How I Broke Free from Burnout by Eating More

Relaxation

“Our food should be our medicine, and our medicine should be our food.” ~Hippocrates

There I was—it was 3 p.m. on my first day at my new job, the job I was so desperate for, and I was falling asleep. Right there, in a conference room filled with over twenty people, and I was nodding off.

I couldn’t believe it. I was embarrassed, ashamed, and seriously questioning if I was ready or capable of this whole “adult” thing. How was it that I could barely keep my eyes open on my first day? I was supposed to be a young, vibrant, twenty-three-year-old woman taking on the world.

And I fell asleep.

I had heard about burnout. Surely, I felt some of the symptoms, like fatigue (clearly), procrastination, and an inability to get small tasks done.

But at twenty-three, was I really burnt-out? Or was it something else?

Today’s hustle culture is demanding, and more people are experiencing stress, fatigue, and burnout. But stopping at just blaming hustle culture is doing a disservice to your health.

Adrenal fatigue and burnout are fueled by a very common and controllable factor:

Nourishment.

Your Fuel is Your Power

Nutrition is the science of providing your body the energy and fuel that it needs to sustain life. Your body’s sole desire is to keep you alive, thriving, and well.

Yet, years of conscious and subconscious diet culture messaging has skewed the perception of what nutrition really is!

Think about it, when you Google “nutrition” or “best diet,” you will be bombarded with messaging like “low carb for fat loss,” “avoid FODMAPS,” and “avoid these foods to kick bloat.”

Do you see a common messaging theme?

All are tied to restriction and deprivation as ways to improve health. Start stacking all of this advice and trends, and what are you left with?

A lot of anxiety around what to eat, uncertainty on how much to eat, and unintentional habits that lead to under-eating.

As a clinical nutritionist, I even found that I was undereating. Which led to disruption in my hormones and stress response, which exacerbated my burnout (hence the nodding off).

One simple mindset shift unlocked uncapped energy and potential that changed the course of my life.

The “Famine” Response

Food is the fuel necessary to sustain life, to keep you moving, to ensure proper hormone production, to keep the lights on.

When you chronically undereat, this is extremely stressful on the body. Not having enough fuel triggers and increases your stress response. While it might be extreme, your body views this as “famine.”

Your adrenal glands then produce more cortisol to help ensure that you survive the stressor. This is your “fight or flight” response.

Cortisol is designed to be a short-lived hormone to provide immediate energy to survive the temporary stressor. In a simple overview it works in the following way:

  • Your body senses stress and the adrenals make cortisol to help you get through.
  • Cortisol causes an immediate spike in blood sugar and adrenaline to give you energy.
  • The blood sugar spike leads to an intense blood sugar crash to signal that you need immediate energy to replenish energy stores. You will feel this crash because your energy drops with it. And it is often accompanied by intense cravings for carbs or sugars.
  • Indulging in a high-carb meal or binging on snacks leads to an intense blood sugar spike. Your body makes insulin to respond and allocate that energy. It acts fast, meaning you have yet another blood sugar crash.

Think about it. If every single day you are accidentally undereating, then this response is on 24/7. Every single day you are on this insane blood sugar rollercoaster.

When you fuel your body with the right nutrients, you can shut off this stress response, increasing your energy, improving your focus, and making you feel good all day long.

It’s as simple as that—eat more and thrive. Here’s how you break free from burnout by nourishing your body.

Fuel to THRIVE

Here is how you increase your energy, crush your to-do list, and feel empowered to take on your day confidently by nourishing your body’s unique needs .

1. Start the day with a protein-forward breakfast.

How you start your day sets the tone for your day. When you wake up, your cortisol is at its highest.

In fact, it’s that natural spike of cortisol that helps you get up and out of bed.

You want to fuel your day with the energy you need to take on anything that comes your way and ensure that it is going to help regulate your blood sugar.

Protein is the single best nutrient for the job.

