Tom’s June Update

These first few weeks of fatherhood have been, in a word, stressful. 

Admittedly my situation is not unique. Every new parent has had that “oh sh*t” realization that there’s this brand new human you’re responsible for keeping alive, and you’re somehow supposed to know what to do despite never having done this before. Add in the sleep deprivation, and it’s no surprise that I haven’t been making the best eating choices . . . which then adds more guilt (i.e., stress) to the mix. It’s a vicious cycle. And whether you’re a parent or not, I’m sure you recognize it.

People gain weight during stressful times for all sorts of reasons, but I suspect many of us have been conditioned to reward ourselves with food (or drinks). When I was growing up, any difficult thing that I accomplished or endured was rewarded with food. Got good grades? Let’s go out for ice cream. Finished your chores? Have a cupcake. This was how my parents themselves were conditioned—my mom told me that when she was pregnant with me, she would leave a successful doctor’s checkup and immediately drive to the donut shop to treat herself. (My obsession with donuts clearly started early!)

All of this to say, we often struggle with our weight and eating habits not because we fail to understand that an apple is healthier than a donut, but because that donut is more satisfying to our psychological reward circuit. And when life is hard, we deserve a treat, don’t we?

I wish the next thing I could share was that fasting with Zero is “The Solution” to this conundrum. But if that were true, I’d never have broken my fasting streak and I’d be breezing through these first few weeks of fatherhood. The good news is that some of my stress abated last week, and I’m already finding a foothold to make healthier choices about what and when to eat. I’m also finding that the two go hand in hand. When I am logging successful fasts in Zero, it keeps me more mindful of my food-related decisions. For instance, if I experience that knee-jerk “I need a treat” reaction, I can often delay it until my eating window starts . . . at which point the trigger is weaker, and I can even sometimes forgo the treat.

“Delaying the treat is a great first step to get back in control. Pick a time in the future to consider all the ‘treats’ you postponed and choose the one you most want,” says Dr. Parrella, our Chief Medical Officer. “Other ways to break the food-as-reward cycle are to find something non-food-related that satisfies the compulsion, like getting out in nature, engaging in a creative hobby that requires your hands, calling a friend, going for a walk or spending time with a pet.”

She also recommends making those “treat” foods harder to access. And I can attest—if I have to take fifteen minutes out of my day to get up and go get that donut, especially if it will also break my fast, I’m far less likely to indulge.

Are stress and food linked for you? What have you found exacerbates the situation, and what helps? At Zero, we’re always looking for ways to help you make the best food choices, even during times of stress, so any input you can share is valuable.

Tom Conrad
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