How To Maintain A Healthy Focus When Life Throws You a Curveball

Many people have shared with me that they were doing great with their healthy lifestyle plan, but totally fell off the wagon when an unexpected life event occurred. Life is full of curveballs, whether it is an unexpected family crisis, an acute illness, a personal tragedy or some other life event that you may find yourself in.

As a RD nutritionist, I am selective about what passes between my lips. I plan meals and snacks in advance. My healthy focus (and perhaps my penny-pinching style) leads me to cook from scratch while preparing meals at home. So, when I travelled home to help care for my elderly mother, life threw my healthy lifestyle a curveball. A challenge for this RD was how to maintain a healthy focus while dealing with an acute high stress situation. My top priority was caring for my mother so I found myself partially living at the hospital and getting limited sleep in the process. In addition, the food choices were often limited to fast food and the hospital cafeteria.

What helped keep me as healthy as possible during this challenging time?

  • I decided to simplify my approach to portion control when I could not access healthy foods.

  • I tried to choose as many fruits and vegetables that I could get my hands on. Did you know that Wendy's offers apple slices instead of fries on the combo menu at no charge? Sometimes you just have to ask.

  • Whenever possible, I chose whole grains over processed grains to help keep me satisfied longer.

  • At mealtime, I tried to include a variety of food groups and used the plate method when selecting items.

  • I chose regular-sized sandwiches without cheese, sauces, bacon and other calorie-laden sandwich additions. Wow, those pictures of the loaded specialty sandwiches do look tempting!

  • At fast food restaurants, I didn't get drawn into the combo deal offer unless there was a healthier substitution for the fries. A sandwich and water was just fine. The extra sugar and/or caffeine in a soda or lemonade could have amplified my stress level anyway.

  • Reading the nutrition information for restaurant menu items helped keep me on track. Just looking at the outrageous sodium levels in fast food items was a reality check.

  • When possible, I started each day with a bowl of high fiber cereal with reduced-fat milk.

  • I drank a ton of water to stay hydrated. Thankfully, the hospital staff kept me supplied.

  • I took the stairs instead of the elevator whenever possible and walked the hospital halls. I even did yoga in the hospital room.

  • I took walks outside the hospital. This provided a much needed stress break and the exercise helped me recharge.

Having strategies in place to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle, even during unexpected, chaotic times, is important for preventing complete derailment of your health plan. What are your strategies?

Updated: March 22, 2019

Brenda Braslow, MS, RD, CDE

Brenda is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator in Denver,

Colorado who specializes in diabetes prevention and health enhancement.

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Disclaimer: The information provided here does not constitute medical advice. If you are seeking medical advice, please visit your healthcare provider or medical professional.


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