Tuesday, April 29, 2014

10 Guidelines to Sustainable Healthy Eating

I’m in the middle of a dietary revolution and my fresh outlook is making it possible for me to slim down permanently. By focusing on adjusting habits, rather than barreling through a diet with short-lived superwoman willpower, my success will be stay.
Fair warning: the results on the scale are slow. However, I still have faith that I am on the right path and I want to share what has been helpful to me.

1 – Calories do matter
I really prefer to not count calories simply because it takes time, even with fantastic apps like myfitnesspal. However, at this time I am not good enough at listening to my satiety signals to skip this step. Honestly, sometimes I just want to eat a lot and there is still this part of me that believes that if I don’t track it, it doesn’t count. Of course that is not true. Committing to a calorie goal causes cognitive dissonance when your actions do not align with your commitment. This discomfort helps me choose healthy satisfaction over gluttony.

Figure out your ideal calorie range per day by figuring out how many calories you burn a day and the optimal weight loss rate for your personal journey. For me, I previously used my body media and know that I burn about 2,300/cal/day without exercise. I feel comfortable with a 500 calorie deficit per day, so I aim for about 1,800/cal/day. If I don’t exercise, I want to eat about 1750, but if I do exercise, I think it is good for me to go up to maybe 1900.

Break up that calorie goal into how many calories each meal and snack should be. I aim for 400-550 calorie meals and that leaves me 150 -600 calories for snacks. To help with reducing portion sizes, make accent plates and mini-bowls your go-to dishes.

2 – Fill half of your plate with vegetables
So many people struggle with vegetables but learning to enjoy them and fit them into your routine is crucial for two big reasons. ONE: Essential vitamins - Since I’ve consistently incorporated them into my day, I swear I have more energy. To be honest, I expected that better nutrition would yield bouncing-off-the-walls energy. Instead, I’ve experienced a more subtle shift where I require about half an hour less sleep each night and feel better throughout the day.  TWO: Veggies are low in calories and enable you to experience satisfaction with smaller servings of the higher calorie density foods.

3 – Fill the other half of your plate with 70% protein and 30% starch
On the other half of your plate you need about 3 oz of protein (the size should be the size of your palm, both in length, width and height) and a SMALL starch portion. (Depending on your size and goals, about ½ to 1 English muffin.) Keep in mind that bananas are starchy, so a half or whole banana works too.

4 - Fat is essential
There are 3 categories that food fits into: protein, carbohydrates and fat. Your body digests carbs in a couple hours, protein takes a bit longer, but fat can take half a day to digest. To stay fuller longer, you need fat. Go ahead and add some cheese or regular dressing to your meal!

This is still a new concept to me that I stumbled upon during a paleo diet experiment. This has really served me well though because I’m finding that by allowing fat (and making sure I eat my veggies!), I am effectively getting reasonably full WITHIN my target calorie range. That is revolutionary for me.

5 – Include dairy
I recommend about a serving of dairy in one or two of your meals, depending on your calorie goal. A nutritionist gave me helpful advise to consider cheese in the fat category instead of dairy. So I go with: a) Keifer (which is this mix between milk and yogurt and has tons more good bacteria than other yogurt); b) yogurt (I’ve used Activia, but I’m starting to see that flavored Greek yogurt is quite tasty) or c) milk.

6 – Dessert is good
Obviously dessert tastes good, but is it good for weight loss? Clearly eating a giant ice cream sundae isn’t going to do your thighs any favors, but if you are anything like me, a life without dessert seems like a wasted life! My greatest advise is to enjoy and be mindful rather than just going through the motions. That way you can eat less but actually receive greater satisfaction.

Ways to do this is to prepare your individual serving, perhaps on a fancy plate if it is particularly special. If you are thinking about what you are eating and savoring the taste, you’ll notice if it really is indulgently yummy. If it is not – throw it out or give it to someone else who does enjoy it more. You don’t like to waste money; don’t waste your calories either. 

7– Maximize snack effectiveness
Snacks should consist of MULTIPLE food groups, and it is okay to have a snack that is more than 100 calories.
As you saw in #1, I’ve configured my meals so I can be in my calorie goal even with 600 calories in snacks! Respecting your hunger is important. Mindlessly snacking will get you in trouble really quick, but strategic snacks to supplement a smaller meal or help you get to the next meal are critical. By consuming multiple food groups in one snack, you fulfill your body’s needs on multiple levels. E.g. yogurt with granola and berries, celery with peanut butter and raisins or crackers with meat and cheese.

8 – Go easy on fruit
You may have noticed that I haven’t included fruit so far. That is because fruit has such high sugar content that it’s best to use only sparingly. It is definitely a good idea to eat fruit because of the vitamins, but I just use it as a supplemental food group in snacks/desserts. Fruit is wonderful for satisfying your sweet tooth with less empty calories.

9 – Do what works for you
Yes, I’m giving my tips and tricks and recommending this and that. But if you have something that is working for you - stay with it! Vegan can work. Paleo can work. Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig pre-packaged foods can work. Whole food diets work. We all have different bodies with different needs. Rather than feeling defeated that there are so many different nutritional philosophies, recognize that the huge number of options means that you can find or create successful eating patterns that tailor to your individual body.  It’s okay (and in my opinion inevitable) that you don’t follow someone else’s plan verbatim.  Keep what works and drop what doesn’t, with no judgment on you or others.  

10 - Give yourself grace

It can be tempting to get angry with yourself when you eat things you hadn’t planned on eating, give up for a couple days or get too busy to work out. I’ve even caught myself chastising my stomach for being hungry if I think maybe some other person would not be hungry haven eaten the same thing. Now, if I am hungry, I believe that my body is telling me something and I respect myself enough to listen and learn from the experience - maybe my previous meal was too unbalanced or too small, my incessant hunger is certainly not some kind of character defect. You are your own person and it’s going to take time to figure out what works for you, especially if you have other areas of life that take up a lot of time and mental energy. Sometimes we take steps back, but we will find our peace if you continue with grace.

No comments:

Post a Comment