posted by rhapsodie at 11:28 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Start trying to snack on things. If your biggest problem is just that you sometimes plain forget to eat, maybe trying to get INTO the habit of snacking would help -- provided that you have healthy snacks: things like nuts, apples or oranges, granola, etc. If you stay at your desk all day, try keeping a big box of granola and a bag of almonds in your desk drawer, and then periodically just munch. Also get a bag of apples or oranges and keep one in your bag, so you can munch that too.

As for coping with the "sometimes I'm too tired to cook" bugaboo -- I got into the habit of sometimes taking a day on the weekend and making one or two big pots of different soups, then doling them out into single-serving microwave-safe containers and then freezing them all. Then when I came home from work exhausted, all I had to do was pull one out of the freezer and throw it in the microwave -- and presto, a homemade "frozen dinner." If you have a bag of rolls, grab one of the rolls and eat it with your frozen-and-heated-back-up soup and you have a decent meal.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:32 AM on July 29, 2009

Spend your Sundays making food for the rest of the week. Make sandwiches, cut up fruit in small tupperware, freeze a batch of waffles, make rice-n-beans for burrito filling, and cook up a big pot of goulash. With anxiety, your blood sugar is more likely to do wacky things, so keep an orange juice on hand so you can drink that when you are feeling anxious (I like cans of orangina!). Don't go for having a few big meals in the day, that will give you a blood sugar spike and then a terrible crash later. Opt instead for grazing. Bananas, nuts, soups, and carrots are all easy to keep on hand and work on throughout the day.
Also, setting a couple of alarms to remind you to eat are pretty handy as well. I have a picture of my best girl friend outside my bedroom door with a speech bubble that says "Idiotfactory, eat your damn breakfast!". It makes for a good reminder first thing in the morning. In that vein, you could post a picture on your desk of some food porn to remind your belly that it is hungry.
This will take some practice and a lot of work to turn into a regular schedule so don't beat yourself up if you don't do very well at first.
posted by idiotfactory at 11:34 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Can you conscript a friendly coworker to remind you to go eat lunch?

I don't have your problem. But I do get a bit low blood sugar-y, and thus sometimes get dumb and cranky when I desperately need to eat -- and part of the "dumb" is that I somehow can't see that I just need to eat. My boyfriend is similar. So we keep tabs on each other.

Me: "Snark snark snark"
Him: "You need to eat."
Me: "No I don't; snark snark"
Him: "Shut up and go get a cliff bar right now."

If you had a coworker you could trust to help provide that gentle pressure, it might be helpful.

And if you DO eat lunch, you'll be more likely to have the energy to make some dinner, too.
posted by kestrel251 at 11:35 AM on July 29, 2009

What you need (during the day at least) are snack foods that you can munch on while you're getting stuff done, so that you can eat something healthy and nutritious but without feeling like you should be doing something else. If you keep a bowl/tub/bag of snackable things on your desk or with you during the day and force yourself to eat them while you're acomplishing other things, pretty soon snacking will become a habit and you'll be munching away while working without really realising it!

Try things like:
- cereal bars
- dried fruit
- trail or other similar mix
- nuts and seeds
- veg sticks / pita / bread sticks and hummus or some other dip
- crackers and cheese
- fruit (grapes, apples, bananas, any kind of berry are all pretty snackable and require no preparation)

The key here is things that you can either prepare beforehand (when you are calmer and have time - maybe when you're fixing your breakfast?) and bring along with you, or things that can be bought ready to eat. Sounds like you need things with the minimum of fuss or hassle so that you have no excuse not to eat!

Sounds like in the evenings you need super-quick but healthy meals. Have you got a freezer? Make a batch (on a Sunday or when you have some time) of something healthy like soup, chilli, stew, curries and freeze it in portions - they'll take the same amount of time and effort as heating up your microwave pizza, but will be nicer and healthier. Try stir fries and pasta with sauce for really quick meals. You could even make up a big bowl of a substantial salad like tuna and bean, rice salad or pasta salad, that you could keep in the fridge and eat three nights in a row.

