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Chicken, Apple, and Peanut Salad

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I’m an emotional eater. It is hands-down my biggest dietary downfall. I know how to lose weight. I know exactly what I need to do. And when things are good, I  can stay focused on my goals and get the job done.

But then there are times when it feels like my head is spinning. Somebody’s digging through the fireplace ashes, somebody else is constructing an elaborate obstacle course of danger and destruction in the living room,  and somebody else is throwing a tantrum because he wanted to wear his Ghostbusters t-shirt for the third day in a row. (My sister says I should just let the kids do what they want so they will be happy. She might be right.) The dishes are piled up. There’s a mound of dirty clothes lying on the kitchen floor, begging to be added to the laundry that is also piling up. The dog’s hair is rolling in tumbleweeds across the living room. And the million tiny Lego pieces, which I just finished picking up so the baby won’t eat them, are scattered all over the living room floor. Again. I don’t even know when it happened. My heart is racing and I’m barking commands like a well-practiced drill sergeant.

Put some clothes on. We don’t cook in the nude (giving new meaning to the term ‘Naked Chef’).

Stop trying to eat the stroller while I’m pushing it.

Books are for reading. Not eating.

The bathroom is not a play place. 

Somehow, the very same things which are my life’s greatest blessings are also the source of my greatest stresses. I often find it difficult to embrace this time in my life when somebody is always crying or whining or complaining or needing something. Whoever said you should live in the moment and be ever present in your life, clearly didn’t have a screaming baby in his arms or small whirling dervishes tearing the world apart around their feet. I don’t want to live in those moments. I just want to get through them. I’m sure they will all seem more magical in retrospect.

My life is beautiful. It’s joyous. It’s filled with amazing blessings. But it overwhelms me sometimes. And when I feel like I’m spinning in everyone else’s needs, with my heart pounding from my inability to keep up, I console myself with food. I can’t take a break or go for a run when the stress builds to explosive levels. Deep breathing doesn’t usually work. A spontaneous dance party sometimes does. But when it doesn’t, I eat. And eat and eat. Until I’m stuffed and refueled enough to pull myself together enough to clean the yogurt off the wall and wash that Ghostbusters t-shirt for the fifth time this week.

Of course, the emotional eating usually just makes me feel worse in the long run. I’m conscious of that fact even as I’m shoveling the food into my mouth, but it doesn’t really matter in the moment. All this goes to say that my head’s been spinning extra fast and extra often lately (these things always seem to come and go in waves) and my progress towards a healthier me has suffered. I was open about my goals and successes when I set about my New Year’s resolutions, so it’s only fair that you know I’m struggling to stay the course right now. I’m remorseful, but not defeated. I have every intention of pulling myself together with some good, healthy, satisfying meals, like this super tasty, protein-rich salad.

This salad came to me in a half-conscious dream, in the middle of the night last week. The baby was in bed with me, sleeping poorly (all four of his top front teeth have come through in the past two weeks). The two of us were in and out of sleep for hours that night. And every time I was stirred, this salad was on my mind. Chicken. Apples. Peanut Vinaigrette. I spent a lot of drowsy time that evening trying to decide whether that flavor combination made sense. I decided it did. We tested it last night. It’s a winner. (The bacon wasn’t in my dream, but it was in my fridge and was screaming to join this salad. A very welcome addition, indeed.)

I know I’m not the only emotional eater out there. What strategies do you use for getting through those stressful moments without overindulging in food?

Chicken, Apple, and Peanut Salad

Ingredients

  • 8 cups lettuce or mixed greens, chopped
  • 6 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
  • 2 apples, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and sliced*

For the peanut vinaigrette:

  • 1/6 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/6 cup olive oil
  • 1/6 cup peanut butter
  • 1/6 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon red curry powder
*I seasoned my chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then baked in a 350 degrees oven for about 30 minutes. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of your chicken breasts.

Directions

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until well blended.

To assemble the salad, arrange about 2 cups of lettuce on each plate. Top with the sliced apples, bacon, and chicken breast. Sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Drizzle with the peanut vinaigrette.

Makes about 4 salads

12 responses »

  1. Looks delicious! I’m terrible for stress eating as well – I just inhale food when things are under pressure. Hopefully in the next few weeks coming up to my finals, I’ll come across more recipes like this which won’t do me too much harm :)

    Reply
  2. Over the past year or so, I feel like I’ve turned into an emotional eater. For me, food is all about love, and it used to be that when I was stressed, the first thing that happened is that I stopped eating. Now, I’ve learned loving myself is paramount to being happy and so… when I’m not making conscious choices to CARE. FOR. MAMA. my unconscious mind takes over and makes me eat (love myself!).

    Once I realized this, I’ve learned to stop and just notice what my body is telling me… I need to practice some self-care. And then I start by drinking lemon water instead of eating whatever junk I was about to nosh on… and then trying to actively plan for some activity that will feel like self-care to me. Sometimes it means taking five minutes to write in my journal or to grab a piece of paper and sketch a picture. Other times, it means planning for an hour or so in the future where I just sit and read a book or catch up on a few television shows that I really like (Fades on BBC for instance).

