I’m a person who is deeply affected by words. So, I decided to use words to help me reach my healthy-eating goals.
First Goal: Eat refined sugar only once per week.
This may not sound difficult to a normal person, but for me, I’m a borderline sugar addict. I can happily eat a serving of triple chocolate cake with chocolate chip ice cream in lieu of “real food” for dinner.
I LOVE sugar, and I particularly adore chocolate. So, I made an exception–I could have a square of extremely high quality, dark (my favorite and the healthiest type) chocolate every day if I wanted to. Still, I love snacking on cupcakes, chocolate chip pancakes, ice cream, candy, popsicles, cake, etc. ad infinitum! What to do?
First “trick”: Rephrase my goal to read: “I look forward to eating any dessert I want on Sunday“. Instead of having a harsh, prohibitive directive like, “No sweets unless it’s Sunday” (which I’ve tried and failed miserably at in the past), I redirect my focus to happily anticipating something yummy in a few days. Also, Sunday is when lots of family parties/gatherings take place and where lots of desserts are usually present! :)
So far, this trick has worked beautifully at keeping my mood positive toward reducing my sugar intake. A nice benefit? Eating less sugar has actually reduced my cravings for it. :-P They’re definitely still present, but much less demanding.
Second Goal: Reduce my intake of processed (and much higher calorie/lower nutrient) foods.
Second “Trick”: This one involves rephrasing and a bit of restructuring so that I set myself up for success. I usually crave highly processed food when I’m out and about, at work or school, or when I’m very hungry.
So, when I’m in my car, passing the umpteenth delicious looking restaurant and am thinking of just “picking up something quick” (read: expensive, overly processed, and high calorie) for lunch or dinner, I literally ask myself (usually out loud), “How serious are you about losing weight and living a healthier lifestyle?”
This helps put my cravings into perspective, and helps me re-focus on my true goals and re-direct me to gratifying my long term goals rather than short term cravings.
“But I can’t wait ’til I get home to eat because I’ll get dizzy/grumpy/headache-y, etc,” you say? Me too!
“I won’t pack a lunch/dinner everyday,” you say? Me neither!
There are 2 ways I’ve found to effectively deal with these issues.
First, recognize that you don’t need a full meal every time you get hungry!! What’s a full meal? You’d be surprised!
Ideally, if you eat every time you get hungry, you’ll have 250-400 calories every few hours. As Americans, we have little trouble eating 250-400 calorie snacks, but we’re conditioned to have “real” meals between our snacks.Those “real” meals end up being ridiculously huge!
Think about ordering at Taco Bell. Most people view an order of 2 small tacos/gorditas or a quesadilla as a snack. In reality, you’re really getting 400-800 calories (minimum) because of the highly processed nature of the food. You just ordered yourself a meal!
But when most people go to order a meal at the same place, they order 50%-100% more than that (2 tacos plus a burrito, a side dish, and a 200 calorie soda)! Even without the calories from the soda, that’s WAY more food than most people need at one time.
If I go to El Pollo Loco for a meal, I order a single Bean, Rice, & Cheese burrito. It’s only $1.25, and there are plenty of $1 tacos and quesadillas to add to my order, buy why would I? That single burrito is already close to 400 calories! I’m amazed at how many people are shocked that I’ll order something “so little”, but it’s the perfect amount of calories for someone who only needs 1800 a day to maintain her weight. Why would I order an 800 or 1,000 calorie meal? Unless I need 3000-4000 calories a day, that’s an absurd amount of food to dump into my body.
Lesson learned? Reconsider how much processed food you really need at one sitting.
Second, set yourself up for success.
Sooo, now that we have a better perspective on what NOT to eat every time we’re hungry, what are some healthy alternatives and how can a crazy-busy, almost-never-home person actually implement them?
When I’m driving around running errands, or when I’m at school for 12 hours in a day, I get VERY foggy, unproductive, and headache-y if I don’t eat when my body says it’s hungry (every few hours, unless I’m extremely focused on a task).
I tire of Power Bars (even the gourmet ones) VERY quickly, and I don’t like to buy lots of “meals in a can” because the very healthy ones (like Myoplex) are too expensive. I also won’t tote around a cooler (too much trouble), so my snacks/meals need to be relatively non-perishable and need to taste decent without having to be super-chilled ::ahem:: health drinks ::ahem::!
I take 30 minutes before the week begins to prepare extremely easy-to-eat (read: VERY accessible and VERY portable!), raw veggie snacks (steamed veggies are fine if you can’t stand raw!). My current picks are: baby carrots sliced even smaller so they don’t aggravate my TMJ, bell peppers, cucumbers, and sugar snap peas.
I don’t particularly like raw veggies, so they HAVE to be the easiest thing in my house to eat/take with me in order to get eaten in lieu of sugary snacks or processed foods!
After I chop the veggies, I put them into a beautiful, glazed pottery bowl in the fridge and cover them with plastic wrap. They look SO much more inviting in that bowl than in a Tupperware, and recent studies show that chopped veggies spoil visibly long before they lose their nutritional value. So, it’s OK to chop ahead of time!!!
Additionally, I make sure I have hummus and healthy, high fiber cereal to snack on. This helps if I get home and am absolutely ravenous. Snacking on some hummus or cereal while I prepare a “real” meal means that cooking is enjoyable rather than excruciating. :)When I feel like eating mindlessly (e.g., while watching a movie or studying) or am having a major snack attack, I pile a bowl with raw veggies, pour on a bit of gourmet dressing if I feel like having some, and chow down! Yeah, the gourmet dressing may not be the healthiest thing ever, but hey, the veggies are good for me and have nowhere near the amount of calories that serving of processed food has. So what if I drizzle on 50-100 calories worth of dressing on a bowl full of veggies? It’s better than mindlessly gulping down a similarly sized bowl of cookies, chips, crackers, bread…or for that matter, anything processed.
I also make a week’s worth of snack-size bags of chopped veggies to throw into my lunch sack in the morning or to take with me in the car when I run errands.
“What about those snack/hunger attacks that jump out of nowhere when I’m out running errands or shopping,” you say?
I always get hungry/thirsty when I’m out shopping, and to avoid dropping into the ubiquitous Starbucks or Wetzel’s Pretzels for a high calorie, high cost snack, I keep a bag of my favorite, healthy nuts in my car, right in the center console and a case of bottled water in my trunk. I never take either into the house so there’s never a chance for me to forget them.
“Plain nuts and water don’t sound very appetizing,” you say? There’s a reason!
I choose plain almonds rather than a trail mix b/c the sugary elements in trail mix tend to encourage me to eat more than I should (or to pick out the sweet parts and avoid the healthy ingredients!).
You’re right. Plain nuts aren’t very appetizing but “hunger is the best sauce”, and they’re pretty yummy when I’m hungry! The upside? Because nuts are so much less appealing than processed snacks, I only eat a handful or two (which is a proper serving rather than a pig-out). Also, the high protein/fiber/healthy-fat content is VERY satisfying and effectively holds hunger-headaches at bay!
This was a bit of a soap-box post for me. If you hung in here ’til the end, THANK YOU. If you have any tips of your own, please post them!