What are your New Year’s resolutions? A new year is a great time to set goals, but are your goals realistic? How are you going to reach your goal? Many resolve to lose weight and get “healthier” year after year. Around this time of year, you’ll see and hear diet commercials galore. Maybe you have chosen to follow one of these new diets as your New Year’s resolution.
If you have followed a diet before, maybe you held on for a day, a month, or longer…but eventually, I would bet your diet ended. It was not a sustainable lifestyle change. What I’m trying to say is…DIETS DON’T WORK!
The good news: Small changes (over time) do! So…let me share a bit about my food philosophy. It’s not a diet…it’s a lifestyle.
When I Eat
We are born with hunger and fullness (aka satiety) cues. Due to a variety of reasons, these natural cues signaling when we should start eating and when we should stop sometimes get ignored. With hunger, our stomachs may growl. Our head may hurt. We may feel dizzy, nauseated, or be unable to concentrate. If you’re like me, you sometimes become “hangry” or irritable when you are hungry! Signs of hunger and fullness vary based on how hungry or full you are. Once you begin eating, it is important to gauge your fullness level periodically during a meal. You may even want to pause or take a break from eating for a moment to assess your stomach’s level of satisfaction.
Try This: Before you start eating and once you are finished eating (and possibly mid-way through your meal), rate your hunger or fullness on a scale of 1-10. 1=You are so hungry…you feel like you’re going to pass out! 10=”Thanksgiving Day” Fullness. Try to eat when you are at a “3” or “4.” Aim to stop eating at a “6” or “7.”
Still not sure if you’re truly hungry? Do you think you may want to eat something for another reason such as boredom, anger, loneliness, or a craving? Try “The Apple Test” by asking yourself: “Would I eat an apple?” If the answer is yes, it’s probably safe to say you are hungry.
What I Eat
No food is off-limits for me. As I’ve said before, all food fits on my plate! The key is balance and portion sizes. I always say…”Everything in Moderation!” I make it a priority to eat a balance of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, dairy, and healthy fats. I also have a sweet tooth… frozen yogurt and baked goodies are some of my favorite treats! I love to cook, but I especially enjoy baking (with real butter…no substitutes!). By keeping health in mind when choosing which foods I will eat, I am able save room for a few “Extras” or “fun foods” each week.
My husband and I eat most of our meals at home, but we also enjoy going out to eat…probably 2-3 times per week. When I eat out, I choose what sounds good from the menu, and I ask for my foods to be prepared the way I like them (whether this means no mayonnaise on my sandwich, dressing on the side, or no cucumber on my salad, etc.) Have you seen this scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally? Maybe that’s how I am when I order, but I’d rather ask for what I like than be disappointed when my food comes!
How I Eat
I am not a calorie-counter. Although my career requires knowledge of the nutrient content of certain types of foods and I am aware of how many calories many foods contain, the number of calories in a food does not determine whether I will eat it or not. I don’t think it should for you, either! When choosing foods to eat, I would rather consume quality over quantity…meaning whole or minimally processed foods the majority of the time (Example: a small container of low-fat yogurt rather than larger portion of fat-free/sugar-free/low carb yogurt for the same number of calories). Does this make sense?
I am not a perfect eater. I occasionally eat “fun” foods. I sometimes eat too much or not enough. There may be a day here and there that a vegetable does not touch my lips! I am not always the best at planning meals throughout the week. I simply try to do my best at consuming a balanced diet, and I always keep health in mind.
I choose to eat mindfully whenever possible (more on this later, too!). Psychologist Susan Albers states,
“Mindful eating is not a diet. There are no menus or recipes. It is being more aware of your eating habits, the sensations you experience when you eat, and the thoughts and emotions that you have about food. It is more about how you eat than what you eat.”
As I have entered the working world, eating mindfully has become more difficult, but I try to make it a priority to focus on the food I am eating rather than getting caught up in other distractions.
What Time I Eat
I don’t really have specific times. I choose to eat at whatever time I get hungry (more on how I recommend structuring meals and snacks later).
Well, there are a few exceptions…
(1) Sometimes I don’t have a choice when breakfast, lunch, or dinner is served depending on my schedule or my environment (example: meetings, family vacations, other scheduling issues).
(2) I always recommend eating breakfast within 2 hours of waking…whether you are hungry or not (more on the importance of breakfast to come…).
(3) Maybe I’m not hungry, but I know I will not have an opportunity to eat for quite a while…I will go ahead and eat a snack or small meal when food is available rather than letting myself get to a “1” (or too hungry) later on.
Why I Eat
Plain and simple…Food is Fuel. Picture your body as a car. A car stops running when it is out of fuel, but extra fuel is useless. It just ends up overflowing from the gas tank. We fill our tank at the gas station, and our car runs and can be productive until it reaches empty. Time to refuel and repeat. The same is true with food (our fuel) and our body (our car).
Of course it helps that food tastes good, too!
A lifestyle is a way of living that affects our values and attitudes. In addition to healthy eating, I believe that in order to truly “Live Healthfully Ever After,” we must plan, exercise, and become emotionally and spiritually healthy. Though seemingly not directly related to food, I believe each of these components work together in defining our lifestyle.
I’m looking forward to sharing more detailed information on many of the topics I have mentioned soon. Please send me your questions, too!
Note: Much of my approach to eating and maintaining a healthy lifestyle has come from Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole, MS, RD and Elyse Resch, MS, RD, FADA. I encourage you to check it out for more detailed information.