If you were to say to me, "Heather I have a headache, what can I do?" The last thing I would say would be, "Take some pain relief". For me, using pain relief on it's own is all about treating the symptom without looking for the cause. Of course sometimes we still need the paracetamol, so we can think clearly and get on with our day but instead I would be asking you if you were thirsty, stressed, tired etc and then help you come up with ways to deal with the cause of your headache as a first port of call. This really annoys my husband who, like a lot of us, would always prefer the quick fix but that's just not how I operate. People rarely ask me about headaches however (perhaps because I never give them pain relief). But, LOTS of mums I work with ask me something like this, "Heather, what do I do to stop me binge eating biscuits when I get home from the school run?". Now, it would be easy for me to suggest, like the paracetamol, some healthy snack alternatives to munch on while you're prepping dinner and dealing with tired, grumpy children. And, like the paracetamol, that could be part of the answer but the truth behind tackling this 4pm energy slump often lies elsewhere. It lies in asking yourself what else is going on in your day, your week, even your life that leads to this regular energy crash and it might well be the most obvious answer, HUNGER. So ask yourself, what have you eaten throughout the rest of your day? Did your breakfast and your lunch keep you satisfied for 4 or more hours or did you eat your sandwich and crisps by 11 because your cereal didn't keep you full till lunch time? (Hint; cereal, sandwiches and crisps will rarely (never) make you last till the next meal. Guacemole on bruschetta probably won't either but doesn't it look pretty?!).
I'm a big believer (having looked at the evidence) in the idea that actually we should be able to go 4-6 hours between meals. I know, sounds C-R-AZY right but in fact, when I've done gut cleanses like the Forever Living Clean 9 and Goodness Me Nutrition's 7 day gut reset plan, it became much easier to avoid snacking as I was filling up with the right kind of foods at meal times and my digestive system was functioning better. Yes I got hungry at times but not that - shaky, irritable, confused - kind of hungry, just the physiological - my belly feels empty for a change - kind of hungry. If you want to read more about why/how this is important, check out this great blog post. However, if hunger isn't the real issue but you're still having a blood sugar dip at the same time each day which is making you scrape the snack cupboard shelves for chocolate crumbs (yep, I've been there too), then SLEEP and rest might be the next culprit. Sleep is essential for helping you stabilise your blood sugar levels and get off the blood-sugar rollercoaster. "But I have a small baby, a sick toddler, insomnia" I hear you cry! I know. We've all got a small person (or a larger one), or even our own mind that interrupts our sleep. But stop playing the bloomin' victim and just do what you can to get ... more ... sleep. Go to bed earlier. Switch off your screen. Take a nap. Have an Epsom salt bath with lavender candles and soft music just do what it takes to get more rest and notice the effect this has after a few days. Down with mummy martyrdom! Not hungry or sleep deprived? Well, as I'm sure you're aware, EMOTIONS like stress, anxiety, depression and guilt can also lead to us saying, 'Oh sod it', and finishing off the kids left over party bag of sweets or opening a bottle of wine when they're in bed. So stop. Identify the emotion that's taking you there and spend some time with it. Delve a little deeper and ask yourself, "What do I really need right now?". And the answer probably isn't, a packet of Jaffa cakes. This same process of elimination and delving can apply to any 'problem' we're having. Any issue with our behaviour or our circumstances that we're not happy with rarely has a simple answer like, 'Take some paracetamol'. But in our fast paced society that provides us with sooo many simple 'cures' to our problems like calorie-dense, nutrition-poor foods; television; facebook, drugs, alcohol etc etc, that we often don't stop long enough to work out the real answer. I recently shared a video in Heather's Health Hub (my free FB group for mums wanting to move more and live better), taking you through a simple exercise you can do when you're feeling the urge to cram some more carbs into your chops to get you through the next hour, and the next, and the next till bed time. Here it is. Try it with me now, you can use it any time you're feeling 'off'. Place your hands on your head and ask, Am I feeling stressed? Place your hands in your eyes and ask, Am I feeling tired? Place your hands in your throat and ask, Am I feeling thirsty? Place your hands on your heart and ask, Am I feeling anxious? Bored? Fed up? Lonely? Anything else? And finally place your hands on your belly and ask, Am I feeling HUNGRY? And if the answer to this final question is yes, then it's time to take some paracetamol, or in this case, to pull out your mental list of healthy snacks and enjoy. PS I feel I need to add that, if you still finish the bar of chocolate in spite of all of this, because you just fancy some chocolate - that -is - ok!!! Enjoy it, savour it and feel at peace with it. Sometimes sweet things are part of the answer.
Hope you found that helpful. Remember to sign up here to my mailing list for a fortnightly newsletter on fitness, food and mood for mums and join me in Heather's Health Hub and if you've any questions or comments please do get in touch.
Enjoy the rest of your day. Heather