How to make good food decisions when you're stressed

"I'm stressing about taxes and eating horribly because of it. Any tips on how to not let stress do that?"

This is a question that came from one of my readers, and I'm so glad they asked it! If there is a health question you want answered, submit it here, and I will gladly answer it in a post.

Pre-planning meals and snacks is the best way to combat poor food choices in stressful situations.

Batch cooking healthy recipes in advance of a stressful situation will make it that much easier when that stressful situation actually happens. Everyday Paleo is my favourite website for SIMPLE recipes that are ready to freeze. You can make them ahead of time when you are thinking about your stressful time ahead, so that when you're rushed and can't make time to cook a home prepared meal: you already have some in the freezer!

Take 30 minutes out of your day, and make a large amount of a recipe that you like so there is some waiting for you in the fridge or freezer the next time you're hungry and ready to head to your favourite fast food joint.

But Andrew, how does this help me when I'm already in a stressful situation??

Timing matters when it comes to behaviour change. We only have a limited amount of willpower (and therefore potential to focus) in a day, so you can imagine that when things are already looking very stressful for you, it seems even more insurmountable for you to start making food choices that are in line with your goals.

Trying to eat better when you're already stressed is like trying to introduce a new play to the basketball team that has never been attempted, when there are 5 seconds left in the game, and you NEED to win. Maybe it's a great play. Maybe it even works out this time. But the odds certainly aren't in your favour. Better to practice that play beforehand, so that when you need it most, you know how that you can reliably achieve it.

In any situation, the first thing to assess is whether there is capacity to change, or if the attempt to change itself would be too much of stress. It's much easier to implement a lasting behaviour change when you're not in the thick of a difficult or taxing situation.

Former U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had a great way of determining the priority of tasks that were upcoming: check out a great video on his strategy here.

To summarize: work on the important and urgent tasks first, and then move on to other less important, and less urgent activities. If you're in an important and urgent scenario, then maybe now is not the time to try and make improvements on your health...

ASk yourself: Are you just rearranging deck chairs on the titanic?

Practicing good food habits, like batch cooking and preparing food ahead of time, will enable you to perform well, and eat in line with your goals even when you're not in stress-free situation.

Get through your important and urgent goal first, and then when the urgency subsides, prepare some food for your emergency stash so that the next time a stressful situation comes up (one surely will) you'll be better prepared!

I'm interested in what you have to say: What habits do you have that keep you eating well when stressful situations come up in your life?