Got Stress? Eat This.

We all have our stressful times of the year. You may have stress associated with an annual project at work, final exams, planning a wedding, or the holiday season. While most of these stressors are short-lived, some people are prone to stress more consistently throughout the year.

I know that when I’m stressed I tend to do one of two things:

  1. Eat bad food
  2. Spend money

Both of these reactions to stress can leave me feeling even more stressed in the end – eating bad food makes us feel bad eventually and spending lots of money, although a temporary mood booster, may leave us with buyer’s remorse. If you’re like me and find yourself eating and shopping in times of stress, it may be time to take action.

Pencil erasing the word "stress"

I came across a recent article in Woman’s Day magazine about foods that help you fight stress. I don’t normally read Woman’s Day, online or in print, but the title intrigued me. What should I be eating to reduce stress? I wondered. Before I get to this, let’s look at the culprit itself – STRESS!

According to the Mayo Clinic Web site, stress is the  normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of daily life. When we’re stressed, our bodies release two hormones:

  • Adrenaline – a hormone that increases our heart rate and blood pressure, and boosts our energy.
  • Cortisol – the primary stress hormone. It increases sugars in the blood stream, alters immune system responses, and suppresses the digestive system, the reproductive system, and growth processes. Research suggests that cortisol directly influences food consumption, stimulating a person to eat food that is high in fat and/or sugar.

So, if we are naturally conditioned to eat when we are stressed, why not eat something healthy? Makes sense, right?

Thank goodness Woman’s Day has identified 8 mood-boosting foods that are not only healthy but can help us lower our overall anxiety. Let’s take a look at the top stress-fighting foods:

8 Foods to Help Fight Stress

(adapted from Woman’s Day)

  1. Dark Chocolate – Dark chocolate is high in the flavonoids, which are known for their relaxing properties. And, the darker chocolate, the better – aim for 70% cacao or higher.
  2. Skim Milk – Studies have shown that women who drink four or more glass of milk a day are less likely to experience stress than those who don’t.
  3. Oatmeal – This should be an easy one for all you food bloggers out there! As mentioned above, when we’re stressed, we crave carbs. You can indulge these carb cravings with healthy carbs like oatmeal, which is high in fiber and keeps you feeling full longer.
  4. Salmon – Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, like salmon, help reverse stress by boosting serotonin levels. An omega-3 rich diet may also help suppress cortisol and adrenaline production.
  5. Walnuts – As we all know, stress can have a significant impact on our blood pressure. Walnuts help keep our blood press in check.
  6. Sunflower Seeds – These folate-rich seeds help the body produce dopamine, a pleasure-inducing chemical in the brain.
  7. Spinach – This leafy green is high in magnesium which helps to improve the body’s response to stress.
  8. Blueberries – These little berries pack a huge punch with all of their antioxidants, which counteract the effects of stress hormones.

Although there’s no proof that combining all of these foods in one sitting will make you a stress-fighting superhero, combining these foods may make it a littler easier to get your stress-free food fix throughout the day. But, if you are really feeling stressed – you could always try this super-charged, stress-reducing breakfast:

Stress-Free Breakfast: Steel-cut oats made with skim milk, topped with blueberries, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and dark chocolate chips – oh yeah, and don’t forget the spinach wrapped salmon on the side!

Do Not Disturb

Hey All,

I didn’t sleep well at ALL last night. It doesn’t help that I was:

A) Up late picking out clothes for Fitbloggin
B) Up even later worrying about my clothing choices Fitbloggin
C) Distracted by Miss M who, at just 2 years old, insists that she is not tired and would like to play with cars in the dark

    Ugh! Sleepless nights are hard and they make for even harder mornings. So, it may be no surprise that I did NOT run today as planned. I had hoped to get an extra hour of sleep, but that plan didn’t go over very well.  I need to hang a sign on my door that says Do Not Disturb – too bad Mr. C and Miss M can’t read yet. The other day, Mr. C so kindly asked me, do they let you sleep at work? No, mommy does not get nap time at work – or at home apparently.

    Maybe I’ll actually get some sleep at Fitbloggin – he he! Unless of course, we’re all going out dancing, at which point I will stay out all night reliving my sorority girl days. I’m hoping Ashley can give us all the scoop on the Baltimore restaurants and nightlife!

