You wake up with the best intentions. You start the day off right with some scrambled eggs and veggies. “Yeah. Let’s do this,” you say. You eat that mid-morning snack of cottage cheese. “Oh yeah, on target!” You are kicking ass at work…be it at the office, or in your laundry room. This day is yours. You bet. Lunch is a turkey wrap, some fresh fruit and a salad. “Yeah, high five to self.” Then comes 2 PM. Suddenly you don’t give a crap about staying on track with your healthy eating. You want some goddam chocolate. The kids are squabbling, or your boss wants that TPS report stat. When does your husband get off work anyway? You realize that you never did get out of those yoga pants, so why bother trying to fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans anyway. If you are at the office, you are trying to pry your eyelids open and wondering how many hours left until you can take off your bra. You are so tired and you’ve worked so hard all day. That chocolate is the answer. You deserve it.
That 2 PM energy crash happens to all of us, and our self-control is tested at this time more than any other time of the day. It is the grown-up version of the witching hour. We are fresh out of patience and energy. Turns out that energy crash is a real thing. Our circadian rhythm gives us a mini dose of melatonin in the afternoon. The late afternoon slump is real. (Well, great). Good news though, there are ways to lessen its effect, keep you more energized, and prevent you from reaching for junk food or overdoing the caffeine.
- Eat often: Be sure you keep your body fueled earlier in the day. I don’t mean with coffee. Protein, veggies, and fruits will keep your body running like a well-oiled machine. If you are full on healthy options, you are not only less likely to experience a crash later in the day, but you are more likely to continue to reach for healthy options as the clock ticks on. Hunger begets desperation and you are guaranteed to reach for that starchy, sugar, processed food if you get too hungry. So be proactive.
- Breakfast really is the most important meal. Americans dig sugary breakfast foods, but this sets you up for a day of poor eating. If you spike your blood sugar early on, you are in an all-day cycle of highs and lows. If you usually eat cereal, try adding some protein to your morning. How about a veggie egg scramble, a piece of sprouted bread with almond butter and banana, or even (gasp) last night’s leftovers if you need to rush out the door?
- Avoid sugary foods and read labels. Sugar sucks. Read why here. Sugar is in the majority of processed foods. Check labels! Even “health foods” are often laden with sugar. One of the biggest health food traps is yogurt. You think you are making a wise choice eating that vanilla Greek yogurt, but often this ever-popular snack has the sugar equivalent of a bowl of ice cream. Opt for plain, unsweetened Greek yogurt. (Or for God’s sake if you are going to have 20 grams of sugar, make it a bowl of ice cream). Instead of a sugary granola bar, try an apple with almond butter. You get the idea.
- Exercise: I know it seems counter-intuitive. You are tired. Exercise is the last thing you feel like doing. Try doing a few squats, or going on a short walk. You don’t need to set any records. Just get moving.
- Take a nap: IF YOU CAN. I know this is super unrealistic for the vast majority of us on the daily (hence my other suggestions above), but a 20 minute nap can do wonders. In a culture of “Go, Go, Go,” I know it is often frowned upon. Beyond that, we have kids who don’t always nap on cue, deadlines at work, and things to get done.
- Stay hydrated: Many people are unaware of just how powerful the effects of dehydration are on the body. Lack of energy is a major sign of dehydration. Be sure to drink water throughout the day and remember, if you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated! Here are some tips on upping your water intake.
- Have healthy snacks on–hand: This leads back to tip #1. The best pick-me-up snacks have protein to keep you full. Here is my go-to list of snacks when the 2 PM crash comes my way.
Unsweetened Greek Yogurt with Stevia and Cinnamon
RX Bars (These are my faves!)
Cottage Cheese with Banana
Celery with Almond Butter and Raisins
Jerky (watch for sugar. I like the Epic Bars: Epic All Natural Meat Bar, 100% Natural, Chicken Sriracha, 1.5 ounce bar, 12 Count).
Apple and Almond Butter
Dried Green Beans, Snap Peas, or Trader Joe’s Broccoli Snack
Hearts of Palm (Costco often has these at a great price!)
8. Ditch the guilt: Beating yourself up over “poor” food choices leads to a really unhealthy relationship with food—and that it way worse than going up a pant size. You may even find if you let go of some of the “bad food/good food” mentality, and instead think of food as nourishment, you might just gravitate to the “good food” choices organically. If you ate the pint of ice cream and not the kale chips today, don’t let it set you back. Try again tomorrow. You have the strength. You have the power. Food is your fuel. It is not a source of punishment or even reward for that matter. Food is energy. Food is love. Food is nourishing. So eat.