Lessons learned: how I changed my eating habits.
I just watched an infomercial for a "magic" (their word not mine!) substance that lets you eat whatever you want without gaining weight. Wow that's brilliant marketing! Who wouldn't want to hear that? That you didn't have to make any changes. But if you don't change your diet and know you're not eating well to maintain your health, how is that being healthy?
Like I've mentioned before, I wanted a way of life, not a diet. So I set some guidelines for myself:
Eat real foods
If I could pronounce it and recognize it as food, I ate it - in moderation of course. I didn't ban butter from my food, but I chose to eat a lot less of it. And you know what? The less I ate, the more I appreciated it and didn't feel deprived.
I drastically increased my intake of vegetables. Now I eat one salad of mixed greens with homemade dressings at both lunch and dinner. I also eat one or two servings of vegetables at each meal. When cooked properly, they taste outstanding! My preferences are grilling, roasting and sauteing. But blanched and steamed vegetables taste great.
In addition to cooking them properly, I make sure the vegetables are the very best they can be. That means shopping at the farmer's market instead of the grocery store. Yes, it can cost a little more, but I'd rather eat a ripe, flavorful vegetable that's higher in nutritional value than a vegetable that's been bread to travel rather than taste good from a standard grocery store. After all, I asked myself, what is the value of good health? I'd rather spend money on good quality ingredients than spend money at a doctor's office or hospital later on because I didn't give my body what it needed.
In addition to eating real foods like I mentioned above, I also needed to change how I ate. My two biggest hurdles were snacking and emotional eating.
It took me a long time to realize that snacking wasn't for me. Around 3:00 PM I always got a big urge and again after dinner and before bed. Since I lived alone, I often spent many nights after dinner snacking on whatever I had on hand while watching TV. You can guess where that habit got me!
It took some serious mental gymnastics, and probably about a year, for me to get over my urge to snack. It was something that I grew up doing, had done in college and continued throughout my adult life, so changing that behavior was hard. I'm not going to lie about that. It was really challenging. What really helped me turn the corner was the question: is that going to help you in your weight loss journey? Most often, that answer was a resounding NO! If I didn't question my actions, I didn't make progress. And sometimes it's hard to really tell myself no. But if I wanted to be healthy, I knew this was a choice I was going to have to make.
Then there was emotional eating. By nature, I'm a very emotional person - I feel things deeply. In order to cope with fluctuations in my emotions, I ate, and usually it was when I was sad. Somehow, food made me feel safe and protected. It didn't judge me either! I also really liked the feeling of being full and satisfied.
But just like snacking, I knew this habit was actually harming me rather than helping me. Again, that was another tricky thing to get my mind around, but perseverance furthers.
So if you're facing an eating challenge, stop and ask yourself if what you're about to eat will help you be healthy. It's a tough question to face, but keep asking yourself and be honest in your answer. Let me know how it turns out!
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