Sticking with a Diet when Stressed

I’ve had a rough couple of weeks but it’s been much worse for my husband. You see he had serious surgery a couple of weeks ago and was hospitalized for several days afterwards. Then he had another 10 days at home. I am so grateful he is now almost fully recovered.

A patient in surgery.

You might wonder why I am sharing this with you today. First of all, I wanted to let you know why I have not been present for quite some time with either my blog posts or social media updates. But I also wanted to share with you some of the insights I gained. As hard as the past two weeks may have been, I was reminded of some important strategies for successful weight management that might in turn be helpful to you. Sticking to a healthy diet for weight loss or otherwise when feeling stressed can be difficult.

Without going into the details of the kind of surgery my husband had, I will say that it was most likely the result of him having had a poor diet when he was younger. During his recovery from surgery, he needed to go on a restrictive diet. At first he could only have a liquid/soft diet and then a low fiber/low residue diet. Thankfully he is now beginning to incorporate a wider range of foods with dietary fiber.

However, for nearly two weeks we had to keep meals very simple and much of the time we were eating different foods. Although that was a bit of a challenge it reminded me just how very important it is to have a ready source of low cal meal ideas that are not only easy to prepare but also nutritious! I also became aware of just how much extra (read unnecessary) food we had in our house.

I had enough to eat for nearly two weeks without buying much of anything. Had we been shopping for normal weeks we would clearly have had too much food!

Here are my three takeaways from the past couple of weeks that might help you with weight management:

1. The food you have in your home can make or break your diet!

Having a well-stocked pantry made a world of difference to me when I needed to make quick, easy, and healthy meals and snacks. I was pleased I had enough nuts and dried fruit to put together a couple of ziplock bags of my favorite combos. I can’t tell you how much I depended on these at the hospital when I didn’t have time or access to much else.

I was also pleased I had a box of Larabar mini snack bars to stash a few in my purse. Most so-called nutrition bars are anything but. They would more appropriately be called candy bars. Although I may have written it a while ago, I think my article Best Nutrition Bars for Women is still relevant.

Other food/staples/ingredients that came in handy were eggs, sandwich makings, a few of my homemade frozen meals, some plain yogurts, and fruit. I particularly like having apples and clementines in the fruit drawer of my refrigerator at this time of the year.

I’ve been in a lot of hospital cafeterias over the years and I have yet to find one I particularly like. If you are patient and have the time to scout around you can usually come up with something that is fairly nutritious and low calorie. But who has a lot of time when a loved one is in the hospital? I preferred to be by my husband’s bedside so I was there to help him when he needed it.

After the first day or so of my husband’s stay I did find a small Deli in the front lobby of the hospital that offered a few excellent salads and other healthy items. Thank goodness I found that!

2. Have a short list of easy to prepare meals and snacks. This matters when you’re stressed and short on time and energy.

After spending LONG days at the hospital, I was completely wiped out when I returned home late in the evening. Fortunately, I happened to have plenty of leftovers to eat and had no need to cook anything. But had that not been true, having a list of quick to prepare meals is always a godsend after a long day.

When I’m exhausted the last thing I want to do is think. That’s when I need to go on autopilot. That’s when scrambled eggs or a small omelet are welcome choices. Or I might make a quick salad with plenty of no cook ingredients. (Nuts, seeds, fruit, raw or previously roasted veggies, a little hard cheese, cottage cheese, or hard-boiled eggs are possibilities. I often cook up a few hard-boiled eggs on the weekend.) Sandwiches are also a welcome standby.

In the coming months I hope to share a bunch of new ideas on how to make simple, low calorie, and nutritious meals and snacks with key ingredients.

3. Avoid buying and storing too much food.

When my husband was in the hospital I didn’t think about it too much. But when he came home and I needed to plan different meals to meet his needs and mine, it became very clear. I STILL had a lot of food in the refrigerator to finish up (food that lasts more than a few days such as fruit and cheese and more). Much of this food was items that my husband couldn’t eat.

My husband typically does the grocery shopping and it always seemed to me that he bought TOO MUCH! Now I finally have proof. Having too much food in the house results all too easily in eating too much! (Yes, you can overeat healthy food contrary to what some people might think. Calories do count.)

I went to the grocery store to buy a bunch of low fiber food for my husband. We don’t have much of that kind of food around because I am a firm believer in the importance of eating whole foods whenever possible instead of highly processed foods and getting plenty of dietary fiber, not refined food.

However, for me, I ended up buying a loaf of bread and a small rotisserie chicken. With just these two purchases and all that we already had at home I made myself meals for more than a week. Now if that isn’t proof positive that we have too much food at any given time, I don’t know what it is.

I do believe in having a well-stocked pantry. That’s not the problem. The problem is having too much food with a relatively short “shelf-life”. So I plan on getting a better handle on what we buy. My husband needs to slim down a bit to improve his health and I don’t like the struggle to not overeat. When there is too much food around it’s all too easy.

There you have it, my thoughts about managing a short period of high stress without blowing an otherwise good diet. Hope this helps. Any tips you might share? Please do!

  • Jayne December 19, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Sorry to hear that. I will say a prayer for you and your husband.

    I’m new to eating healthier and I was shocked at how much portions and calories matter, even with healthy food. I love your menus, they are so easy and affordable. A lot of diet menus I see are not that doable most of the time. Thanks for the post.

    • Lori December 21, 2012, 9:02 am

      Hi Jayne,

      Thanks for your kind thoughts! Thankfully, my husband is doing much better now. He’s almost fully recovered. I am so grateful.

      Yes, unfortunately portions and calories do matter even with healthy food. However, once you get a sense of the calorie count of your favorite healthy foods you won’t have to obsess over every calorie. That’s no way to live! I wouldn’t want to do that and I can’t imagine anyone else would either.

      I do make an attempt to look up restaurant meals and calorie counts BEFORE we go out. No matter how much someone might know about nutrition and diet, it’s all too easy to underestimate the calories in restaurant food. If I don’t have access to the calorie count then I make the best guess I can with respect to the meals I order. In addition, I automatically assume that I will likely be served more than I can eat so I save back 1/2 to 2/3 and bring it home with me.

      I do have lots more menus I hope to share in the coming months. Maybe I can get back to that after the holidays.

      Wishing you the very best for the rest of the holiday season and beyond!

      Lori