5 Ways to Avoid Teacher Stress Eating

Digestion Linked to Teacher Happiness?

Note: I am not a nutritionist in any type of fashion. I just have eaten my fair share of donuts in the teacher's lounge. 

I am not sure if the above statement is true; however, I do know that digestion is forever linked to the teacher stress cycle. 

Teacher stress cycle (noun): The culminating effect of repeating certain behaviors, thoughts, and actions that contribute to, instead of getting away from, daily stressors. 

I originally started this post back in January, and it has been sitting in my draft bin for some time. Something about telling teachers not to have the donut in the teacher lounge didn't sit right with me. I felt like a traitor. Teachers work ridiculously long hours each day and on the weekend, why can't they indulge? The answer is that they should. They should eat the donut, go on the vacation, get the tattoo, or try out the new spicy pho dish. However, they should also be able to put some constraints on their life that force them to realize that limits are actually giving us freedom. 

I was reading a blog post on The Blissful Mind. Catherine was talking about "5 Simple Ways to Boost Your Wellness Routine," and she started right away by talking about digestion.  I go through the same stress cycle each year when it comes to what I eat and my own personal digestion and diet. Summer begins, and I always lose weight immediately.  Call it the reduction in cortisol, call it the feeling of being grateful for making it another school year, I get healthier almost as fast as within a blink of an eye. Combine stress with food and the inability to manage a schedule, the result is a  predictable response of not just gaining weight throughout the year, but also not recovering from a cycle of stress. I find that during the year, I eating more not only because I find it indulgent, I am eating more because it is a celebration to get through each day with some measure of sanity. 

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Get to the end of the week? Eat a cookie. Make it through winter state testing? 12 lattes. And so on. The problem with this reward system is that food is seen as an ultimate prize. I have a pretty negative mindset when it comes to working out (even though this is a goal of mine as well). Both balanced eating and working out are needed to combat the teacher stress cycle. You don't stand a chance of not waking up at 3 am to think about a lesson plan if you haven't gotten a chance to get a sweat in. We need to exercise, and we need to watch what is going into our bodies. 

As teachers, we need to find another reward system besides food. 

Digestive self-care is self-care. By becoming more calculated about what enters our bodies during the day and after the day is done, we become more aware of what we need in order to be healthy mind, body, and spirit. 

The Five Ways

#1: Refocus the purpose of the teacher's lounge.  

The teacher lounge is for talking, socializing, and connecting with fellow teachers. Make your copies, ask about the other teacher's 3-year-old in daycare, collaborate on a lesson. Don't touch the 2-day old donuts or plate of cookies (unless an emergency). There were times when I have been so stressed that I have grabbed 2-3 of these to get through the day. Let me be clear there is nothing wrong with an occasional indulgence, but teachers often get sucked into making this a routine of "treat yo self." I had what I liked to call the "serenity plan" my first couple years of teaching that involved me eating to my heart's content if I made it through the week. This established bad habits that I still am trying to break. 

#2: Pack lunch. 

I had what we like to call "spa lunch" for a couple of years. It was amazing. I had lunch backed up to my plan time, so my teammates and I had time to go grab lunch and a latte even. We had time to pee. We had time to talk. It was glorious. What didn't we have? More time to work and take back our plan time. Moving to a different plan time has been much better for our overall health because we are actually working on our plan time more, and spending less time catching a break from the building. I miss those lattes, but I also appreciate taking less work home on the weekends or at night. 

#3: Eat breakfast. 

For the longest, I never ate breakfast. I survived on an extra large Tervis mug full of coffee to get me through to lunchtime. Not only is this not good for sugar levels, but I also was not kicking my metabolism into gear in the morning by depriving it of food. Breakfast matters. I have successfully shifted my mindset in this area. Even if I wake up late, I stop and eat something in the morning. I sometimes sacrifice mascara in order to do this, but at least I am taking care of my body first. 

#4: Calculate when you need a snack. 

I have lunch at 10:42 am. For many people, they are just starting their day. By the time 3:30 rolls around and I arrive home, I want to eat all of the things. Everything. The key to fighting this is to pack a snack to have after kids leave in the afternoon or while you are making copies for the next day or week after school. This snack will get you through until dinner when your spouse or partner arrives at the regular time of 5:30. I also find that using my FitBit and MyFitnessPal helps with this calculation. Sometimes I hit 8,000 steps before lunch depending on the type of day. On these days, I am more forgiving of myself if I have a treat or if I need the extra-extra-large mocha latte. 

#5: Indulge ONE day with something small. 

The message of this post is not to eat vegetables and no donuts forever. Again, I am not a health coach or a licensed nutritionist. The message is that teachers are surrounded by stressors, and one way to battle them is to focus on the quality of our nutrition. I do know from 8 years of teaching that my self-care is what is sacrificed first in this profession in terms of diet, sleep, and quality time. So, with that being said, have the donut at the staff meeting or the cupcake that the kids brought in to celebrate their birthday. I just practice restraint and keep it small when it happens. There is a difference between one cookie and 5. 

Writing Mindset Reflection: How do you balance a diet while teaching?