Do you want to change the way you eat – not just for a week or a month, or until you shed those unwanted pounds, and not only when you’re at home, but when you eat out as well? If the answer is yes, you should be in search of a lifestyle change.
When it comes to losing weight, I think any diet can work, and I think you don’t have to exercise to lose weight. I have heard that 80 % of weight loss can be attributed to food intake, or lack thereof, and that’s probably true. But, my issue with some fad diets and weight loss programs is that they either teach you how to still eat crappy food by utilizing point systems, demand that you use their prepared foods, or push stringent rules to achieve weight loss like promoting an all-protein based diet. First of all, it’s a lot to maintain, and second, you have to ask yourself, “Is this the best way to achieve a healthier body?
When it comes to living a healthy life, I strongly believe that the combination of making healthy food choices and exercising consistently is an absolute necessity. To do that, to be successfully healthy, you can’t just diet and you can’t just exercise; the two must become one. You have to change the way you look at food by being educated, but also, by being honest with yourself about what you’re eating. What you need is a food makeover; you need to ‘eat clean’.
I think most of us are pretty smart; we know exactly what we should and shouldn’t be eating. It’s not the lack of education that causes us to be stuck in an eating rut – it’s admitting you need to make the change in that moment when habit, comfort, and a lack of discipline walk in the door- right when you’re faced with the free breakfast buffet at your hotel, the tempting menu options when out with friends, or the bag of chips calling your name when you open the pantry door.
I am confident that I could look at anyone’s diet and tell them what to cut out, or add in, but odds are those specific individuals already know what I would say. Everybody needs a boost once in a while though, and that’s why we read books, magazines, or blogs on the subject. Yes, we’re looking to gain information, but we’re also trying to gain a fresh perspective, one that will get us back on track.
Who’s the Beast?
So, let’s attack the beast – is it you or the food? First of all, stop playing dumb, and stop being lazy when it comes to what you eat. If you want to be healthier, you have to work for it – you have to make better decisions.
Second, know when you’re ready to make a consistent change. Sometimes you’re just not in the right frame of mind to do it, and what happens then … failure after failure. Know yourself and get your timing down. Adding more stress to an already stressful life can debilitate your entire being, promising nothing more than negative results.
Third, don’t down play your worth. When you treat your body to a healthier lifestyle, you are saying, “I deserve better.” If you don’t respect yourself, you will never find the will and determination it takes to make better choices.
Here are some tips I have incorporated over the years:
Eating at Home
- Eat real food: Fresh fruit, lean meat, vegetables.
- Cook: If you can use the internet or read a magazine, there are a plethora of quick meal ideas.
- Prep ahead: Plan meals so the ‘takeout option’ is not an option. Plan meals for the week. Not only is it easier when you hit the market, but it definitely eliminates the “What the heck will we eat tonight?” chaos.
- Snack limitations: Decide what your options are for snacks before you get a snack craving. For example, I like unsalted pistachios in the shell, unsalted pretzels, and raw cashews. I do not succumb to ice cream, chips, etc. because I know what snacks I have labeled as acceptable for me.
- Read labels: The more ingredients, the more stuff in your food that you can’t define. Know what you’re eating! Try to eliminate processed foods from your diet like frozen dinners, deli meat, crackers and cookies. Anything with a list of preservatives a mile long can’t be good. Look for organic or natural ingredients when choosing pre-packaged foods.
- Cut back on salt and fats: Too much salt causes bloating, and fat – well, who needs extra fat?
- Get your three meals a day: Treat your body with respect; you need proper fuel to operate at your best. I personally don’t buy into skipping meals, but, I also know my body – I build up gas if I wait too long to eat, which becomes painful and uncomfortable.
- Carry snacks with you: If you know you may miss a meal or will be delayed in eating, have some healthy snack options close by so you aren’t starving. I like raw unsalted almonds and unsalted pretzels.
- Look things up: Do you want less sugar or less fat? Check the labels; lower fat usually means more sugar and less sugar usually means more fat; something has to give. If you’re really focused on eating ‘real food’, for example using real butter over processed spreads; just cut back on the amount.
