All creatures on earth, whether human or animals, need food to live. But only humans have taken that need and turned it into an obsession. Of all the idiosyncrasies of food addictions, the one I find the most detrimental is that of “comfort food.” The idea that food is anything other than nourishment is again, exclusive only to humans.
The joy that some of us feel from food preparation and savoring of flavors (the artistic side of cuisine) is undeniably one of the most wonderful uses of some of our five senses (taste, smell and even vision). The flip side of this is that somehow society at large (pun intended) has equated certain foods to that of providing comfort.
There’s no question that all of us have childhood memories (and other situational sense memories) that are directly tied to food. A special recipe your mother created when you were sick, or on birthdays, as well as dishes we ate when we were “happy” or “in love” become go to foods when, as adults, life is not where we want it to be. While it’s true that certain foods create a chemical reaction that can elevate moods, the idea that food can fill up a painful hole within our hearts is a slippery slope. What makes this worse is that traditionally most “comfort foods” are high in fat, salt, and/or sugar.
I have many a client and friend that spends days or months being diligent about their nutritional intake, only to blow it all away because they had an emotional disturbance that they responded to by eating “comfort foods.” How many movies have shown women sitting in front of the TV crying while shoveling in an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s? Or how many nights are lonely bachelors depicted scarfing down fast food take out after a night of drinking? These movies reflect real life – raise your hand if you’ve ever done this.
As I always say, everything’s okay in moderation – including pints of ice cream and multiple Taco Bell indiscernible meat tacos, but the problem here is that a lot of people have a regular routine of eating these “bad for your body” foods every single time they’re upset, frustrated or sad.
If this behavior resonates with you, then I offer this advice: break up with food! Stop “dating” food to make you feel better, especially when in reality, it does just the opposite. Repeated indulgences in comfort food is no better for you than that guy or girl who belittles your self-esteem.
See nutrition as a tool that allows your body and brain to function and deal with life. I use the Car analogy – most people put medium to high-grade gasoline in their car, see to regular oil changes, and keep all fluids and tire pressure to their peak levels. If you do not, your car will not drive well, handle huge hills, stay safe on wet roads, and eventually stop running completely. Well guess what, your body is the same.
If you find it difficult to walk away from food when you’re emotionally upset, then at least make better choices – find a healthier “comfort” – or keep the quantities of the unhealthy choices to a much smaller amount. Better still, deal with the feelings that you’re hiding from, and once they’re faced, you’ll undoubtedly not even need the food for comfort. One last choice to consider is exercise. I’ve had some of the best cardio sessions when I’ve been angry. When the day before I was bored and tired after 10 minutes on the treadmill, suddenly when fueled by a situation / conversation that left me hot-headed, I ran for 30 minutes straight!
Whether your goal is fat loss or just improved health and fitness, breaking up with comfort foods is an essential step to reaching your goal and staying there.
What if said you never had to diet again? When I say that to my clients their eyes get wide, and they ask what’s the catch? It’s very simple: moderation. We’ve all heard the term, “everything in moderation.” Yet very few people live that principle.
Most adults find themselves sporting an extra 10-40 from where they were in high school or college. For moms it can feel like a life long battle with the final ten pounds of baby weight. Staggering numbers of obese pre-teens and teens are stuck in unhealthy cycles of computer game lethargy combined with fast food diets. Parents with hectic lives look to fast food to aid in feeding a family that runs at high speed from dawn to dusk.
Not surprisingly, then come the diet crazes. The Zone, Nutrisystems, Paleo you name it, people will try it. Most times, success is short-lived and the weight comes back, often with additional pounds.
So how do you never diet again, lose weight, keep it off, while eating food that you enjoy? Again, it’s simple: moderation. Don’t starve, don’t overeat, don’t make anything completely taboo or forbidden. Change your perspective about nutrition and what it means to you.
1. Don’t deprive yourself of something you really crave. Enjoy that cookie, those potato chips, or glass of alcohol – just have a small quantity. If you have a difficult time restraining yourself, restrict the amount that’s available to you. Take one cookie out of the bag, or a single handful of chips, and then put the bag away. Keep alcohol to one glass. Don’t over-indulge, but don’t deny!
2. Share the guilt. You’re out to dinner and you really want steak instead of the lean salmon. See if you can split it with someone. If not, as soon as the food arrives, ask for a to-go container. Put half of the entire meal into the container, and get it off the table. Instant portion control. (Most people are too self-conscious to eat food out their to-go containers at the table.)
