While I could go on and on for dozens of pages about the science behind healthy eating, accountability, calorie intake etc. etc. etc… here is, instead, a short summary of all the ways you can strategize to be healthier starting today!
1. Prepare for your day! If you know you will be traveling or won’t have time to cook a proper meal, cook ahead of time or on the weekends. Pack smart snacks in your bag or car so that you can grab them and go. This way, you never get “too hungry” and approach the fat storing stages. Use your support system to help with meals as well when they can.
2. Keep a food journal! Every day, write down exactly what (foods + calorie totals!) and when you eat. This will help you tangibly see how much/little you have consumed in a day. You’ll be able to see what times are hardest for you (during the week at lunch, or maybe you snack too much on the weekends). You’ll spot patterns and then be able to address any changes you need to make. It will keep you accountable!
3. Hydrate! By ensuring you are drinking enough water, you will be less likely to overeat at meal times. Remember, most of the time when you think you are hungry, you are really just thirsty.
4. Eat slowly. Really take your time with your meals. When you multitask while eating, it is so much easier to overeat! You aren’t focused on what or how much you are consuming, so it takes you longer to realize when you are full. Focus on your meal – put your fork down between bites, talk to your spouse/family while eating to prolong the meal. This gives your brain time to catch up to your stomach and say “Yup, I’m full! No need for seconds!”
5. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. This is where the most natural, healthy foods are! Avoid the middle aisles as much as possible. This is where the processed junk is kept.
6. Moderation. Don’t totally cut something out of your diet cold turkey – that’s setting yourself up for failure. Try cutting out your comfort foods slowly and replacing them with a healthier alternative that still gets you the sweetness/saltiness you are craving. (Craving sweets? Try a yogurt or chocolate nut trail mix instead of ice cream. Craving salt? Try peanuts or wheat thins instead of potato chips.)
7. Goodbye alcohol! Alcohol, while only a beverage, still packs a lot of empty calories! You’re drinking hundreds of calories without even getting the satisfaction of being “full” from a meal. Additionally, it dehydrates you and disrupts other processes your body tries to maintain to help you build muscle and lose weight. So before you drink, ask yourself if it is really worth it, and how you’ll make up for it.
8. Brush your teeth. After you eat, brush and floss. Then you’ll really ask yourself if you NEED that dessert right before bed, or if you’re just snacking because you’re bored.
9. Support. Make sure you surround yourself with people who will respect your goals. This is hard! It’s a lifestyle change. Tell the people you live or work with of your goals and get them to help and encourage you, rather than tempt you.
10. Knowledge is Power. If you don’t know if you should be eating something, or have run out of healthy snack ideas, ASK! Use the internet, ask your friends, ask your trainer, etc. for new recipes, or advice, or about technical questions regarding calories, fat in foods, etc. The more you know, the better you’ll do.