The dietary habits of my youth are not what one would call optimal. By any stretch of the imagination.I am guessing (because you’re reading this) that you are in something of the same situation. Maybe you’ve been indulging a little too much and need to knock it off. You want to step away from the microwave meals, but aren’t sure what to do. You’re getting serious about “bringing lunch to work” to save money, perhaps. It’s finally sunk in that it’s not your dryer running hot and shrinking your clothes more.
And you know what? It’s OK. It really is. Let’s get that out of the way and out of your mind. Repeat after me, “I’m not a bad person just because I may not have made the best choices with food.”
You’re here now and that’s what counts.
The goal with this article isn’t to convince you to eliminate all the foods you enjoy. It’s not a diet plan, meal plan, or even nutritional advice. The goal is to outline a few tips to help you make healthier choices with your eating: shop smart, be mindful, and take little steps.
A failure to plan is- oh look, cookies are on sale!
One simple, wonderful thing you can do to get started is to put together your shopping list before you go shopping. Having a list will keep you focused and help prevent you from buying a lot of unnecessary things (hint: it ain’t veggies). As Kate Giovino sums up, “If it is not on the list, it doesn’t go in your cart, on your plate, or in your mouth.”
In addition to having it spelled out for you (literally), eat before you go. You don’t have to have a 5-course meal prior to driving to the market, but when you shop hungry you tend to buy more at the store. Things you probably don’t need more of.
Something to keep in mind, while free-styling, is that supermarkets are designed to get you to stay longer, buy more, and pay more. Don’t believe me? Next time you go, tell me if the floral department or bakery is close to the entrance. Everything the market does from the layout (why aren’t all the basics together?), to the items at eye level (premium $ for those in a hurry) is designed to make you buy. Stick to the outside aisles to help mitigate the Snacky Grabber (the magic fairy that puts all that junk food in your cart when you aren’t looking). This will lead to not only healthier food purchases, but often a lower bill at checkout as well. Don’t be afraid to try out generic brands either. Cutting costs on which baby carrots you buy, or bulk buying when you can, means more money left over for high quality where it counts.
1. Write a list out before going to the market; you’ll stick to necessities.
2. Don’t shop when hungry; you’ll buy less.
3. Look up and down (or up up down down left right left right if you’re feeling spunky); you may find a less expensive alternative.
4. Stay to the outside aisles; you’ll reduce impulse buys.
Tip 1: Shop smart.
Haste makes waist.
Mindfulness is amazing stuff. I’ll leave the religion and spirituality out of it; suffice to say (I’m going old school, none of this “it” stuff!) that mindfulness has many uses in many places. And it can and should be a part of your eating as well. Healthier eating becomes easier when we pay attention to how much we take to eat, what we eat, and how we eat.
Without getting too science-y, it takes roughly 20 minutes from when you start eating to when you start feeling full. Taking your time while eating is very important (hey, I feel you. I’ve done the snarfsnarfsnarf binge eating and regretted it half an hour later when I felt like I might explode). Looking for a way to start immediately? Daniel Wallen suggests, “Put your fork down in between every bite.” since eating too quickly often means eating too much. (For the adventurous, you can try “Mighty Joe” Stankowski’s idea to “try eating with chopsticks using your non-dominant hand.”)
Another idea to prevent overeating is to have portion control. I don’t mean calorie counting and measuring food on a scale (nothing wrong with that and it may work very well for you), I mean paying attention to the volume of food you are eating.
“When you decrease quantity, and increase quality your diet becomes fool proof” – SahilJerkus
Too tempted to heap on that second spoonful of mashed potatoes? Don’t like looking at empty plates? If it’s on the plate, are you going to eat it even if you are full? Try getting smaller plates. Lou Schuler agrees, “As a signal to eat less, I don’t think anything beats switching to smaller bowls, plates, cutlery and glasses.” It may sound expensive, but think of all the money you’ll be saving on Pepto.
Lastly, be mindful of what you are adding on top of your food. Those condiments can really add a lot of calories (and chemicals!) that you don’t need. They also make it easier to overeat. Mark Jamantoc gives the advice, “The less dressings you have and condiments on your green salad, the better. Simple vinaigrettes are good enough.”
What if you want to add a little pizazz to your protein? A little spice to your spinach, some pep to your peppers (ok, they can’t all be good), or some boom to your broccoli? Be smart about it. There are plenty of delicious flavors in nature as well as not-so-bad condiments.
“Zero-calorie condiments (hot sauce, mustard, red pepper flakes, allspice, vinegar, etc) are your friends. Get them, keep them, use them with reckless abandon.” – Hare Force
1. Eat slowly; put your fork down between bites.
2. Pay attention to portions; use smaller plates and glasses.
3. Watch the unhealthy add-ons; use healthier condiments and spices instead.
Tip 2: Be mindful.
One small step for man, one giant leap for health and wellness.
Don’t think (or expect) you have to flip a switch and be 100% perfect with your food from now until forever. And don’t think that little changes won’t mean anything. Years ago, I used to go to the movies fairly regularly. Being from Boston, there’s a lot of press about Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund. Before the movie started, they’d play a commercial that featured iron workers who were working on a new hospital. One of the workmen said something I still remember: “All you have to do is give a little, because a little in abundance is a lot.”
This works the same way; just make a small change such as drinking water instead of a soda (or iced tea if it’s unsweetened) each time you make a choice.
Learn a few basic recipes, like a grilled protein with some roasted vegetables. Or a quick chili or soup. Cooking with the intention of having leftovers might make you more likely to eat that the next day instead of something less healthy.
Get off one train or bus stop early and walk the rest of the way. Take the stairs instead of the escalator. Do jumping jacks and pushups when commercials come on the TV show you’re watching. Go for a walk after (or before) work or if you already walk, take a slightly longer way.
Whatever you do, just keep doing it. Little steps will get you where you’re going. Don’t be discouraged if progress seems slow; slow progress is still progress! Changing your eating habits will take time, and you will make mistakes along the way. It happens – it’s life. Don’t let it get you down. Keep being mindful and making small changes and you will get where you’re going. Rick has lost over 180lbs and he says “A lifetime of bad habits is hard to break overnight. So break it down and take it one step at a time.”
You don’t have to go it alone. In fact, support from family and friends will most likely make you more successful. Surround yourself with like-minded people and talk about your struggles and your successes. You can find groups on messageboards for support, groups and pages on Facebook, and groups in your neighborhood. Talking to a friend can help keep you accountable as well.
1. Start slow; changes are cumulative.
2. Learn some quick and tasty meals; cooking in bulk prepares you for future meals.
3. Gain perspective; this will take a while and there will be bumps, so expect it.
4. Build your circle; social support is an underrated component of lifestyle change.
Tip 3: Take little steps; make small, sustainable changes.
Thank you for taking the time to read this. All questions and comments are welcome as feedback is food for the writer’s soul. And if you found this article helpful, please share it.
Make sure you visit Greg on facebook at Fit In My Pants – he always has educational, uplifting and motivating stuff there!
Author, Greg Ohnoez