Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Mental Approach to Eating Well

It seems like EVERYONE is trying to eat better this time of year.

Go figure, we just came off the infamous Holiday Season. There were cookies, cakes, pies, treats, sweets, mashed potatoes, creamed corn, candy canes, and anything else you can think of, at every turn. Not to mention the egg nog and adult beverages! Those can KILL your waistline.

Then we have New Years and all the resolutions it brings. Do you know that *most* resolutions will be broken before the month of January is done? That's kinda sad. I am making goals this year instead of resolutions. Goals are made to be met while resolutions are made to be broken!

Anywho - eating well is more of a mental battle than anything. I should know. I've fought the battle my entire life. I want to be one of those people who can eat whatever they want and not gain weight. I'm out with friends and see them scarfing down appetizers, margaritas, big juicy burgers and fries and they all look good. So why can't I eat what I want? Well, I just can't. I wasn't blessed with a metabolism the size of Texas. I work really hard to lose weight and I'm not going to wreck all my hard work with bad fuel.

So, along the way, I have realized that there a few things that you can do mentally to help yourself eat well. Ready for them?

1. HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS - Your diet (for lack of a better word) needs to work WITH your lifestyle. After all, it's not really a diet, it's a way of life! You need to take these two things when setting up the parameters of your new diet:

  • First, your diet needs to fit your budget.
    • You can go out and spend endless amounts of money on the food you are going to consume. You have to know what you can afford or you will end up giving up because you over-drafted your checking account! No one wants that!
  • Second, your diet needs to fit your time frame.
    • Are you going to have a ton of time to prep? Are you only going to be able to dedicate 2 hours on Sundays to prep your food for the week? It took me a while in the beginning to figure out all the recipes. Then I got smart and started prepping my food as soon as I got home from the grocery store. If I'm making chicken salads for lunch during the week, then I make sure to pop the chicken breast in the oven as soon as I get home. Then I portion it out and it's ready to go for the rest of the week. Also, all my veggies get washed, cut, and portioned before they go in the fridge. It makes my weeknights MUCH easier.
2. Be Proactive - Make a meal plan AHEAD of time. I make mine every Saturday night so I am prepared to go grocery shopping on Sunday morning. That way, I know what I need to buy and I can plan for upcoming events during the week. You want to plan to have enough snacks on hand. I am a huge apple fan, so I buy enough to eat at least one a day. I also love my cheese sticks. They are good source of protein and calcium. I buy a big bag and it lasts me a week. Make sure the foods you are buying are portable - either by a small cooler in your car or maybe they don't even need refrigerated!

3. Set Goals - Just like you would in life, you need to make goals about your eating habits. Set short term and long term goals. One of my first short term goals was to CUT OUT sugar. Sugar has no place in my diet because it makes me a ravaging beast. I can't just have a little bit. For me, sugar is ALL OR NOTHING. My long term goal was to be caffeine free. Caffeine is rough on my body. I get headaches and night sweats when I have too much. I get jittery. I was actually even experiencing withdrawls because I drank so much of it. So, I cut out the coffee and switched it for decaf Green Tea. Your goals can be less agressive than mine. You could have a goal of cutting out your coffee creamer. Maybe not eating out at all in one weeks time is a good goal for you? How about making sure to portion out everything this coming week? All of these are good goals and there are many more that you can come up with. Your goals should be just that - YOUR goals!

4. Don't Rush into This - Wanna burn out REALLY fast? Here's how to do it: Try to change EVERY aspect of your life all at once. It will never work. Take small steps. Change one thing every week. It takes 21 days for something to become a habit. Give it the proper time before you decide it's not working. Heck, if it works better for you, change one thing every 21 days! That way you have given you last change time to become a new habit! I'm a genius - right???

5. Be Flexible - If there is one thing that I have learned over the course of my weight loss journey, it's that being flexible is a MUST. For some reason, I chose to start my journey on October 1. That meant I committed to a 90 day challenge that was occuring over Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years! WHAT WAS I THINKING??? Well, I learned to be flexible. Not everyone is going to make food that caters to my dietary needs. I had to work really hard to find foods that fit within my parameters. But, I was able to do it and you can too! Remember, there are going to be situations that are going to come up that you have no control over. You have to be able to adapt your new eating style to fit your LIFE. Remember - life doesn't stop just because you are trying to get healthy!

6. Stick with Your Plan - Remember how I was saying that it takes 21 days to form a habit? Don't quit on day 5. Give it the full 21 days, or even better, make it a full 30 days for good measure! I promise that at the end of the 30 days, your life will be drastically different!

7. Cheat - Yup. I said it. Cheat on your meal plan! Take ONE MEAL a week and eat whatever you like. This is going to shock your body and make it realize that it has to adapt to different foods. When I first started eating clean, my hubby took me out on a date. He kinda pressured me into eating a not-so-healthy meal. And you know what - I enjoyed every bite of it. Later on in the evening, my belly was screaming at me because it wasn't used to that kind of food. Now, I use my cheat meal to have some ice cream, REAL ice cream. Or I have a glass or two of wine on a Friday night with my hubby. Your cheat meal has to work for you!

8. Have Fun - Eating right takes a lot of hard work. It takes a lot of will power. It takes a lot of dedication. Do everything you can to make it fun. Make new clean dishes to share with your friends at work. Find healthy versions of your favorite foods. Heck, if you can't find the healthy version, MAKE UP YOUR OWN healthy version! I've done this quite a few times and it usually turns out pretty well. Another thing you can do to make it fun is get other people involved. When going out to eat with friends, I challenge someone to find the healthiest meal on the menu. When eating at home, I challenge my husband to TRY NEW THINGS! Hahaha! That one doesn't usually go over too well!

9. Reward Yourself - just not with food. YOU ARE NOT A DOG, so don't reward yourself like one! Your reward should be a shrinking waisteline, not that extra-fudge-double-chocolate-clog-your-arteries piece of cake. If you need something physical and measurable to reward yourself, go get your nails done. Get a pedicure. How about a massage? Maybe even a little shopping spree! I know that when I hit my goal body, I'm going shopping like a mad woman. I have to. None of my clothes fit!

10. Be Consistent - Your body and mind crave consistency. Try to eat around the same times every day. Try to keep your portions the same size and calorie load. For goodness sake, add in new foods, but make sure they match up to what your body is used to. If you eat every 2.5 - 3 hours consistently then you are going to be able to avoid the craving monster. You won't let yourself get ravenously hungry.

11. Focus on the Journey - One of my biggest downfalls is that I would worry too much about how far I had to go to get to my final destination. Instead of looking at how far I had come and my small, daily successes, I would think "I'm never gonna get there". I did things different this time around. I just focused on one meal, one day at a time. Yes, I looked ahead to plan out my week, but once it was planned, I didn't look any further than right now. I took the time to enjoy the ride. You know what happened while I was enjoying the ride? I SUCCEEDED!

12. Take a Step Back and Reevaluate - Eventually you are going to meet your short term and long term goals. What happens then? Well, you need to take a step back and reevaluate your diet. Do you want to stop losing weight and go on more of a maintenance plan? Do you need to add some new foods because you are getting bored with your current menu? Whatever it is that you need, take the time every month or so to take a look at what is working and what isn't. 

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