Healthy Eating is a Journey, Not a Vacation
This time you are going to do it. You are going to eat healthier and loose weight. We have started on this road to healthy eating more than once, and somewhere along the way we turn around and head back to our processed food safety zone. It’s time to stop treating dieting like a vacation – where you go for a while and then come back “home,” and start treating healthy eating as a final destination; the place you are moving to – for good!
While I’m not personally trying to loose weight, I am actively trying to maintain a healthy weight; a task that is growing more difficult as I age. I am trying to instill healthy eating habits in my children. I am trying to help my husband to loose a few pounds. We are all wanting to feel more energetic and fit. This journey is not one that can be accomplished in a day, or a week, or even a month. It may take a year, or two. The good news is that each day you can move closer to your final destination one step at a time.
Step One: Choose water.
Choose water over soda. Choose water over any sweetened beverage. If you don’t like the taste of water add a slice of lemon or lime -a particularly helpful trick to mask the taste of some tap water. While I could write an entire post on the difference between waters (tap vs. distilled vs. filtered vs. spring water – whew!), suffice it for now to say that you should just choose water.
If you currently don’t drink much or any water, drink a glass with your lunch or dinner. After several days of doing this, drink a glass with lunch AND dinner. Then start drinking water between meals. Work up to half your body weight in ounces. If you weight 150 pounds, drink 75 ounces of water a day. Yes, you will pee a lot. And many, many toxins will leave your body. So just do it!
Step Two: Smaller Portions
This was one of my husband’s biggest complaints: the smaller portions were not as satisfying and didn’t fill him up. I sometimes felt the same. Thankfully, we hung in there and after a couple of weeks we were feeling more satisfied with our meals. This came from several factors:
- I dished the meal out onto smaller plates or bowl. Silly as that may sound, if the small plate was heaped with food our psyche’s tricked us into thinking we were getting a full meal. Same amount of food on a large plate looked like we were getting a skimpy serving.
- Waiting 15 minutes after finishing a serving to see if we were still hungry. Sometimes it really wasn’t enough food (more on that below), but usually it was and it just took a few minutes for our stomach to get the message to our brains. Instead of having seconds and then feeling stuffed, we stopped at one serving and felt fulfilled – it just took a few minutes to make that realization.
- Healthy snack instead of seconds. If we were still hungry after waiting 15 minutes, then instead of seconds we ate some raw veggies and hummus, or peanut (or almond) butter and an apple. Sometimes we had a small handful of almonds or walnuts. If part of the meal involved a salad, then we’d have seconds on the salad.
- We kept reminding ourselves what the goal was. In that moment when you’re still hungry it is easy to succumb to the desire to eat more. But we reminded ourselves (and each other) how great we were feeling – and in my husband’s case, how much weight he was loosing. The motivation to stay on track with our goals often kept us from having seconds.
- Indulged every once in a while. There were some meals though that were just so awesome that we couldn’t resist a second helping, but we kept it small (not a full second serving). Allowing ourselves a little more once in a while of a healthy meal felt like a reward that wouldn’t jeopardize our progress. We were careful to save indulgences like this for healthy meals – and not pizza night!
Step Three: Start Where You Are
We were starting from a 90% prepackaged or processed meal point. Breakfast was frozen waffles or sugary cereal. Lunch was a heat and serve package or maybe a sandwich (white bread!), and dinner was an entree from the freezer or maybe pizza or other carryout. I don’t like to cook, but I really wanted my family to eat better. So we started with breakfast.
No more frozen waffles. We started drinking protein shakes made from vegan chocolate protein powder, frozen strawberries, spinach or kale, a banana, and almond milk. Whirl all that in a blender (I use a VitaMix), and yummy! Six mornings a week we have that. I tried a few different recipes in the beginning, but the family consensus was they liked this recipe the best. Makes my morning super easy and my shopping list is consistent (at least that part of it) as well. From there we switched out white bread for whole wheat at lunch for sandwiches and added salads to the mix. Our goal was to have most of our lunches be healthier than they had been.
Lastly, we tackled dinner. At first I wanted to make all the meals healthy, but that was unrealistic coming from a once a month healthy dinner start point. So we aimed for once a week in the beginning. Once that was a system, I began adding another dinner each week. I’m still not up to seven awesome dinners a week, because I honestly find the whole meal planning and prepping and making thing exhausting. (Did I mention that I don’t like to cook?).
You Got This!
The point is not to go from zero to sixty in a week. Remember that in order to make healthy eating be a lifestyle, you have to make it a journey. Your tastes will change over time. Your skills will improve. Your willingness to try new things will also be tested.
Don’t get caught in the “it’s not enough” cycle. I started making healthier meals, then I’d get wrapped up in “should I buy organic?” or “fresh versus frozen” for veggies or some other argument (with myself) that sometimes stopped me from making anything and resorting to old processed meal habits. Broccoli (fresh, frozen, organic or not) and chicken (fresh, frozen, organic or not) is better than a processed chicken and broccoli meal from the freezer section of the grocery store. Steam the broccoli, saute the chicken, and call it a meal. You can always make improvements over time. Remind yourself that making it yourself is better than relying on processed, so you’re already heading in the right direction even if you’re not using all organic, non-GMO, whatever-the-current-hype-about-food-is ingredients. You got this!
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