I’ve decided to try a slightly different approach to this month’s column but only because the subject is important with a lot of bases to cover. I find myself giving a lot of advice about eating more healthfully in a way that’s truly realistic to our hectic lifestyle. Anyone can Google the latest diet and download recipes until the cows come home but as we all know, diets never work long-term. It’s so hard to go ‘cold turkey’ and turn off that switch and pretend we don’t want sweets or caffeine. Since I’m far from being a diet guru, the advice I tend to give is usually geared towards taking very small, slow steps to achieve a permanent change. After all, this is really what matters when people want to eat better. No one ever wants to change temporarily. Since this is such a hefty subject (no pun intended), I thought I’d cover what I’m calling Part One this month and follow up with Part Two next month. Yes, maybe there will eventually be parts three, four and so on but we’ll play that by ear.
When I say slow steps, I mean slow as in they will take weeks or months to become part of your normal routine. Don’t expect weight loss (although some people may benefit from this). If you’re in it for the long haul, it’s just as much about health as it is about losing weight so I prefer to implement steps that lead to a better life in general. These are things I’ve learned via my own eating overhaul so it’s not surprising that the habits I’ve implemented have stuck for almost three years without a whole lot of effort. Here are my ITB’s (Important TidBits) in no particular order:
• Every few weeks, decide on one or two of the below changes to implement. When you feel like you’ve successfully integrated these changes, implement a few more. DO NOT bite off more than you can chew. Just do whatever is realistic for you and your life. If you know you have a hectic project at work, it’s probably not a good week to try to implement a half dozen changes. But everyone can try to do at least one thing.
• If you’ve never read food labels, start now. Having awareness of what’s really in your food is key. In the beginning, you don’t even have to change your eating habits but take the time to read labels as often as you can. If you’re eating out, most places have nutritional info posted somewhere. After a few weeks of this, I’m sure you’ll be blown away by all the ingredients that exist that you can neither pronounce or spell. These foreign substances are man-made, have no nutritional value and are nowhere as good for you as real food.
• When it comes to eating, slow down! This is something I continue to struggle with today. I’ve worked in an industry where there was very little downtime to eat or enjoy my food so I learned to gobble an entire meal in 5 minutes or less. If you don’t already know this, eating fast is not good for your stomach or your body. Take the time to sit down and eat consciously. Eating isn’t a race (unless you’re that hot-dog-eating-champion-guy). Go slow and steady. Don’t get distracted. Focus on your food. I’ll admit, this is a toughie but try.
• Continue to eat whatever you want but challenge yourself to not clear your plate. Leave one or two bites of each item you’ve served yourself on your plate. Don’t think about the starving children in Africa while doing this! This is about taking care of yourself, not about feeling guilty for your inability to solve the famine crisis in another country. This step will prepare you for eventually eating smaller portions. As you get comfortable leaving behind one or two bites, try three or four.
• Try to stop eating at least a few hours before you go to bed. I realize I’m abnormal in that I like to climb in bed by 9pm or 9:30pm but I generally try to stop eating by 7:30pm. If I want a little dessert then that’s my motivation to eat dinner by 6:45pm so I can fit in a treat before cut off time. The whole purpose behind this is to give your body time to digest your food. It’s also a good way to avoid unnecessary acid reflux.
I hope this leads you towards healthier eating habits. Stay tuned next month for Part Two which will hit just before the holiday season. Until next time…