How to Maintain Healthy Habits When You Aren’t Feeling Well

For the past several weeks, I’ve been battling some pretty unpleasant tummy issues. It’s thrown me and my healthy eating (and exercise) habits through a loop. I’ve always had a “stomach of steel,” so I never really paid much attention to what I ate until now. To help with my wonky digestion issues, my doctor suggested limiting the high-fiber foods in my diet to give my system a rest and to minimize symptoms, so I’ve avoided all of my usual healthy fruits, veggies, and whole grains and started to eat more bland, intestine-friendly foods, including chicken, rice, bananas, and sweet potatoes. And I do feel better!

This hasn’t been a common occurrence, but there are certainly other times that I don’t feel 100%—times when I need to change how and what I eat. In the past when I wasn’t feeling well, I used it as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted. I mean, I didn’t feel well, so comfort food made perfect sense. For me, this meant frosting-covered Pop Tarts and neon orange Kraft Mac & Cheese, which obviously weren’t the most nutritious or figure-friendly options. Now, here’s how I get myself healthy when I’m feeling under the weather without blowing my diet and exercise routine all together.

If I have the flu
When I came down with the flu last year, I was worried I’d trade regular exercise, fruits, and veggies for a whole lot of junk food, but I was surprised that I didn’t have much of an appetite. Once my nausea subsided, I stuck to bland food that could be easily digested, like saltine crackers, plain noodles, and scrambled eggs. Exercise was, of course, out of the question when I was feeling this badly. I knew my body needed to slow down and rest so that it could fully recover. As soon as my fever broke, I reverted back to eating more nutritious foods, and I made sure to get outside for a few brisk walks.

If I have the sniffles
During cold season, if I come down with a case of the sniffles, I change my eating habits based on my level of sickness. For instance, if I am really out of commission for the first couple of days, I lighten up my diet expectations and I don’t push myself to exercise. But I also don’t let myself get totally off track. I don’t to use only a mild cold (if I’m sure that’s really all it is) as an excuse to eat unhealthy food or skip the gym, so I incorporate my healthy habits back into my routine at the first sign that I’m feeling better.

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I have a headache
Dehydration is a common cause of headaches, so I aim to drink 8 to 10 eight-ounce glasses of water every day. Additionally, if I feel a headache coming on, I’ll try to snack on nutrient-rich foods like watermelon and other fruits and veggies, which have a high water content and can help stop a headache.

I’m hungover
Okay, I’d admit—last weekend I had a few too many cocktails with some friends, so I dealt with a terrible hangover the next day. Drinking alcohol dehydrates and zaps the body of potassium, so to help with hangover-related headaches and other not-so-great feelings, I loaded up my diet with potassium-rich foods like bananas and coconut water to help me feel better.

I’m just plain tired
Instead of grabbing an iced coffee when the mid-afternoon slump hits, I make green smoothies for a more nutritious energy punch. My favorite Coconut-Kale Smoothie combines carbohydrates, potassium, and fiber, which gives me the boost of energy that I need to get me through the afternoon. A smoothie is also a lot more satisfying than a cup of coffee, so it holds off my hunger until dinnertime with no problem.

More: Read Tina’s daily food and fitness blog, Carrots ‘N’ Cake.

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