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5 busy season food cravings and how to feed them properly

Ice creamSuddenly, in the middle of a client meeting or complicated tax return, you want — no, need — chocolate, or maybe French fries and fried chicken. There’s no doubt food cravings grow under stress. But they can also hit when we feel good or for seemingly no reason at all.

These guilty pleasures can be a great morale booster during busy season. Yet too much indulgence can lead to unhealthy weight, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and a host of other health problems! Cravings can’t be eliminated entirely but knowing your triggers and developing strategies for feeding them in healthier ways can help.

Here are some ideas:

  1. You just made it through a big deadline and the returns are filed or the report is issued — yay! What would you like? An ice cream sundae, chocolate chip cookies, apple pie? Expecting treats as a reward for accomplishment lives deep inside the human brain. After finishing an engagement or gaining a new client, you probably deserve some time off, but you settle for a candy bar, bag of chips and soda from the vending machine. Food rewards don’t have to be unhealthy even though they often are. Instead of vending machine snacks, make your prize into an exercise break with a brisk walk to a nearby coffee shop, diner or deli. Or reward in moderation — if you must have something sweet, use portion-controlled snacks to keep it reasonable.
  2. Flat tire? In-laws coming to visit? Unhappy client? Experts say certain foods — usually those high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar — help us feel better in the short term. Unfortunately, they often leave you feeling worse later — either from a post-sugar crash in your blood glucose, guilt or an unfavorable reading on the scale. When you’re having a bad day, try other stress-reduction techniques, such as deep breathing or exercises you can do at your desk.
  3. Celebrations are a big part of our culture both in and outside the office. Birthdays, holidays, the end of busy season, performance goals met, wedding showers, baby showers and so on. No celebration is complete without food, and you may find yourself making exceptions to your healthy diet “in support of the person or event.” Instead, lend your support by bringing a healthy dish to share or volunteer to help plan a celebration with healthy food options. Salads, fresh fruits and vegetables, and low-calorie beverages such as fruit-infused water are all good substitutions. Don’t have time to contribute? Eat a healthy meal or snack ahead of time to help keep your cravings under control.
  4. Imbalances in our body chemistry, particularly the hormone leptin and neurotransmitters serotonin and endorphins, can also cause food cravings. Exercise helps fend off chemically induced food (and nicotine) cravings because physical activity releases endorphins.
  5. Your food cravings may be the result of the simplest reason of all — you haven’t eaten! Make having a nutritious breakfast, lunch (preferably away from your desk) and dinner a priority no matter how busy you are. When your plans fall apart — and they will — keep a backup stash of healthy snacks, such as granola bars, fruit, nuts and healthy microwave meals.

Ultimately, one of the best ways to control unhealthy cravings and keep unwanted health effects at bay during busy season is to permanently improve business processes to help reduce stress. Small firm practitioners can check out the AICPA small firm resources site featuring a variety of valuable tools designed to help practices run smoothly. Also check out the Tax Practitioner’s Toolkit and Private Companies Practice Section for resources to help grow your firm strategically and improve efficiencies.

Lisa Simpson, Associate Director, Firm Services, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Ice cream courtesy of Shutterstock.


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