    I guess the short answer to this is… figure out what your emotional eating is giving you and then maybe you can find alternate ways to give that to yourself. I discover that once I find alternate solutions, I don’t have to fight so much with myself about NOT doing the negative behaviour because I’ve learned to show it respect and find positive options to fulfill the same need. (Hope that makes sense!)

    Reply
  3. i definitely struggle with ‘eating my feelings’ too, you’re not alone. something i’ve been doing that i find helps is ‘talking myself down’. it sounds weird but i find if i literally stop what i’m doing, and verbalize out loud my thought process it’s easier to stop myself from binging. example “i’m super stressed right now because of ______. I want to eat this pack of oreos but I know I will feel guilty and like crap afterwards. Am I truly hungry? If I am then my body is craving healthy nutrition and i need to fuel it properly to tackle the tasks at hand”

    remember: if you have a ‘slip up’, not to give up. just acknowledge it happened, then move on and keep striving towards your health goals.

    and that salad looks positively delicious :)

    Reply
  4. I’m not a stress eater… probably more the opposite. I get too busy or too frustrated and forget to eat. This makes my problems worse. Then I get REALLY irritable and can’t solve my problems. But then I stop and eat, and it’s like you said..”Until I’m stuffed and refueled enough to pull myself together enough to clean the yogurt off the wall”….

    But I wanted to write and tell you that all the other parts of what you wrote I TOTALLY relate too! It’s like you were reading my mind. It’s lucky us moms have the internet and blogging for such great release and support.

    Thanks for your blog and delicious meals. Keep it all coming!

    Reply
  5. The kid knows how to break in a t-shirt properly;0). Skills.

    When I’m about to over indulge in stress eating I remind myself how bad it makes me feel afterwards and how much better I’ll feel from overcoming the urge. When you give yourself the choice, its a reminder that you are in control of at least THAT thing in your life, amongst the uncontrollable mini mayhem makers, albeit very cute mini mayhem makers.

    Reply
  6. oh precious, you are not alone! i think becoming a mom has really brought out the emotional eater in me…not just emotional, but almost a savage, “i haven’t eaten all day and now it’s 2pm and i’m shaking and trembling and have to eat. now!” and then pour a box of cheezits down my throat!!! taking the time to make something healthy for myself is a such a challenge! something that helps me is to plan ahead; have healthy food in the house (no junk); follow a “plan” of some sort (south beach, jillian michaels, etc) so that meals are pre-planned. i also try to eat out of measuring cups so i can limit my portions. this slows me down, at least!
    know this – things will change. some things will get easier, some will get harder. i had 4 babies in 5 1/2 years and we’re into a new phase now that the “baby” is 4…everyone sleeps through the night, no one gets nursed, everyone can go potty on their own. but we’re busier than ever with ELABORATE play, homework, and activities for the older kids. i do try to “savor every moment” but the reality is, some moments we just get through, then other moments are tucked away in my heart.
    thanks for your post!

    Reply
  7. Honey:
    I’m praying for you!
    I know how you feel, my oldest got two teeth at a time. We didn’t know she was getting them.

    My youngest got her teeth in multiples of four at a time and let all of Europe know it (we were living in Germany at the time.).

    Thankfully this too shall pass.

    Your salad sounds great, and I’m so glad I’m not the only one to dream of recipes in their sleep.

    Charlie

    Reply
  8. Have some good for you food around –veggies, fruit
    take some time just for yourself–treat yourself like you would treat you very very best friend. –maybe a few moments or maybe a half an hour. Put you on your list.
    Don’t beat your self up about it–it is only weight
    Don’t let yourself get hungry, angry, lonely, tired–usually triggers for not good stuff.
    try a little Tai Chi ( the exercise)
    Good luck

    Reply
  9. Wow. This looks outstanding. I definitely need to make this!

    Reply
  10. Hi. I am a new visitor. I saw this recipe on Kids Can Cook Monday (which looks delicious) and followed you here. Wondering if the vinaigrette really needs the spices or whether I can go more simply (only because I don’t have red curry powder and my kids are not really into that much spice anyway).

    I am a culprit of emotional eating, as I think most mothers are. You are dealing with little children who act like the little children they are and you are almost always in the kitchen – how can a mother not be an emotional eater. I try very hard not to buy “bad for me” foods so I am not so tempted. Or I just picture me sitting down when the kids are asleep drinking a nice glass of wine. Just knowing that glass of wine is in my future de-stresses me a little bit.

    Reply
    • Hi Stacey! Thanks for visiting. By all means, skip the spice if it doesn’t suit your/your family’s tastes. Mostly, it just adds a bit of heat. Thank you also for your comments. I totally agree with you about knowing that glass of wine is waiting! :)
      Amy

      Reply

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