The fabulous Jackie Eberstein was generous to contribute this guest post to Keto Together, our 10 days of cooking through Covid-19 stay at home orders.
Jackie’s words are indeed food for thought. She makes the idea of comfort food truly uncomfortable and offers options for what you can do in this time when many of us feel powerless.
Learn more about Jackie by visiting her website at controlcarb.com
Comfort Foods, Chronic Stress and Weakening Your Immune System
We are all familiar with acute stress. You are driving and the car in front of you comes to a sudden stop. You manage to stop just in time. Your heart is beating fast. You need to take a few long deep breaths to calm yourself. Your body has responded to stress by producing hormones that mobilize to save your life. Stress hormones are important in short bursts, then your body should return to normal.
Chronic stress is different.
The challenge comes when we are chronically stressed. Our lifestyles are stressful with jobs, finances, responsibilities to your kids, lack of sleep, long work hours, keeping connected to work even on vacations, fear of taking your vacation time etc. When people get stressed and overwhelmed, we often turn to “comfort foods”. They can temporarily make us feel better by influencing the reward centers in the brain. Some people will turn to drugs or alcohol for the same reason. Only to want more of the same a few hours later. “Comfort foods” are almost always heavily processed, high sugar, refined carb foods that for many of us can become an addiction. I never met anyone whose comfort food was broccoli.
I hear this story time and again from my clients. They lose weight, feel better than ever, are healthier and suddenly they are back on carbs. Why? What made them give up their healthy lifestyle and path to success was almost always a stressful event- chronic stress.
Even if you have not felt particularly stressed, you are now. Covid 19 has served up a lot to be stressed about. One of the challenges when chronically stressed is a feeling of lack of control. That is especially true now. If you have or are contemplating resorting to comfort foods to cope, please read on.
You Do Have Some Control
Take control of what you can. You can control what you put in your mouth. What you put in your mouth now can support your immune system or weaken it. This is not the time to do anything that weakens the immune system.
Here is what you need to know:
- High carb foods make the blood sugar unstable. This is especially true if you carry excess fat around the midsection.
- After ingesting high carb foods, the blood sugar goes up and then can drop too low or too fast. When this happens, stress hormones are released to attempt to return the blood sugar to a normal level. Numerous symptoms are triggered by these hormones such as irritability, hunger, cravings, anxiety, difficulty sleeping, a feeling of impending doom, mood swings, etc.
- You feel stressed and feel like you are unable to cope. You grab your favorite carby comfort food and set up the cycle again. Does this process really sound comforting?
- “Comfort foods” are low in vitamins and minerals. You will need to use whatever stores of nutrients you have to metabolize these empty foods. Vitamins and minerals are co-factors in the bodies’ chemical reactions. Depleting them can make the body function less efficiently including the immune system.
- Most medications can lower nutrient levels.
- Depletion of nutrients is stressful.
- Stress weakens the immune system.
What You Can do to Relieve Stress
- Stay on or resume your low carb keto plan.
- Keep your blood sugar stable. When you are healthier and less stressed, you will cope better.
- Get enough sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep listen to relaxation tapes before bed. Sleep in a completely dark room. Use a sleep mask if needed. Put away the phone and turn off the TV.
- Exercise helps cope with stress. No need for a gym. There are many exercises you can do at home. I do a hula hoop daily, an air-stepper 5x/week, a body blade every other day. A rebounder is good too.
This is an unprecedented time. None of us ever had to live with this before. Do not have this be a reason to make yourself unhealthier and unhappier.
Most people who get COVID 19 and get dangerously ill or die are overweight or obese and/or have metabolic conditions related to poor diet such as pre-diabetes, diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease or are immune suppressed.
Be in control.
This is the time when your body and mind require all the support you can provide.
Jacqueline Eberstein, R.N. began working with Dr. Robert Atkins in 1974. Her previous experience included stints in intensive care and recovery room nursing.
As Director of Medical Education at The Atkins Center for Complementary Medicine in New York City, she was responsible for the education of medical staff on the principles and protocols of the Atkins Lifestyle. Additionally, she spent many years as a full time practitioner utilizing complementary medicine approaches as practiced by Dr. Robert Atkins. She designed and ran The Atkins Center’s Modified Diet Program and Atkins Low Carb cruises
She contributed to a number of Dr. Atkins’ books, newsletters, Atkins: A Passion for Healthy Living magazine and appeared regularly as a guest and host on “Your Health Choices”, Dr. Atkins syndicated radio program.
Because of her extensive experience using the Atkins Lifestyle she is one of the foremost authorities on the subject.