The Kidney Stone Diet is much more than the goals I teach you, and changing lifestyle habits requires more than simply lowering sodium and drinking more water. Before I introduce students and patients to the KSD goals, we have a conversation about WHY they’re choosing to overeat unhealthy foods in the first place.
Many of my kidney stone patients/students are overweight. In fact, more than 72 million adults in our country suffer from obesity. That is staggering.
But why are so many people in our country overweight? Do they not realize that they’re overeating junk food? Do they not see that they’re eating too big a portion size? Do they not know that exercise is essential for weight loss? Do they not understand that broccoli is healthier than potato chips or that eating all night long will cause weight gain in most cases?
Yes, they know all of the above. People, for the most part, understand that overeating will lead to weight gain. So why do they do it? Well, this is the complicated part.
Before discussing basic nutrition facts, we must determine WHY we choose our foods.
Although people turn to food for many reasons, stress eating is one of the most common. Due to the pandemic, I have two specific types of patients at the moment. One type got into the best shape of their life, and the other used food to cope with the added stress the pandemic brought us. The American Psychological Association did a study that revealed the consequences of the pandemic (thus far).
Why is it that we want to eat when we’re stressed? It could be that cortisol and insulin levels are raised when we are emotionally or physically stressed. Other research suggests that ghrelin (the hunger hormone) may also play a role. The ghrelin hormone signals hunger in our brain, and so we eat. By the same token, if you are like me and don’t eat when stressed, this phase of not eating may only be short-lived. After being in a calorie deficit for too long, ghrelin will be released (that relentless hunger hormone), and you will, at some point, start eating again, and perhaps too much. It is all very complicated.
So for our purposes here, know this: those who overeat tend not to reach for a kale salad when stressed. Instead, we run for fat or sugar-laden food. Sugar-filled foods seem to dampen stress-related responses and emotions in our brains. So eating junk food comforts us. No surprise here. And that comfort is remembered, so we keep seeking it out during stressful situations. But as we both know, those few minutes of comfort get replaced with negative talk, shame, and guilt. And we relieve those negative feelings with, you guessed it, more junk food.
How can we break this cycle? First, we must find healthier coping skills. Just straightforward exchanges at first. Here’s a list of alternative choices and behaviors you might incorporate. Don’t worry; this list omits the more challenging things, such as meditation. And I won’t ask you to replace cupcakes with apples. That doesn’t work at the beginning of this type of change.
- Substitute diet soda for regular soda.
- Go for a walk to clear your brain.
- Find delicious and healthy snack options. My Kidney Stone Diet-Safe Snack & Dessert ebook will be super helpful to you.
- Remove all your trigger foods from your kitchen. Trigger foods are those that you can not control once you start eating. For me, that is Cheez-its. Or most crackers, for that matter.
- Be Mindful. Being mindful means each time you find yourself going into the proverbial cookie jar while experiencing stress, stop and ask yourself if this is what you want to do or if you can pick a healthier alternative. Sometimes, you will say, “Hell yeah, I am having a cupcake!” The goal here is not to be perfect every time but to be better than you were previously.
- Drink water to relieve hunger temporarily, and maybe even make this your first coping skill every time you have the urge to eat. Kidney stone formers will significantly benefit from this one.
- Make sure you eat regularly. I must push myself to eat when I am stressed throughout the day so that when nighttime comes, I don’t find ghrelin punching me in the face and eating everything in sight.
- Practice portion control. If you can’t cut your urge to have an unhealthy snack, at least eat it in standard portion size.
- Always remember your “why.” Meaning, why do you want to eat healthier? Most of you reading will say you never want to go through that kidney stone hell again. Or maybe you want to be healthy enough to play with grandchildren. What is YOUR why?
- If you meal prep, you can always have healthier options. Joining my meal plan service might be just what is needed to start eating healthier. All the KSD goals are figured out in each recipe.
This letter aims to get you thinking about your stress eating and to let you know you are NOT alone. Many people are eating to relieve stress. Awareness of what we do and when we do it is crucial in making healthier style changes. And as always, I don’t want you to be perfect. I want you to be better than you were. You will still, at times, head for a Ding Dong when you’re stressed. The goal is to do it less than you did before and to be aware of it. This is what I mean about being in the game.
YOU GOT THIS!
Your friend and advocate,
P.S. Check out what others say about the benefits of staying in the game.