Do this to have more energy and a better mood daily

Laptop, notebook with pen, and a mug of tea sit on a table
Get through your day with more energy by eating!

Episode 19: I hate mid-afternoon energy drags, don't you?

Back in my dieting days I couldn't figure out why, when I'd been so "good" with my eating all day, I'd end up dragging myself through the finish line of the day (let's be honest, what was left on the to-do list got transferred to the next day), emotionally exhausted, and then eat beyond fullness at dinner and TV dessert only to feel crappy about myself and vow to do better tomorrow...or get back on track on Monday...or the first of the next month.

Sound familiar?

This week on the Savor Food and Body Podcast, we're continuing the Getting Started Series with a brief lesson on how to have steady energy and a consistent positive mood throughout the day. This topic is near and dear to my heart because so many of my clients struggle with this when we first start working together - especially women in their later 30's, 40's, and 50' too!

If you've ever found yourself raiding your co-worker's chocolate stash, or belly-ing up to the office snack counter, listen to this episode to understand why.

The episode will also help you understand how diet mentality tries to manipulate you into thinking you're "being good" during the day when you skip or skimp on breakfast, only have a salad at lunch, and then end up face down in the M&M's or chips watching Netflix at 9 PM.

Finally, you'll get a BTS view of the strategy "inviting all foods to the table," that we talked about in the first episode 17, the first in this series.

If you haven't listened to episode 17 yet, click here to listen to the show and download the companion strategies journal.

Ok, let's get started.

When it comes to supporting your energy levels and mood throughout the day, eating regularly, having a variety of foods to chose from, and eating in a balanced way definitely helps. Remember the Cast and Trinity Eating from episode 18?

Here's what that looks like in real life.

I'd like you to meet Jen and Lynn. They're two women in midlife who are doing their best to juggle all the balls and still live their healthiest lives - from 2 different perspectives. Both of them are compilations of the women I've worked with over the years to protect individual client identities.

Jen is 43 years old and a busy career woman. She has 2 kids - 1 in middle school, 1 just started high school. They're involved in a ton of, music lessons, and cheerleading.

Jen's typical day is hectic! She's up at 5 am, gets a workout on most days (because that's what you do to stay thin and beat the aging process). Then rushes home, gets the kids off to school, and she's out the door to work by 8 am, grabbing coffee and a banana as she flys by the counter.

When she gets to work, she might have a small package of instant oatmeal or cereal from the break room, or she'll just skip it, filling up her coffee cup and heading straight into a meeting.

By 11 am, Jen is starving, but it's not time (according to diet culture) for lunch yet. So she ignores the hunger pangs and heads back to her computer to crank out a handful of emails.

Finally, at 1 PM, Jen pushes back from her desk, a little light-headed, and orders a salad from Uber Eats with salmon, little to no dressing, and skips the croutons and roll. She needs to be good this week because she has a girls weekend coming up with her besties from college and wants to save the indulgence.

By 4 PM Jen is REALLY starving and getting hangry. She's short with her husband when he emails asking what to do about dinner and who's picking up the kids from their activities.

Determined to power through the last 90 minutes of her day, Jen heads to the employee lounge to see what snacks she can grab. Her co-worker brought in homemade pumpkin bread, which she told herself she wouldn't eat (again saving herself for the weekend), but she couldn't help herself. A half slice here, another half slice there, until most of the loaf was gone. Ashamed, Jen promises herself to get back on track tomorrow.

Woman in bed with pillow half covering her face and holding a pair of glasses
Not eating enough leaves you tired and hangry

If we were to plot Jen's food (aka energy) intake on a line graph, you'd see steep peaks and narrow valleys between them. The line would look erratic too. Can you imagine how that feels in Jen's body with her energy and mood are going up, down, up, down, throughout the day? And because her breakfast and lunch were so "good" she was starving by the afternoon, which triggered bingeing on the pumpkin bread and NOT feeling good in her body or about her body.

We're not here to judge Jen's eating habits, just illustrate what energy levels look like when you don't eat enough regularly throughout the day. And what happens when diet culture is telling you to "be good" by restraining your eating. Of course, you're going to get primally hungry and binge later in the day. That's physiology!

We'll talk more about hunger, satisfaction, and fullness next week.

But, this is also a great example of not being satisfied with meals. By the afternoon Jen was really spent - physiologically because she hadn't eaten much and also emotionally because let's be honest, her breakfast and lunch weren't satisfying. Again, no shame on Jen (she's already feeling enough of that herself), and I invite you to be a curious observer and consider what parts of Jen's story are familiar to yours?

Now let's look at this from a different perspective. Meet Lynn. She's also a busy Mom, 47 years old, of teenage kids and works as a corporate executive, generally from 9-5 (or 6 PM) - although she might long on for emails during Netflix in the evening.

She gets up around 6 AM, tries to get in some exercise most days of the week, except when she's just too tired (hello perimenopause!) then she'll let her body rest. Once the kids are out the door to school, she grabs a breakfast bar made with whole oats, nut butter, raisins, and chocolate chips and a carton of full fat, Greek yogurt to eat when she gets to work, and a mug of decaf tea (caffeine jacks up her hot flashes).

She gets to work and dives into her Inbox while she's spooning up the yogurt.

By 11 AM, Lynn is starting to notice that she's feeling kind of hungry. She starts thinking about what she wants for lunch but knows she has more energy to get out a few more emails done.

By 12:30 PM she's ordered her salad from Uber Eats, with salmon, chickpeas, tons of veggies, croutons, full-fat dressing, and a side roll with butter. Lynn eats most of the salad, the roll, and decides to save the rest of the salad for the afternoon.

Around 4 PM, she starts to feel pleasant hunger again. She finishes her salad, wraps up her day by 6 PM, and heads home for a relaxed dinner with her family. Around 8:30 PM she enjoys some snack mix with nuts, dried sour cherries, and a few dark chocolate chips (not too many or she'll be wide awake at 2 AM!)

If we were to look at Lynn's food (aka energy) intake on a line graph, you'd see peaks and valleys more spaced out and less erratic.

When Lynn ate more food, included all the macronutrients (trinity eating) in her meals, her energy levels and mood were more consistent throughout the day. This kept her from bingeing or feeling out of control with food later in the afternoon (and evening) and able to have a peaceful dinner with her family.

Which story sounds more familiar to you? Maybe you're a little bit of both?

Remember, no judgment either way.

I hope this simplified explanation of why "being good" with eating throughout the day, will bite you in the butt later in the day/evening/next day - even if you had the best health intentions in mind!

Physiology and biology usually win. This is why feeling out of control or erratic with eating can easily be balanced out with some gentle nutrition and addressing unhelpful diet culture BS.

If you haven't done so already, download the 6 Strategies to Live Your Healthiest Life (by ditching diet mentality) and listen to episode 17 for an audio guide to help you get started on those strategies today.