I have been toying with the idea of writing this post for awhile and have finally decided to do it.
Food comes in many forms
Everyone has a complicated relationship with food and a lot of times this relationship is fueled by emotions, particularly emotions about self-image. In 15 days I am graduating from college and I found myself getting back into the habit of calorie restriction and feeling shame from eating something I “shouldn’t” have eaten. I want to look good in my graduation photos and resorted back to old habits. Like most girls I have had my share of disordered eating. High school it was preparing to wear a tiny dance team uniform in front of the whole school and college it was Halloween, Spring Break, Summer or my “21-Run”. There is always an event to countdown to that you want to lose just 5 more pounds for. So you restrict calories and workout like a maniac and then relief hits you when its over but so does binge eating. Then you gain back that 5 pounds you lost plus another 5 pounds and the countdown for another event starts and so does the cycle.
There is a lot of pressure to look a certain way and a lot of opinions on how to get there. Being a personal trainer, the number one question I get is: what do I eat to lose weight the fastest? I am in no means an expert on the topic but I have found a few things that help me focus on the long term goal of health instead of the roller coaster ride of preparing for an event.
Have a treat and don’t feel bad
In the fitness world “cheat nights” are a common occurrence. I never have understood this. Why deny yourself something you want all week to just have it on Friday?
My good friend came up with an awesome system for letting herself have the treats she wants while still keeping herself accountable and not getting sucked into having treats every night. She puts three sticky notes on her calendar and throughout the week she can choose her treats. When she has a treat she moves the sticky note to that day and writes what she had on the note.
I love this system because it gives you the structure you need to not go overboard on junk food while still giving you freedom to not deny yourself the food you want. Be mindful with your treats and enjoy them.
Food is fuel
When did we forget this? We eat because our bodies need food to run. Just like your car needs quality oil; your body needs quality food.
I think everyone can agree after eating a plate full of grilled chicken and veggies our bodies feel good, energized and happy. After eating a plate full of pizza our bodies feel sluggish, oily and crappy. Pick foods that are full of nutrients and protein to help your body do what it needs to do. Your body will never need a bag of sour patch kids no matter how hard your brain tries to tell you it does.
Eat with the intent to fuel your body not to fuel your emotions.
there is no food reward for exercising
Sorry to burst your bubble but just because you spent 30 minutes on the treadmill or walked around the block doesn’t mean you get to eat a slice of cake. Break that connection.
Exercise because you want to feel the endorphins and do something good for your body not because you are punishing yourself for eating pizza for lunch. This works the other way too; don’t let yourself justify having pizza for dinner because you worked out that morning. This disordered thought process will lead to shame and guilt for not working out which can lead to serious eating disorders.
stop thinking about what you can’t have
When I started my first Whole30 all I could think about was I can’t have sugar, I can’t have bread, I can’t have beer, I can’t have cake, I can’t have, I can’t, I CAN’T, I CAN’T! After eating something I shouldn’t have I got back on board and changed my perspective.
There is a lot you can have when eating real food. I found I actually like spaghetti squash over real spaghetti noodles. I like brussels sprouts even though I had always been convinced I hated them. Portobello mushrooms with tomato sauce and cheese on top is a healthy and delicious alternative to pizza. I found kale, stinging needles and bok choy which I had never heard about before.
Find new foods and experiment with new recipes. When you focus on the positive it makes eating clean enjoyable and easier to sustain than focusing on the negative.
Stop buying junk food
You are cooking roasted vegetables and lemon chicken for a healthy dinner. The veggies need to be tossed in two minutes so you are standing in the kitchen waiting. Absentmindedly you reach into the cupboard and grab a handful of (enter your choice of junk food here) and munch while waiting then reach for another and another and before you know it you are full and don’t want the healthy dinner you just made. Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you? Yeah, me too!
Your kids don’t need it, your significant other doesn’t need it and you don’t need it. Don’t buy the junk. Just don’t have it around! This goes back to mindful treats. If you are going to eat junk make it memorable and significant not just bored eating in the kitchen.
don’t wait until you are starving to eat
This is the most important tip. Whenever I ask my clients what made them fall off their healthy eating pattern it is always the same story:
Well, I was doing so good and then I got so busy and I forgot to go grocery shopping so I didn’t have any food in the house. I didn’t pay attention and I waited until I was super hungry and drove to the store to buy stuff for dinner but I passed Boomers on my way and turned in and got a double cheeseburger, fries and a milkshake because it just sounded so good!
Don’t fall into that trap! Be prepared, make meals ahead of time and don’t wait until you are starving to preparing your meal. Along with that don’t ever go to the grocery store hungry! You will impulse buy things you don’t need and eat them in the car while you drive home (guilty of that!)
Health, fitness and body size is going to be a lifelong journey. Don’t stress out about it. There is no quick fix or magic pill. It takes time to lose weight in a healthy manner. Don’t feel guilty for a slip-up, brush yourself off and get right back onto you healthy eating plan. Find what works for you and do it. Everyones bodies work differently so figure out what you need to have a happy and healthy relationship with food.