How can I put this in a nice way? The eating habits of Americans…and westerners in general..are absolutely horrendous! There is no other way to describe it.
And in some ways, I actually hope that I offended you. Because this way maybe people will take notice of the problem and realize that they have the power to change their lives.
Right now our food seems like public enemy #1 because as a society we are slowly eating ourselves to death. So I am going to talk about how to reverse this trend.
But this doesn’t mean I will be encouraging a Spartan lifestyle either, where all I advocate is eating seaweed. So I am going to talk to you about how to avoid healthy eating burnout in your eating habits and the right way to eat out and to incorporate ‘cheat meals’ into your diet and fitness program.
First of all, let’s talk about what we eat. Americans eat way too much fat, too much sugar, and too much in general.
Portion sizes have grown over the last 20–30 years so Americans are consuming too many calories. Add to that the fact that not enough people have adopted a low saturated fat diet and it is no wonder that over 600,000 people in the US alone die from heart disease every year.
And this trend continues in our children. Right now about 1 in 6 children in the western world is obese, and this problem isn’t going away anytime soon.
So, how do we change our eating habits to reverse these trends?
First of all, pre-plan your meals. Simply put, I could not give better advice and have to say in all honesty that this was the best tip I ever learned when I was losing weight. Pre-planning my meals allowed me to know in advance how many calories I was going to consume but even more importantly enabled me to avoid the calorie bombs that are inevitable when you don’t plan what you are going to eat.
Let me give you a few examples of what happens when you don’t plan…
Scenario #1: You commit to losing weight and your ‘plan’ is to not eat anything all day until dinner. So you don’t eat breakfast (BIG MISTAKE) but by the time lunch rolls around you are famished. Someone at the next cubicle calls and says “We’re ordering Chinese….you want any?”
Do I need to tell you the rest?
Scenario #2: You adopt sound and sensible fitness and eating habits and have eaten perfectly. For the last few weeks, you have not wavered at all. But the first time you go out with friends, you order the biggest calorie bomb you can find and put yourself back where you started.
Do either of these sound familiar? Both were the result of poor planning. And I am now going to tell you how proper planning would avoid both.
Six or more small meals a day
In scenario #1, the blunders come in all shapes and sizes. First of all, and most importantly, this person skipped breakfast.
You simply cannot expect to lose any weight unless you EAT breakfast.
I want you to read that again. It isn’t a misprint. The first and most important of the eating habits that you must maintain would be for you to eat breakfast EVERYDAY!
Here’s why. First of all, your body has been starved of energy for 8 hours during sleep and needs energy. You also need to properly hydrate your body after 8 hours of no water intake (more on this in a minute). And you need to properly fill your stomach with the right kinds of foods in the morning to establish a foundation of healthy eating throughout the day.
So, what constitutes a good breakfast?
- Start with a 16-ounce glass of water or green tea. Why? Because studies have shown that not only is water an appetite suppressant, but drinking 16 ounces before every meal will allow you to consume 15% calories at that meal. Water is also a natural metabolism booster and tells your body, in this scenario, that you have woken up.
- You need to have a breakfast that is both protein and fiber-based. The protein will build muscle and the fiber will fill your stomach so you can avoid the calorie bomb that I described above in Scenario #1. So what do I do? I take one packet of Quaker Oats oatmeal [but you can use whatever you like] and add one tablespoon of peanut butter and microwave it. Now, when it is done I add almonds and blueberries to the mix. I get tons of protein, fiber, healthy fat, and antioxidants which along with the 16 ounces of water starts my day off RIGHT!
This is a small and quick meal and is the first of the six (or more) meals I will eat a day. Why at least six?
Because this nibbling diet allows you to eat all day and not get hungry. It is merely a matter of portion control.
Imagine if you plan your day so that you were able to eat a small meal every 2-3 hours. You would never get hungry because you are always eating. And as long as you are eating the right foods, then you will start to lose weight. This is a great eating habit to adopt.
When I was at my heaviest, I knew that I needed to completely re-vamp what I ate and start following healthy eating habits. But initially, my idea was to ease into things slowly.