    Aside from Low and Behold, has anyone else started packing yet? I’m usually like Low and pack a week or so in advance just because I’m so excited. But, I literally feel like I just unpacked from my trip to Orlando, so I’m not motivated to start packing yet. Aside from my trip to Baltimore, I’m headed back to Orlando just after Easter, then back to Washington, DC, for a week in May. Anyone else have travel plans for the Spring/Summer?

    The other day I went to the grocery store and found myself in the produce section, as always. I’m very frustrated that fruit costs so much, yet you’re supposed to eat 4-5 servings a day. Looking at all the fruit, I was reminded of the healthy eating tip about buying several single pieces of fruit and placing them in a big bowl on your counter or desk at work. Then, when you have the urge to snack, you eat a piece of fruit.

    I tried that, but unfortunately, the fruit is not ripe and won’t be ripe for a few days. So it is just sitting in my cute little bowl mocking me as I contemplate what snack I can actually eat. Some chocolate chips are sounding good right about now.!

    Oooh, wait. Scott just came home with 4 quarts of ice cream from our local dairy…

    This is exactly what happens when you’re fruit is not ripe – he he!

    Have a great night.

    Random Grocery Trip

    Hey All,

    I just got back from a totally random trip to Fresh Market. When I say random, I mean the opposite of having a list and plan. You know what this means – danger, danger Will Robinson.

    My trip ended with the following grocery items:

    • A French baguette – it was still warm and so soft!
    • A red plum – I have never had a plum before, that I know of anyway, so I thought I’d give it a whirl.
    • Two dates – I really have no idea why I bought these. I’ve never had a fresh date before. I’m not even sure how you eat them.
    • Four bakery cookies – This was really what I went to the store for…toffee and chocolate cookies!
    • A green pepper – I assumed we needed one for my pasta primavera dish I’m making tomorrow. I had pepper remorse for this one small pepper cost $1.65! Yikes – no more random pepper shopping.
    • Bonne Maman Raspberry Preserves – Thought it might go well with the French baguette. Besides, I’ve heard great things about this jam and wanted to try it.

    So I went into the store intending to buy about $2 worth of cookies and came out with $12 worth of random items. Has this ever happened to anyone else?

    Anyway, my day started with an awesome run outside – yes, outside! Can you believe it? It was nearly 50 degrees at 6:15 AM this morning – that’s pretty mild for March weather in Chi-town. After my run, I refueled with more Kashi and blueberries…

    I also stopped at the ‘Buck to pick up a skinny ‘nilla latte – hmm..hmm. good. The great thing about lattes is that even when they get cold, you can warm them up in the microwave for 30 seconds and they taste all steamy and creamy again :-).

    Lunch was a cup of minestrone soup from Go Roma with a small bread stick…

    I love soup. I swear I could eat it every day. Maybe I should move to Belgium where eating soup every day is the social norm. A few hours after lunch, I snacked on a Luna sunrise bar then headed out the door to enjoy the last hour of sunshine in Chicago.

    For dinner, I threw together a salad using leftover greens from our fajita dinner, plus added some parmesan baked chicken and shredded cheddar…

    This was just filling enough to make a solid dinner – one that saved room for a chocolate toffee cookie – oh yeah!

    Alright, enough randomness for one night. See you tomorrow!

    Lovin' My New Lill Bag!

    Hi there! As many of you know, a few weeks ago, I headed downtown with Anne to design my own bag at 1154 Lill. Well, three weeks later, my bag has finally arrived!

    Introducing my new 1154 Lill Erika bag. It’s big enough to hold my Macbook Pro and a few odds and ends. The bag has a plum base color with a Queen Anne’s Lace accent stripe…

    On the inside, I decided to show my wild side with an African cheetah print…

    I love my Lill! After making this one, I so want to make another one…hmm, maybe for my birthday!

    Alright, enough about my new chic bag…on with the day…it started with a 30-minute run on the t-mill followed by some fast walking and an ab workout. That makes 5 days of running straight – I think I’m ready for a break.

    Breakfast was about 3 oz of Trader Joe’s vanilla Greek yogurt with some of my new Galaxy Granola

    The folks at Galaxy sent me 3 bags of their awesome granola while I was on vacation. I was so excited to get it and practically tore into it on the spot. I really admire the Galaxy brand and its new Web site promoting granola made with Fruit Not Fat. Many of the granola brands out there are loaded with sugar, fat, and ingredients that I can’t even pronounce. That’s the main reason why I try to make my own because I can control my own ingredients. Galaxy Granola seems to have recognized the importance of making a product all-natural because they make their granola with naturally healthy ingredients like applesauce and honey, instead of corn syrup and oils. Now that’s my kind of granola!