Basically think either meals that are quick and easy to cook, or things that require a little preparation but you can make last for days in the fridge or freezer.
posted by schmoo at 11:37 AM on July 29, 2009

I know this problem very well. Sometimes I get to 6pm and wonder why I feel so utterly terrible. Then I remember I haven't eaten since brekky at 8am. At that point I am probably also dehydrated, and thus feel even less like eating and have a headache to top it off.

Things that help me:
- Having water close at hand at all times. Keeping hydrated will improve your appetite and help you know when you're hungry.
- A container of cold juice-- in my case orange juice, grapefruit juice, or cranberry juice. I like my juice a little dilute, so I'm fine with lots of ice. I sometimes throw in a pinch or two of salt to improve absorption.
- Any kind of protein shake.
- Seeds and nuts. I like pumpkin and pistachio and almond.
- Fruit. Especially apples... the smaller and fresher, the better. Incredibly portable.
- Preserved fruits and veggies. Gerkins, olives, prunes, and the like. (Avoid sulfur preservatives, though.)
- Individual serving cheese packets (mozzarella, cheddar, etc).
- Those vegan molasses spice cookie things made with applesauce. Yum.

Things to avoid:
- Large amounts of foods made primarily with sugars, syrups, and flour. A handful of pretzels and some water, good. A lunch made entirely of pretzel, bad.
- Caffeine.
- Soda or other sweetened drinks.
- Foods you buy because you think they're good for you. Don't buy things you don't look forward to eating.

The key is to keep hydrated and keep your blood sugar from doing loop-the-loops. That should also help with the anxiety as well as the fatigue.

You noted that you're irritable in the morning unless you eat something immediately. That's because your blood sugar is low in the morning (which is normal, because you've not eaten for hours), but you need to keep the blood sugar steadier through the rest of the day in order to have a normal appetite. May help some to drink a good amount of water first thing in the morning as well, because most people are on the dehydrated side in the morning.
posted by zennie at 12:15 PM on July 29, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone for the suggestions already and keep them coming!

I never really thought about preserved fruits (dried) or things like pickles and olives that would easily keep in an office fridge for a while. Also, healthy snacky-bits for work food is much more practical for me than a full blown meal.

Also, thanks zennie, idiotfactory, and kestrel251 for pointing out the relation between funky blood sugar and anxiety / mood. In my hunger haze, i never connected the two.
posted by WeekendJen at 12:37 PM on July 29, 2009

Were you hospitalized for symptoms associated with being underweight-- i.e. blacking out, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rate, etc? If so you'll really want to pay attention to the mineral content of your food too. When you eat too little, your calcium, potassium and sodium can get out of whack fast.

With this in mind, nuts, bananas, portable soup, V8, protein bars, and ready-to-drink muscle milk are available at any convenience store. Throw some of these in your bag on the way to work, and you'll always have a mineral-rich mini-meal ready to go. Don't forget your daily multivitamin, extra B complex, and calcium+D supplement!
posted by aquafortis at 2:12 PM on July 29, 2009

If you don't ever forget breakfast, maybe you could cook in the mornings and eat leftovers at night? I'd also suggest crockpot cooking as a possible alternative. If you can get in the habit of assembling a quick meal in the pot before you leave for work, you could come home with dinner waiting for you.
posted by emumimic at 7:03 PM on July 29, 2009

something that really helped me learn how to eat was weightwatchers. the incredible support both the web site and the meetings provide is life changing. even if you don't need to lose weight, you learn how to choose filling foods (high in fiber) that will keep you full and to eat more lighter meals than three large meals a day. Another suggestion is to be drinking liquids all day long, to keep you full and hydrated.
posted by dmbfan93 at 1:08 PM on July 30, 2009

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