How do you eat?
What I mean by this is: what are your rules of thumb for keeping yourself on track? A few years ago, as I got serious about my health, I figured out that I would need some sort of a formula for making quick decisions about what I could eat. How much of a treat was too much and how much was just enough to help me feel satisfied? How much water did I really need every day? What was my "poison"? I came up with the lifestyle diet I've been following for the past 3 years:
-No refined sugars or flours on weekdays
-Only (or as much as possible) organic animal products and produce from the dirty dozen list
-From Friday evening-Sunday evening, anything goes
Now you may be thinking, "Really? A health coach who lives by an 'anything goes' mentality...even if it's only a few days out of the week?...that's counterintuitive!" I did start this lifestyle diet with tighter boundaries because I had to wean myself off of sugar. However, I found that after many months of not eating the refined sugars or flours (my poison), my appetite for foods with those ingredients was significantly more controlled. When I got to a healthier place and loosened up my lifestyle diet boundaries to where they are now, I found that when the weekend came, my dessert cravings were often already curbed. I didn't crave massive portions of ice cream, french fries, or sugary coffee drinks like I once had! A small handful of a treat on a Saturday evening was enough to leave me feeling satisfied and "treated".
However, I realized that my formula for eating well did not always work when my schedule was varied. For instance, when traveling, it can be incredibly difficult to stick to a diet...even if it's a lifestyle diet you're very used to managing. I developed a few tips for keeping myself on track in situations like travel:
-I always try to start the day with a high protein breakfast and never neglect hydration. The above photo is an example of my breakfasts in Spain. While there on a missions trip, I didn't have access to a lot of nutrients at cafes, since coffee and pastries are the normal breakfast time snack. So I grocery shopped for a small supply of healthy snacks. I found fiber bars that were low in sugar (once you learn to read a nutrition label, it's pretty easy to recognize what's what--even if it's in a different language!), fruit, and unsweetened yogurt. Eating a breakfast like this one got me started on the right foot for the rest of the day.
-I trick myself into a full plate by starting with vegetables. This means I typically try to fill at least half of my plate with vegetables so that the other half, even if it's rich and unfamiliar food, will not overwhelm my body.
-On vacations, in particular, I love to indulge. I have found, however, that only controlled indulging is enjoyable. Uncontrolled indulging may feel good in the moment, but our bodies will quickly correct this mistake with sluggishness, irritability, and indigestion. To keep treats in check on vacations, I shoot for just one dessert per day. This may still sound pretty permissive for someone who is trained in nutrition, but keep in mind these are my guidelines for those times in life when schedule is less controlled. Again, I've found that even when I'm traveling, if I start the day off with a healthy breakfast, stay hydrated, and fill my plate with vegetables first, my appetite for treats is not out of hand and I can fully enjoy one small portion of something totally decadent.
So, I return to the question: how do you eat? Enjoy experimenting with you perfect lifestyle diet today!