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Finding Happiness
Healthy Lifestyle
Today may be a bad day, but let’s not turn it into two!

Mar 8th, 2015

Category: Body

Today may be a bad day, but let’s not turn it into two!

There’s a particular maxim that I like to proffer up to clients who talk to me with reports of a bad day. In the context this usually means that they ate a little more than they should have, or ate foods they aren’t proud of; or that they’re former eating disorder sufferers who felt tempted to restrict food. No matter who they are or what they tell me, I usually respond to the confession of “today was a bad day” with the same words:

OK. Let’s not let one bad day turn into two.”

My point is pretty obvious: it’s easy for anyone to overeat, under eat, stress eat, or eat emotionally in response to a particularly lousy 24 hours. We’ve all been there, and of course we know that poor eating habits reinforce the anxiety by loading us up with feelings of guilt. But the worst response to this pattern is to let guilt or stress become so overwhelming that we continue to eat poorly (or under eat); if we do that, we’ll only let one bad day turn into two, and two into three, and so on. The best way to handle any day of food imbalance (whether that was a cocktail party where you went overboard on drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a stressful day at the office that meant 12 trips to your coworker’s candy drawer, or a fight with your spouse that left you in the kitchen at midnight with your hand in a cookie box) is to stop, take a deep breath and overcome the impulse to panic.

This day will ultimately be negligible if you wake up tomorrow and give yourself a fresh start. Despite what we all fear, no one ever gained or lost a meaningful amount of weight or compromised his or her health from a single day of eating. It’s what we do every day, not once in a while, that matters.

The personal part of today’s post isn’t actually about poor eating, though I didn’t happen to eat well yesterday. It’s about a day that was stressful. In the past, school has been wonderful in many ways, it’s expanding the scope of my knowledge, it has presented me with all sorts of intellectual challenges, it has made me more excited than ever about health care. But it was also incredibly hard. I was taking a lot of classes, and they were all tough. English and science didn’t come easily to me the way the humanities always did.

As a result, my ego took a beating, and it was easy to feel demoralized. That, coupled with too little sleep, too many late night classes, and too little time with friends, led to a fabulous mini-meltdown many nights that I remember. Arriving home at 11 pm after a three hour lab (which was so long that I didn’t even finish on time), I flopped into bed, had a good cry and contemplated whether or not I’m cut out for this. I’d have fixed myself a nice meal when I got home no matter how late it was. But some nights I was too tired even to brush my teeth, and went to bed on an empty stomach. Empty, that is, except for the giant coffee I’d inhaled at 7 p.m. (my third of the day).

I believe that’s what we officially call a nutritionist’s FAIL.

But even if I went against all of my own advice (always be prepared and pack meals, don’t drink coffee after 4 p.m., and never, ever skip a meal) I woke up one morning and took my own most cherished piece of advice to heart: I didn’t let one crappy day turn into two. I did a (very) early morning yoga routine, went for a run, ate a nourishing breakfast, and took thirty solid minutes to regain some perspective. Nobody said this would be easy, least of all me.

I haven’t been a student in about four years, and I’m studying subjects that I never had to master in the past. I’m familiarizing myself with a future that’s going to be immensely difficult at every turn. I’m effectively putting my social life on hold for a while, and I’m doing it all as I continue to run a counseling practice, blog, and try relationships (clearly not going so well as we speak). And guess what? It isn’t going to get any easier.

The good news is that this is what I want, and (no matter how hard it is) I’m as driven as I was before. The other good news is that I have a loving circle of family, a couple of amazing friends, a mother who knows how to handle my hysterics like a champ, and a lot of resilience. For the record, I might have forgotten to pack dinner last night, and I might have thrown back enough coffee to start levitating yesterday afternoon. But I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, which was to buy a gallon of ice cream. And that’s pretty good.