This actually was the wrong approach.
The idea of making large changes quickly came to me as a result of reading Eat More, Weigh Less by Dr. Dean Ornish. I cannot recommend the book enough as I can truly say that it changed my life. Dr. Ornish’s approach to changing your eating habits is to make large changes quickly. Here’s why.
Let’s say you are used to eating a 16-ounce steak every night for dinner. And as part of your diet plan, you are going to cut back to 8 ounces. The problem with this approach is that you will immediately feel deprived, craving that other 8 ounces of steak immediately and it probably only takes a few days for you to go back to the 16-ounce steak.
Instead, you need to completely swap the steak with other foods that are nutrient-dense yet calorie poor. These foods will fill your stomach in the same way the steak did without all of the calories from the steak.
And the more I thought about it, his reasoning was correct. But the thing I hated as I looked online for a meal planner was that so many of them featured foods and recipes that I had never heard of or had no idea how to prepare.
So I developed my own philosophy regarding eating habits. What I did when I put together my meal plan
was to take all of these lists and just come up with a list of foods I liked. Then, I designed meals around those foods. All of the foods on the lists were nutrient-dense but calorie poor so I eating the same mass of food, but I wasn’t consuming the calories that I had. And I personal think that this is a great eating habit for you to adopt.
Plan your cheat meals
Ok. Let’s go back to scenario #2 and the person adopted the perfect eating habits but couldn’t keep at it continuously.
What a surprise?! With all of the temptations out there, could anyone? And you have to ask yourself, even if you could, would it be worth it?
After all, Jack LaLanne did have perfect eating habits for almost 90 years and he still eventually passed away. We all will. It is ok to go out and enjoy yourself. But how do you do it properly so that you avoid healthy eating burnout?
I have to say, this is now easier than ever if you plan your cheat meal.
Let’s go back to scenario #2 and give you an example of how to go about avoiding the calorie bomb and still have a great time while you are out and not feel guilty about it.
- Plan in advance. You can do this two ways: If you know you are going out and will be doing the weekend damage, you can plan to add extra cardio exercises before and after that cheat meal to compensate. But here, when I am talking about planning I am talking about going online and checking the menu out before you leave the house. All major restaurants now feature not only their menus online but also the calorie count as well. A great healthy eating habit is for you to check the calorie count before you go out to give you an idea of what you are up against when you get there. If you know what you are eating before you get there, this will certainly help.
- Have a protein shake before you go out. When I know that I am going out to eat and will be doing some damage I always have a protein shake before I go. The 16 ounces of water will fill my stomach, as will the protein powder, and will reduce the number of calories I will consume that night.
- Salad bar? Does the restaurant you are going to have a salad bar? If so, make sure to partake with generous portions. If you eat 2 large salads before the main course comes then I am going to tell you right now you will now finish your main course. But if this is the case, don’t feel bad about taking it home with you and having it tomorrow. The one danger with a salad bar is the dressing. Now, you should be eating the oil and vinegar dressing, Italian style. But if you love your ranch dressing, which is just an artery–clogger, here is how to enjoy it in a way that your arteries will approve of.
- Don’t smother the salad in dressing. Instead, get the dressing on the side. Then, dip your fork in the dressing and scrape the dressing off of the top side of the fork (the dressing is still tongue side). Then spear your salad, turn the fork over and enjoy. You will get the entire flavor of your dressing and will consume about 1/20th the amount of dressing during the course of eating the salad. Now that’s a healthy eating habit.
- Can the restaurant prepare the meal differently? ASK! If something is fried, can they grill, boil or steam it instead. You will never know unless you ask. You would be amazed how some healthy meals, like a turkey burger, can be turned into a calorie bomb because of improper preparation. But at the same time, if the restaurant can change how they prepare the meal then you can be in a position to continue to enjoy some of your favorites while avoiding all of the unnecessary that bad preparation will leave you with.
So in this way, you can have your cheat meals, enjoy them, and avoid healthy-eating burnout.