Many women in my own (youngâ€”okay-middle) aged generation have found themselves caring for an aging loved one (parent, grandparent, etc.). Becoming an unintentional caregiver comes with many life-altering challenges such as time delegation and priority management. Amidst the stress of caring for another, we unfortunately often neglect to care for ourselves. In order to provide proper assistance to those that we are caring for, we need to make sure to properly nourish and promote our own healthâ€”especially when it comes to our diet.
Remembering to eat
With so many pressing issues to handle in one day, it is incredibly easy to neglect to fuel our own bodies. Additionally, if we wait to eat until we’re ravenous, it’s much easier to reach for a candy bar or hit a drive through than it is to take the time to compose a healthy meal. Eating regularly is imperative not only to prevent binge eating, but to support a healthy metabolism as well. Our metabolic rate slows once we move into our mid-thirties, so keeping our digestive system revved up should be at the top of our priority lists. In terms of your metabolism, being proactive instead of reactive fends off pesky issues like a creeping waistline or fatigue.
I find that making it a point to eat a meal or a snack at the same time every day regardless of what I’m doing helps me to stay on target. I will make it a point to stop (or to find a stopping point) and take a moment to eat some lettuce wraps or have a handful of almonds and some Greek yogurt. By holding myself to these meal/snack “appointments” I’m far less likely to neglect them because I anticipate them (and can usually plan accordingly). There will, of course, be exceptions to the time-frames, howeverâ€”I emphasize that they are exceptions, not the norm. By treating eating like an important meeting, I make nourishing myself the priority it deserves to be. I personally eat three balanced meals a day, with three snacks distributed accordingly. I’ve found this to be the most effective practice when it comes to sustaining energy and maintaining a healthy weight.
Long gone are the days where I could thrive on a diet that revolved around pizza and beer. As our bodies age, we need to acknowledge that what we eat makes a marked impact on multiple facets of our health. Preventing ailments like heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure can all be affected greatly by what we consume.
With such importance placed on the quality of what we eat, it is important to be aware that eating smart doesn’t mean limited or boring options. I’m a huge fan of mixing up my daily optionsâ€”one day I may snack on celery and hummus; the next I may have apples and some chocolate hazelnut spread. Variety keeps me excited about eating right, which helps me stay committed to being healthy. Since I’m big on visual cues, I printed off this copy of the Mediterranean Diet Pyramid in order to help guide my appetite.
If I decide to make whole-wheat pasta with fresh tomatoes and a parmesan pesto, I will make a double portion so that I can refrigerate the leftovers for later in the week when I may be too busy to cook. Thinking ahead like this is a huge plus, and it’s essential to helping me stay on track. If I know I’m going to have a crazy day, I will get up and put a meal in the crock-pot so that I know I have a healthy meal to come home to. Eating the right foods does require some forethought, but the benefits are well worth the (small) extra effort.
We all know that exercise will help keep us healthyâ€”it’s just so easy to be too tired or too busy to fit it in. I encourage you to take an hour out of your day to go on a walk, try a class at the gym, or take up swimming. I know it’s not easy, but I personally find that I feel better when I get some physical activity in (despite how tired I may be). I’m not going to hop on a huge soapbox here since I’m primarily focused on dietary wellnessâ€”but I find that diet and exercise go inextricably hand-in-hand.
In order to care for others, we need to care for ourselves. We need to make sure that we are as healthy as we can be before we can promote health in our loved ones. I hope that the discoveries I’ve made help those of you out there facing the same issues!