- Choose the right cooking oil: I use extra-virgin olive oil (not extra-light; it’s more processed- a tip I learned from Mario Batali), and I cut back on butter. (Canola oil is another option, but I question how it is processed, so I am trying olive oil in my baking as well.) When I prepare asparagus, for example, I put it on a cookie sheet, put a small amount of olive oil on my fingers and pat it onto the asparagus, then salt and pepper a bit, and bake at 425 for five minutes. Have you tried corn on the cob without butter? It’s sweeter – I’m not kidding. You don’t always need the extra oil or butter.
- Eat whole grains when possible: ‘Whole’ is the key word.
- Save carbohydrates for the morning: Cut back on carbs like breads and pastas after breakfast.
- Eat fruit alone: Fruit can ferment in your stomach if eaten with other foods. If you are like me, my stomach is sensitive at times, and I have noticed that ‘some’ fruits don’t play well with other foods, causing a very uncomfortable belly situation.
- Drink water: Sounds cliché, but it is important to hydrate and flush the system. Get rid of soda, even diet soda, and drinks with added artificial sweeteners. Again, due to stomach sensitivities and wanting to be healthier, I use Truvia. (I’m crossing my fingers ‘they’ don’t find something wrong with that!)
- Cut back on nighttime snacking or later evening meals: Loading up before you go to bed can’t possibly be good. Try not to eat two hours before bed time. (Honestly, tough for me too!)
- Have a plan: If you want to make good choices in a restaurant, check out the menu online before you go out and decide what you’ll be eating. It creates a no pressure situation once you’re seated, especially when you’re with other people, and you’ll be less likely to succumb to temptation.
- Avoid the bread basket: Don’t even let them put it on the table. Once they do, whether you eat it or not, it gets tossed anyway- what a waste!
- Order grilled or baked foods: Fried stuff is just added fat you don’t need.
- Get salad instead of a big meal: I gave up dinner entrees years ago, swapping it for an entrée salad with chicken, lean steak, or fish.
- Limit sauces and cheese: The fish, chicken, or steak you order has already been cooked in something and is usually juicy enough to supply a coating for salad greens.
- Swap the fries, potato, and rice for a salad on the side.
- Limit salad dressing: Ask for it on the side or not at all, and if you get it, don’t dump it on – that’s not why you asked for it on the side. Drizzle it on or dip your fork in it and dab it onto the salad.
- Skip dessert: Don’t even look at the dessert menu. If you need a sweet, have something homemade at home.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want: Let’s face it, you really have no idea how the chef is preparing your meal; they love to use extra butters and oils, etc. And don’t be afraid of ‘kitchen backlash’; tell the wait staff exactly how you want your meal prepared, and if your salad comes to the table drenched in dressing, send it back.
- Breakfast out: Get dry toast and use jelly instead of butter (sometimes I even bring my own lower sugar jelly, avoiding the added sugars in those cute jelly packets). Order egg whites if cholesterol is a problem, and although it may be boring, get poached eggs to avoid the use of processed butter substitutes that many restaurants use to cook the eggs.
- Avoid sugary beverages: Whether in alcoholic drinks or sodas and teas; again extra sugar you don’t need.
Bottom line – Pay Attention!!
You can positively affect your diet by just paying attention and being disciplined. Think before you stuff it in; make better choices, even when you’re on vacation. Find the sweet spot in your life when you know you’re ready to commit, and as they say ‘just do it’. I know it’s tough, I struggle at times as well, but it’s possible.
If you’re away from home and find your options are limited – say you’re at someone’s home for a get together – that’s when you just try to make an educated decision by looking at your options. Avoid snack foods, dips, and the casserole trap; look for vegetables, lean meat options, and salad.
Don’t worry about insulting the host. I have probably insulted many people by sticking to my guns when food is offered, but I’m the one who has to live with my decisions. Even when birthday cake is served, I may take a forkful or none at all – I’m not into “peer pressure” eating! I have to follow what is right for me, whether it’s insulting or not. I’m the one living my life – I am not here to make other people feel less guilty about their choices!
If you have food restrictions like nut allergies, if you are gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or a carnivore – figure out your options for healthy eating; it’s all ‘do-able’. Whether it’s a matter of losing a significant amount of weight or just eating cleaner to at least give your body a fighting chance, make the effort; you’ll feel better!
And above all, remember, if you start and fall off the wagon one day, no worries, tomorrow is a new day, the past is the past; forgive yourself and move forward again. No one is perfect. Only you are responsible for making the positive changes in your life. Don’t wait to feel better about you!