Julie Whittington, RD

Healthy tips from a Registered Dietitian

It is 5 o’clock – keep your nutrition and health goals in check

So, the country song goes, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.”   The song refers to 5 o’clock being the time when some feel it is acceptable to drink alcohol.  And, for many Americans, this phrase is all too often true.  Whether it is alcohol or not, many of us look at the early evening as a time to let go of inhibitions and begin to cope with food or drink.  

Often, it is the long workday and the arrival home that welcomes the need for relaxation and time to de-stress.  For others, they may feel no stress relief during the whole day, except for “escaping” with food or drink.  Though the “relief” is short lived, it non-the-less is too attractive for many to resist.  And, of course, this food and drink trap can lead to an unhealthy relationship with food and drink, in addition to an unhealthy relationship with one’s body.

Using food and drink to cope with your emotions can backfire and is a form of disordered eating.  Since we need food and water to survive and the correct balance is key to health, we need a constant mindfulness of our hunger, thirst and satiety to help guide us when and what to eat and drink.  However, when food and drink become the coping mechanisms and the drive to consume is driven by our emotions, we lose touch with our healthy, physical cues to eat and stop. 

Ideally, the goal is to separate food and feelings so we may eat when we are hungry and stop when we are satisfied.  Unfortunately, many of us eat or drink in response to being happy, sad, anxious, stressed or mad.  And, oftentimes, the tipping point is evening time.  Many convince themselves that they were “good” during the day and now they deserve a break.  Or, simply when evening arrives, the distractions seem scarce and one is left to one’s own devices, with food and drink being the seemingly easy solution. 

Whatever the reason may be, if you find yourself using food or drink to cope with your emotions, now would be a good time to discover healthier non-food/drink coping mechanisms to help you healthfully manage your emotions.  This in turn can improve your relationship with food and drink, as well as with your body.  When you no longer use food and drink to cope, your physical self can heal and you can reduce your risk of chronic disease, unhealthy weight and even alcoholism.  This process also empowers you to let go of your efforts to control your life with food and drink.  While we do have the power to control the food and drink we choose, we cannot control most of our external environment.

The good news is, we can control how we deal with our emotions…in a healthy way!  If you are unsure where to start, begin by creating a list of things you enjoy to do. Consider things that will help you relax and de-stress.  For some of us, deep breathing, journaling or listening to music may help.  For others, painting your nails, taking a hot shower or exercising may prove more helpful.  Whatever it is, you want to be able to cope in a way to re-ground yourself and re-find mindfulness (self-awareness).   

While it can take time to re-adjust, do consider how you choose to cope and how much you crave “5 o’clock”.  Make your 5 o’clock a healthy one and give yourself some time to   relax while still being mindful.  Your mind and body will both benefit from your efforts! 

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