    The vanilla almond flavor also had whole almonds in it, which made my yogurt extra crunchy…

    So yum and so filling – good thing I only used 1/2 a carton of the yogurt and 1/8 cup granola! On my way to work, I also picked up a skinny vanilla latte, since I missed out on my treat yesterday. Ahh, how I’ve missed my Starbucks.

    Lunch ended up being some leftover risotto which was good, but just not filling enough. I snacked on a banana, some lemon tea, and a few “thank you” cookies…

    I call them “thank you” cookies, because each cookie had the words “thank you” on them, but in different languages. As you can see, I ate 1/2 of the merci cookie before I took the picture 🙂

    Dinner was a family favorite – Scott’s homemade pasta sauce with a big ‘ole side of broccoli…

    OK, that’s enough for tonight. I’m off to repack my Lill for tomorrow!



    Hi all! We just returned from vacation late last night. So far today, I’ve unpacked, cleaned, and have been nursing a migraine for most of the day. Be back tomorrow with more details.

    Take care.

    Gerber Daisies Make Me Smile

    Happy  Valentine’s Day! Hope you all have someone special to share the day with.

    I received a lovely bouquet of bright pink Gerber Daisies for Valentine’s Day. Gerber Daisies have been my favorite flower for years – they are such a happy flower and always make me smile!

    The rest of the day was not so exciting. Scott and I worked most of the day. He worked on a big project for a client and I studied for my CPT exam. I can’t believe I’m taking the test this Tuesday! Happy Mardi Gras to me 🙂 I am so glad that I am off of work tomorrow so that I can study.

    Alright, it’s back to the books for me. Have a great night!

    Crash and Burn

    Happy Friday Everyone!

    Trader Joe’s Recall

    For all of you who have not heard, Trader Joe’s is recalling its chocolate chip chewy coated granola bars due to potential contamination that may cause a food-borne illness.  There have been no reported illnesses as of yet, but they are taking precautions, which I think is very admirable. Way to go TJ’s for being on top of things.

    Crash and Burn

    This morning, I had a little accident just before getting on the treadmill. A couple years ago, Scott made a rolling cart/wrack to hold a flatscreen monitor. The television can play through the monitor so it is a great way to watch shows or the news while you’re on the eliptical or treadmill. Well this morning, when I was rolling the cart over to the treadmill, it hit a bump and the monitor fell on my HEAD! My head and shoulders literally stopped the monitor from crashing to the ground. You might not think that a flatscreen monitor weighs a lot, and for the most part, the screen doesn’t. But the base weighs anywhere from 8-10 pounds. As it came crashing down on my head, the sharp corner of the monitor scraped my head and left a very nice gash above my eyebrow…

    It’s kind of ironic that so many injuries happen on the treadmill each year and my injury happened off the treadmill. I didn’t realize how bad the cut was at first. I was dizzy for a few minutes but then was able to regroup and get on the treadmill. It wasn’t until I reached up to feel my head that I realized I was bleeding – yuck! Head wounds are not so fun. After cleaning it off, the only bandaids that I could find were either Hello Kitty or Batman. I went with Batman – somehow it made me feel tougher. I have since been to the store to get “adult” bandaids.

    I’m hoping tomorrow is going to be a better day. I’m meeting Anne in downtown Chicago to make a purse at 1154 Lill. I am so excited! Scott bought me a gift card there for our anniversary in September and I’ve been dying to use it. The last time I made a purse there – 4 years ago – it took me about 2 hours to pick out all of the materials and extras. They have so many great fabrics and patterns, it’s hard to choose! I plan to take lots of pictures of my purse-making outing so stay tuned.

    See you all tomorrow.

    Weather Obsession

    You all would have been so proud of me today! While driving into work, I was really craving a Starbucks mocha frap. I somehow managed to justify stopping just one more time this week, but at the very last second, I said “no”, and went straight to the office! Plus, after dinner tonight, Scott and I played the who wants to go out to get a treat game. I offered to go at first, but then decided we didn’t need to consume the calories or spend the money. Again, so proud!

    OK, can I be more obsessed with the weather these days. And it’s not because of Chicago’s recent snowapalooza or the fact that it is bitter cold. I have been obsessed about the weather for my vacation to Florida. I feel like I’m going onto The Weather Channel site every hour, just to see if Orlando’s forecast has magically change. Will it rain or snow? Will it be sunny or cloudy? Will it be warm enough to swim or wear shorts? Only time will tell. And, as soon as it does change, I am going to be the first one to know because I’ve got the Weather Channel booked marked. Strangely enough, I feel like one of those retirees who can only talk about the weather or sales at the grocery store. I’m not alone though. I’m going to guess the folks in the mid-Atlantic states are pretty obsessed with their weather right now too.

