Living Well

Getting back on track after a hurricane-blown healthy eating lifestyle

Getting back on track after a hurricane-blown healthy eating lifestyle

Let’s face it, when in "hurricane mode," routine is abandoned. We either hunker down at home or evacuate, and then we anxiously watch what unfolds before us. There is another common trend that occurs during a storm; and that is eating. Whether it’s out of anxiety or boredom, we tend to eat more, and admittedly, most of it is not healthy, and before you know it, you’ve put on a few pounds. If you are among those who’ve gained in the wake of Hurricane Ida and Tropical Storm Nicholas, realize you are not alone, but now is the time to take notice and get back on track to a healthier lifestyle.

Stress eating is common during a severe weather event

During hurricane season, especially if there is an impending storm, the first thing we do is run to the store to purchase supplies. At the same time, grocery stores are quickly stocking shelves, and what they stock the most is based on weather modeling. There are obvious supplies needed, such as water, non-perishable goods, batteries, etc., but can you guess what product is in most demand when a hurricane is forecasted? It’s Strawberry Pop-Tarts. According to a Walmart executive, before a storm comes ashore, sales of pop-tarts increase as much as seven times their average rate compared to other times of the year. This can be related to stress eating, which is something a lot of us do at some point during or after a storm. Stress itself is due to hormones your body produces, and the effects of stress are both short term and long term:

  • Short term: stress can decrease your appetite by creating a high level of adrenaline that shuts down your desire to eat
  • Long term: stress creates a hormone called cortisol, and that hormone increases your desire to eat and bring about cravings for foods high in fat and sugar

It’s the long-term stress that we must look at because when under constant duress, we tend to turn to what’s commonly known as comfort foods. These foods are associated with childhood memories or sentimental times in our lives, like grandma’s macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, or childhood favorites such as homemade ice cream or pizza. These foods do just what the name suggests; they comfort us either by their texture and taste or aroma and bring back memories of simpler times, and it can be a good emotional lift in the short term.

However, we are now in the recovery phase from Hurricane Ida and Tropical Storm Nicholas, and many of us will be under long-term stress. If you have put on a few extra hurricane pounds, now is the time to take note and try to reverse course, as you need to be as healthy as you can during the rebuilding process. One thing you don’t want to do is beat yourself up over the weight gain, as this just adds more stress to your life. We all have setbacks now and then, and while the past severe weather is a setback, it’s not a deal breaker. Don’t procrastinate, though. Now is the time to begin the process of getting back on a healthier diet and exercise program, and there are some baby steps you can to get started.

7 Ways to get a healthy lifestyle back on track post-hurricane

  • Create a healthy dining plan and stick to it: during this recovery, you may not be able to find all the foods you ate before the hurricane, but putting together meal plans with what you can find will keep you from binging on unhealthy snacks or meals that are not on our diet.
  • Take care of your emotional health: dealing with long-term stress will take its toll on you, especially after a hurricane when there is so much destruction and normalcy is lacking. Talk to a medical professional, a family member, or a friend if you find yourself depressed, so you don’t turn back to stress eating.
  • Change your routine: if a long walk is part of your exercise program, walk a new route or try something different, like biking. This will bring something new into your life and keep you motivated.
  • Find an exercise buddy: you are not alone in this recovery, so finding a good exercise buddy is a great way to keep you motivated, and it will also change your routine a bit.
  • Allow yourself to cheat (just a little!): set a goal and when you hit it, congratulate yourself with a small portion of your favorite snack or, if you can, do something for yourself like get a massage or facial.
  • Turn this into a learning experience: don’t let this time go to waste as you now know that hurricane stress is real, and when there is a next time, you can better plan for the stress by having healthier snacks on hand whether you stay or evacuate.
  • Be consistent: do your best to say on track and strive for consistency and not perfection. None of us are perfect, and we don’t know what lies ahead, so consistency is the goal as it will make it easier to getting back to your normal routine.
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