Eating a protein-forward breakfast first thing in the morning will stabilize blood sugar and slow the release of sugar into the bloodstream. In fact, after a protein-forward breakfast, your blood sugar can remain regulated for up to four hours.

This gives you the energy and stamina to take on your day fiercely.

These are some of my favorite go-to protein-packed breakfasts:

  • Protein shake + oatmeal (great for if you are short on time)
  • Egg bites (which can be made in bulk and ahead of time for on the go mornings)
  • Cottage cheese + melon and berries
  • Greek yogurt + granola and berries

2. Eat every three hours.

As simple as it sounds, eating every three hours ensures that you get enough energy in your day to thrive and ensure you avoid any blood sugar crashes (which is exactly how I ended up asleep on my first day).

Now, if you are chronically undereating, this can be challenging because you might not “feel hungry.”

When you undereat (even if it is unintentional), you cannot trust your hunger cues to tell you when it is time to eat. Your hunger cues are regulated by leptin and ghrelin. Chronic stress disrupts these two hormones.

My pro tip for mastering this strategy is to set alarm reminders on your phone. Have them go off every three hours. Even if you are not hungry, just introduce the food.

This process ensures you get something into your system, and it helps you build a habit around pausing and taking time to nourish your needs in the day.

I recommend starting with a protein snack that is quick and easy, especially if you have a jam-packed day. Think:

  • Turkey roll ups with lettuce and tomato
  • A protein bar (my favorites are GoMacro or Rx Bars)
  • Edamame and grapes (dried edamame is great for on-the-go)
  • Greek yogurt + apple

If you are following the three-hour rule, you will find that over the next few weeks your hunger cues will increase. You will not need the phone alarms anymore, because your body will be reminding you and it will be in your routine to nourish your needs.

3. Repeat, repeat, repeat!

The power of this process is repetition. Your health is not something that you start and stop. It is not a trend.

Ensuring that you have what you need to thrive is something that you have to commit to, day in and day out.

The beautiful thing that happens is when you love and support your body by giving it what it needs, it shows you love in return. The key here is you have to stay consistent with this.

You cannot do it for just one day and expect everything in your life to change. When you make this a lifestyle, you will find that everything in your life changes because you feel good.

Focus on taking these habits and integrating them into your routine. Remember, it has taken you a lifetime to develop the habits and mindsets around nutrition that you have. So it will take more than a few weeks to fully master these principles.

Don’t beat yourself up if you miss a day, if you accidentally forget breakfast, or you end up snacking on chips at the end of the night.

Rather, think of these “misses” as opportunities. Do a self-reflection of what happened in your day that impacted your ability to stick with it.

Take note of how you felt, the stressors you had, and come up with ideas on how you intend to stay connected next time.

And the biggest secret to long-term success: CELEBRATE!

Celebrate the small victories. Celebrate when you complete the habit. Reward yourself for staying committed on days where it was hard.

It seems small, but this is how you shift from a “habit” to a lifestyle.

The Nourished Movement

Fueling your body with food is your superpower.

There is not much in life that you can control. But you can control how you choose to love, support, and nourish your body. And I promise you that when you show up for yourself in this space and way, your body will show its appreciation.

You’ll go from the burnt out person falling asleep in meetings, feeling overwhelmed by the laundry, or waking up exhausted and feeling doubtful, to…

…feeling inspired, creative, and motivated. You will have the energy to show up for your day and goals with confidence.

And not only will you show up with confidence, but you will also find joy in the day to day, because you will no longer be struggling to get through.

This is the power of nutrition.

About Tasha Stevens

Tasha received her degree in Clinical Nutrition and Human Development, B.S. from UC Davis. She is a NASM CPT, STOTT Pilates Trained, and is Founder of Happy Hormone Health. She has coached 2000 women in reclaiming their energy, living symptom-free, and transforming their health through hormone balanced nutrition and strength training. Start your hormone balance journey with her free hormone assessment to get tailored strategies.

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