Booze. Netflix. A chocolate fix. Self-care is important, but sometimes it turns into self-destruction. Keep an eye out for these scenarios.
I’m a big advocate of self-care because if you don’t take care of yourself, who will? Plus, if you’re a giver or caretaker without giving back to yourself, you’ll eventually burn out, which helps no one. Self-care is not selfish!
But sometimes, our attempts at self-care are closer to self-destruction. Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?
1. Letting yourself give in, such as by hitting your favorite restaurant, grabbing takeout, or eating a bowl of popcorn on the couch and calling it dinner because you feel too tired or stressed to cook. When you frequently use food as a reward for making it through the day, you’re unlikely to make food choices that support total well-being. Possible solutions include:
• Batch cooking when you have the time and energy, or at least having leftovers to reduce the number of nights you cook.
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• Developing a repertoire of a few nutritious dinners that you can prepare with little time or effort.
• Listening to music (or a podcast) that you love while you cook.
• Planning a restaurant visit toward the end of the workweek. This gives you something to look forward to, plus you can make a more informed — and less impulsive — decision about what to eat.
2. Using food as a reward for exercising, or “allowing” yourself a certain food with the promise of doing extra exercise. One of the best things you can do for your overall health and well-being is to uncouple food and activity. Food is food, activity is activity. Make food choices that serve you well, and pick the types of activity that help keep you strong, flexible and energetic.
3. Automatically acting on cravings. When you have a craving for chocolate, do you tend to tell yourself that you need chocolate? Instead of automatically giving in to a craving, first consider what you might really need. Are you hungry? Bored? Do you need a break? Do you need some pleasure? Is chocolate (or chips or ice cream) the best, most meaningful way to address those deeper needs?
4. Using alcohol to unwind. Some health experts say that some of the observed health benefits of moderate alcohol intake might be because it helps people relax. But food and alcohol can easily become stand-ins for more substantial, healthful means of managing stress. When one glass of wine turns into two (for women) or into more than two (for men) day after day, you might consider that to be the proverbial canary in the coal mine.
5. Staying up late with a good book, movie or Netflix series. Research shows unequivocally that sticking to a consistent sleep schedule — not varying your bedtime and wake time by more than about an hour — is important for quality sleep. And it really is about quality, not just quantity. When your sleep is off, it can throw off everything else, including nutrition, exercise and stress management.
6. Being all-or-nothing on vacation. Enjoying local specialties — beignets in New Orleans, gelato in Italy, croissants in France — is one of the true joys of travel because food helps give us a sense of a place. Not allowing yourself to indulge a bit can rob you of some important travel memories. On the flip side, deciding “anything goes” isn’t ideal, either. The kindest option is somewhere in the middle — revel in those unique indulgences that make your taste buds sing, and balance your eating with foods that make your body feel good. No one wants to have digestive woes or feel sluggish on vacation!