Okay so, obviously, we’re friends – I mean, you’re reading my totally awesome *cough* blog posts and looking at pictures of my food and me doing squats and stuff… essentially what friends are all about – so of course it’s only natural that you knew some things about me, right?
Well here goes confession number one: I like food.
Whew, okay, off my chest now. What a crazy unexpected thing for me to say, right?
You may have already guessed from all the cooking I clearly do, but if not, now you know.
I’m a fan of all kinds of food. I will eat vegetables in any shape, color, or cooking method; I’ve enjoyed a wide range of cuisines including Indian, Ethiopian, Peruvian, Portuguese, you name it; sushi, steak, tofu– all are all delicious to me, and I will try anything you put in front of me... well, nearly anything.
My favorite time to eat is when I’m hungry. Go figure, right? But it definitely feels better to wait until I’m hungry to eat rather than just eating because the TV is on, or because my friends around me have food, or even because it’s “meal-time.” There is a much greater sense of satisfaction when you eat at the right times. You know?
That being said, there are still times when I can be like Homer Simpson is around doughnuts or Cookie Monster… with cookies. If you set a loaf of fresh bread and a pat of sweet cream butter in front of me and told me not to eat it, I would have to scuttle off as fast as Zoidberg from a lobster claw-cracker or you would be out a whole loaf in the time it took you to get a cutting board and a breadknife.
And even though I prefer to not eat when I’m not hungry (though I happen to be hungry quite often), there are so many other enticements to eat at other times. Food has emotional, social, and physical ties – some which may be easier to recognize and ignore… and others that simply kick the Super Ego and its lofty intentions out the open window.
I tell you all this because I bet you get it. I bet you, too, have had moments where, a good bit of ice cream or a third helping of pasta later, you thought to yourself: Oh, self-control , why do you leave me when I need you the most? And you feel a little guilty and you tell yourself you’ll do better next time.
But, you know what? I think that you’re human, you’re normal, complete with all of human-kind’s glorious errant nature. In fact, I think most of us are human. Excepting those that might actually be sparkly vampires, vacationing Vulcans, or really lifelike robots, of course. If they don’t have the occasional food-conflict like we do, that’s only because they suck blood, have great self-control, or live off batteries.
And yes, us fitness professionals, too, though we may spend inordinate time in gyms and feel responsible for keeping our guns in shape – er – setting a good example of fitness, must likewise constantly work with our own relationships to food.
I hope you’re wondering how it is we might gain control of this fair-weather relationship. Because it’s a question I have asked many times and searched for answers to long enough to have a few ideas. Which I plan to write about. Still reading? Great – I have some stuff I still wanna share.
This is where confession number two comes in: I am what you call a social eater. I love eating healthy foods, eating when I’m hungry rather than mindlessly munching, and keeping everything in moderation and all that – but being at parties or with friends at dinner can make me forget about those things. Know what I mean? When food or drink is just sitting in front of you while you chat away with your friends, it’s so easy just to do as they do and grab another bite. And another. And another.
So what do we do?
Never fear! I’ve come up with a few sneaky tricks that help me avoid this predictable pitfall.
What works for me:
1. I run from my problems. This actually kinda works in a party-situation. If I can move away from the food/ buffet/ people agressively offering snacks, I have a much easier time of remembering what’s really important to me.
2. I put my guard up. Sometimes, not being physically able to stuff your face is helpful. What if I can’t pick up another chip? I hold a drink in one hand and clutch in the other. What if I can’t even take a bite? If I’m already chewing gum (or even wearing my lower retainer!) I can’t eat with it in! The simple act of making it a little more cumbersome to nom out of control makes me – well, it certainly makes me lazy – but it also helps me make better choices.
3. I find better friends. No, I don’t mean leave the party! I mean – brownies are not your friend when you’re trying to survive a long party with an endless supply of them. Sometimes even eating one can lead to five more without you even thinking about it! The fruit and veggie platter is my bestie when I’m out and wary of the social-munchies. Not sure there will be one? You won’t be the only one happy to have it there if you bring one yourself!
Tackling social situations is a biggie, but you know what? Confession three is the last and most terrifying of all… I’m actually better at exercising than eating perfectly.
What? Not a shocker? Okay, maybe not – but it does rankle me ever so much that just exercising well cannot vanquish a splurgy diet. I suppose that’s why I had to come up with a few more tricks to appease my love of cooking and eating food while keeping my healthiness in check!
What works for me:
1. Smaller is better. My eyes might get as big as dinner plates at the pesto fettuccini, but my stomach… and my body… really don’t need a big helping of it! So I head off my instinct to pile on the goods by approaching cautiously – with a tiny plate or bowl. Not only does my serving size look bigger on the plate, I can’t pile it up as much, meaning that I’m more likely to stop eating and realize I’m full when it’s gone. Aka: I’m not gonna eat tons jus’ ‘cause it’s already there.
2. Fill up on less. Less calories, that is. Some foods fill me up simply because of temperature or volume, even though they’re really low on calories. Ever notice how your appetite starts to go away when you’re a little too warm? Similarly, when you eat hot foods, you often feel more full right away than you would with a cool food. I like to eat a lot of low-sodium broth-based soups made with little or no added oil. And there are so many variations on broth-based soups, it’s like, impossible to get sick of ‘em. Chopped green salads, by sheer volume, can also do the trick! Just consider keeping the ingredients mostly all plant-based and keep the dressing light. (I like just vinegar!)
3. Go 80-20. I aim to eat 80% really great, healthy, good-4-ur-bones kinda foods that would make my doctor proud… and then with the remainder, I can still have my champagne and brownies! Who out there could live a life without champagne and brownies, now seriously. Or banana splits. Or pasta. Well, there are a lot of things I don’t want to give up entirely, but that’s exactly what this whole bloggy thing is about. I figure if I healthify a lot of my favorite things, I can stretch the 20% a little further!
Well, now that you’ve read all that… still want to be friends? I sincerely hope you found some part of that helpful!
It can really be a long and arduous process to achieve, not to mention maintain, health and fitness goals, so we need all the ammo we can get!
And since we’re such besties… I double dare you to share some of your healthy ideas with me, in a comment! Doooo it.
If that’s not enough enticement to share… here’s a couple MORE of my favorite tips! Mwahahaha!
Do some kind of physical activity every day. Just because your workout plan may be to go to the gym 3 or 5 days a week doesn’t mean you can just sit around all day on the other days.
Add more whole foods to your diet (I don’t mean a whole Twinkie!) This means including more fresh fruits and vegetables, grains, and avoiding processed foods – so, no, strawberry jam does not count as a fruit!
Get your protein, but know when to eat it (after a strenuous workout is one good time) and don’t go overboard – according to the American Heart Association, Americans may consume 3-5 times as much protein as they need! Of course, what happens to excess protein is what befalls all excess calories: Doom to become fat. Calculate your minimum RDA for protein by multiplying your weight X 0.45, and then X 0.8. If you're physically active, or lift heavy weights though, multiply your weight in pounds X 0.7 or 1.
Drink lots of water. Can’t be understated. We need water for everything we ever do! Plus, it helps with digestion and metabolism, which are nice perks for weight loss/maintenance! I know we’ve all heard to drink 8 8-oz glasses of water every day – but we also need more before, during, and after workouts and being in the heat. Don’t find yourself washed up on dry land!