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What your food choices have to do with anxiety...

I was 22 years old, and my heart felt like it was beating so hard that I couldn’t draw a deep breath. I was the office manager of my family’s business, and most days I spent running from one problem to the next. It felt as though there was always something that was on the verge of falling apart.

And it wasn’t only my breathing that was affected. My stomach was frequently unsettled or nauseated. I often felt too weary to do anything but sleep or watch television outside of work. I would find myself suddenly in tears over small incidents. Returning phone calls to address customer issues felt overwhelming.

The day that I found myself screaming into the phone at a corporate customer that hadn’t paid their bill, I knew something in me had been pushed too far.

It took three years and a lot of work to unravel what I had created for myself. And much of that time was spent trying to figure out what the heck I needed or even wanted, that I wasn’t getting.

Finally, a longtime friend and mentor, led me to ask a better question;

What was my body trying to tell me?

I was so focused on my thoughts and staying in control that I really had no idea what was going on with my body.

I looked at the way I was nourishing myself for the first time.

I often went without breakfast and jumped straight to coffee or strong black tea to start my morning. Often I would drink 4 to 5 cups of tea in a single morning.

Wendy’s spicy chicken sandwich and French fries were a favorite lunch.

A second afternoon coffee or pot of tea. Often accompanied by peanut M&M’s.

Take-out Chinese food on the way home, or a dinner of comfort foods such as pasta or creamy chicken and rice.

Dessert. Haagen Dasz and chocolate chip cookies were frequent.

It was easy to see that my food choices were poor, and to understand that I was soothing my anxiety by reaching for comfort foods.

But what if my food choices were ADDING to my anxiety?

Starting my day with a heavy dose of caffeine was sending my cortisol levels through the roof. This false “high” had to be balanced out with an ever-deeper low.

My food choices later in the day were exacerbating the highs and lows by spiking my blood sugar which would then drop so low that sugar cravings were overwhelming.

Consuming so many simple sugars was wreaking havoc with my digestive system, and keeping me in a chronic state of elevated cortisol. My reactions were to fight or retreat, as my body was experiencing a constant state of crisis.

My digestive system was so inflamed from the low quality food and unaddressed food sensitivities, that my body was no longer able to create and uptake adequate levels of serotonin, a neuro-transmitter manufactured in the small intestine and responsible for regulating and boosting mood.   

Talk about a full on attack! No matter how much I controlled my thoughts or tried to hide and process my emotions, there was no outrunning the impact of my eating habits.

If you are struggling with anxiety, or anger, or overwhelm, or feel as though you are battling dark moods that you can’t explain….

What is your body trying to tell you?

And how are you nourishing yourself?

There is truth in the statement that what you eat, you become. Begin to gently transition away from those foods that exacerbate stress and anxiety by increasing the stabilizing and grounding foods that bring clarity and strength.

Cutting out some of the common trigger foods is a great place to start; Gluten, Dairy, Refined Sugar, Soy, and Corn.

Increase foods like sweet potatoes, avocado, spinach, arugula, collard greens, celery, quinoa, fresh fruit, almonds, brazil nuts, and hazel nuts.

These foods provide the fats, complex carbohydrates, and minerals that bring balance. They support the adrenals, and can begin to soothe your digestive system and allow you to absorb more of the available nutrients in your food, giving your body the building blocks to begin functioning at a higher level.

One small change at a time.

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Rachel KhaniComment