If you haven’t yet seen the now-famous Tina Fey "sheet cake skit" on Saturday Night Live, please do so right now – it’s amazingly funny and excruciating. We laugh helplessly, watching Tina virtually inhale an entire sheet cake as she rants about the stress associated with the Trump presidency in general and the recent events in Charlottesville in particular.
As hilarious as Tina Fey’s sketch is, it also underscores something we don’t need to tell you: most of us crave sugary &/or/fatty &/or salty food when we’re stressed.
And yes, the “Trump Ten” — the extra pounds that so many of us have piled on as a result of the extra stress and anxiety associated with living in the current uniquely bizarre political climate — is real. Shortly after the election, an obesity-medicine physician, Fatima Cody Stanford, noted in an article in the Boston Globe that “numb and fearful patients were backsliding into comfort food.” Our personal favorite quote from one of Dr. Stanford’s patients is, "Last night I went for homemade mac and cheese. It was satisfying, although that damn [jerk] is still going to be my President."
In an earlier post, we talked about how “eating your feelings” begins as a way to comfort and protect yourself, but then becomes destructive in its effects. “Comfort foods” are a quick fix that really don’t fix anything. Using food for comfort or stress relief is a bad idea for one reason: it doesn’t work. So what does work? Here are two suggestions:
1. Find alternative, non-food stress relievers. For the two of us, what has worked has been to write down a list so that we can refer back as the need arises:
Jay — here’s my list:
- go for a run
- write in my journal or in my gratitude journal
- take deep breaths
- take a hot shower
- color in my coloring book
- spend time with friends,
- learn something new
- explore a new area of the city
- watch a show on Netflix
Janice: Here’s my list:
- yank out weeds in the garden
- read a novel
- call a friend
- listen to classical music
- dance to rock music
- take the dog for a walk
- watch a baseball game while I needlepoint
2. Unplug. According to a poll taken in January, 2017 by the American Psychological Association (APA), more than half of Americans felt stressed about the outcome of the last Presidential Election. Katherine C. Nordal, APA's executive director for professional practice says, "We're surrounded by conversations, news and social media that constantly remind us of the issues that are stressing us the most.” She suggests “If the 24-hour news cycle is causing you stress, limit your media consumption. Read enough to stay informed, but then plan activities that give you a regular break from the issues and the stress they might cause. And remember to take care of yourself and pay attention to other areas of your life."
Janice — I gained eight pounds after the election. I was sleepless, anxious, stunned, and frightened. And then I thought to myself, “Just how much power am I going to let this man have in my life?” And that did it. No more chocolate found its way to my house. I went back to my stress reliever list. I stopped watching the news on television and listened only to classical music and baseball on the radio. He’s still the President, but I’m not wearing him on my hips any longer.
How are you coping in these troubling times? We'd love to hear from you.