    Enough of the randomness. I’m off to bed. I have a big day of running, shopping, and studying on tap for tomorrow. Then Saturday, it’s a surprise activity that’s just for all the single ladies – hint, it involves purses!

    Have a great night everyone.

    The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

    The Good…

    I just finished my dessert for the evening – a kid’s size chocolate ice cream with Heath bar from Cold Stone Cremery…

    It was VERY small, we’re talking a 1/2 cup at the most. But it was sooo good! Just enough to keep me satisfied. 

    The Bad…Chicago’s Earthquake

    So, about 4 AM Central this morning, an earthquake rocked Chicagoland. It was a small earthquake – only 3.8 on the scale. To my knowledge it didn’t cause any damage or panic in the streets. Did I feel it? Yes. It woke me up from a dead sleep. Was I scared? No. It wasn’t that bad – more of an odd feeling, like you’re not sure what’s going on. The bed and windows were shaking. I thought it was a slow plow outside the house. But  then I realized I didn’t hear the scraping of the snow and didn’t see any truck lights. When the bed stopped shaking after about 10 seconds, I contemplated waking Scott up to proclaim that we had just experienced an earthquake. I decided against it and went back to bed.

    It’s rather strange though. Although I heard it all over the news on my drive to work, NO ONE at work said anything about it. Like it never happened. Strange.

    The Ugly…

    I received a note from my younger brother today. He moved to Orlando about a month ago to start his new job as a physical therapy assistant. I haven’t seen him since Thanksgiving so we’ve been emailing back and forth about my trip to Orlando in a few weeks. Yesterday, I asked him how the weather was at Disney World and he replied…

    It is cold at night. During the day, you will need something to cover your arms. When the sun goes down, you will need some type of pants. The water parks do not open unless the temp is in the high 60s.

    I was sooo bummed when I read this!! I wanted to go to Orlando to get away from the cold, but it appears that the cold will be following me on vacation. I know that the whole country is experiencing colder than normal temps, but for some reason I always think of Florida as being immune to the cold weather. Like even when it’s 70 degrees, it still feels hot. Hmm…not so much.

    Oh please, please, please Mother Nature, Old Man Winter, and whoever else will listen, PLEASE give me at least a few 75 degree, sunny days on my vacation!

    Stress Eating

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was working on a huge proposal that, if signed/passed, would leave me with more responsibility and possibly a promotion. Well, since that time, the proposal has gone through several revisions, particularly to the budget.

    After all of this waiting – which has actually been over a year – we are having what may be our final call about the proposal tomorrow. This means, we may find out as soon as tomorrow whether or not we have our new “big project” to take on. I will be very disappointed if we don’t get this deal and it’s not just because of the promotion. I have spent so much time on this project that I just want to know either way – I just want to be done with not knowing.

    Anyway, enough ranting. Today was not a very good day as far as food goes. I definitely went over my self-imposed 1,600 calorie limit. I find that when I’m stressed, especially about work, I tend to eat more and more often. Running or exercising in general usually helps curb the desire to eat. But when I’m at the office, it’s not like I can hop on the treadmill or even take a walk outside in the winter.

    Does anyone else have this problem? What do you do to stop stress eating?

    I won’t get into all of the details of what I ate today, but let’s just say I had my fair share of sweets. Thank goodness dinner ended up being pretty healthy to balance things out…

    I was able to get home a little earlier than normal so I whipped up some turkey tacos made with green and yellow peppers. Instead of eating actual tacos in a tortilla, I decided to skip the tortillas (which can add quite a few calories on their own) and have some chips and salsa instead.

    Chicago is expecting another big winter storm. Although it will be nothing like what our mid-Atlantic friends experienced the last few days, we are still expected to get 10-14 inches in the next 36 hours. My office actually has a secured, internal web site where staff can check from home to see if the office is closed before they leave. Many times, I have rushed to my computer hoping to see that magic phrase – Our offices are closed due to inclement weather – kind of like being in school again 🙂 However, in my 8 years of working there, they’ve only closed the office once, so I’m not holding my breath for tomorrow – although it would be really nice to have an extra day to study.

    And speaking of studying, I’m off to do just that! Have a good night.