3. The 10-minute rule. Start all meals with small portions. When your plate is empty, wait 10 minutes. Sip some water. Enjoy conversation. Nine out of ten times, you won’t be hungry 10 minutes later. But if you’re still craving more after 10 minutes, have a second serving, this time smaller than the first.
4. Quantity vs. quality. You’ve just got to have McDonald french fries. Okay, have 10. (I see people waste food all the time, yet, the same people are horrified at the idea of buying an entire container of fries, and throwing away all but 10. Think about that.) Now if it’s fruit or green salad you crave, go ahead and have two servings if you desire.
5. Friends vs. enemies. Friends: whole, unprocessed foods (fruits, veggies, nuts, legumes, grains, beans, lean meats and fish, and water, water, water. Enemies: refined sugars, saturated animal fats, high-fat dairy products, bleached flour, excessive gluten, fried foods, and all processed snacks. Take your enemies in small doses, surround yourself with friends the rest of the time.
6. Find a better choice. There are so many excellent tasting choices now for replacing those high-fructose corn syrup sweets or unhealthy-oil fried chips, from gluten free crackers to popsicles sweetened only with fruit juice, etc. You no longer have to feel deprived of the satisfying salty, crunchy, chocolatey stuff you love. Take a chance, and try something new, but once again, no matter how good it seems to be for you, eat it in moderation!
7. Calories in vs. calories out. A calorie is a measurement of energy that the body either stores or uses as fuel. If you ingest a huge quantity of calories, better get to the gym and burn them off. In other words – burn what you eat. That’s really what metabolism is all about.
8. 6 x 3. Everyone needs to eat six small meals/snacks a day at 2-3 hour intervals. To make your body a lean mean burning machine, eat something small every few hours. One meal/snack can be as simple as an apple and a handful of almonds, or some turkey-jerky and a banana. Make sure you have quick, healthy snacks in your car, purse, desk, etc. (Skipping meals (especially breakfast), or long spans without eating, causes your body to store fat instead of burning calories!)
9. Stay off the Scale! This is very important because the psychological effects of weight gain and loss can play more havoc on your body than a night of binge eating. Body weight is subject to change on a daily basis, especially for women: muscle weighs more than fat; monthly cycles can add water weight; stress can keep weight on, etc. Judge your success by how your clothes fit, any positive sizing changes, and your energy, not what you weight.
These nine simple strategies can make a huge difference in the way you feel and look, and yet they’re really very unassuming to live with once you embrace them. Throw in a moderate level of exercise (one hour, 3-5 times a week), and a healthy body is on the way!
Remember, moderation is the key to a healthy lifestyle. If you approach food as a tool and not a reward, then you will succeed at your weight loss goals. Don’t ever say you’re dieting again, because that implies a short term fix and negative terms like I cheated sabotage results. Just keep your daily nutrition as healthy in size and quality as you can, exercise regularly, and enjoy all things life has to offer – with moderation, and never diet again!
How many times a day do you worry about your weight? Do you spend hours wishing you looked differently, obsessing about what you’re eating (or not eating), and/or trying every single “get six pack abs” video, exercise pins on Pinterest, and/or radical weight loss diets?
We are a Nation of obsessed bodies! I have clients, friends, and family who spend massive amounts of time fretting over what they can eat, when they can eat, and how they can change their diets to accommodate quick weight loss, while still enjoying all the things they love to eat and drink. First everyone followed The Zone, now it’s Paleo; P90X was replaced with Insanity (literally).
On DLF’s Pinterest page (http://pinterest.com/DaneLifeFit/), I see at least 25 new and different “these are the best exercises for toning the abs” pins every day! Of course, many of the people (mostly women) who pin these to their boards might not remember (or know) that the models in the pictures are usually women in their early 20’s, who work out 2-3 hours a day, and eat a very strict and regimented diet.
I am routinely questioned by clients obsessed with reinventing the workout to affect a change faster and better: is alternating sprints with incline walking better use of a treadmill than 40 minutes of straight running? Are core workouts on a ball or TRX cable better than old-fashioned weight lifting (now re-named the less intimidating “resistance training”)?
Dear friends and followers, the answers to these questions that plague you day and night, and all that you obsess about when it comes to nutrition and exercise, is this:
ACCEPTANCE is the first step.
Accept your body type.
Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph? (Look ‘em up!) Take two people of equal age, height, and frame. They may look the same, but they can have a weight differential of as much as 15 pounds. There’s more to a healthy body than an average height-weight scale that our doctors impose upon us. There’s more to you than what size shirt you wear.
Accept that permanent change happens slowly.
There are no quick fixes to re-shaping the body, especially if you want these changes to stick. Remember too, that a”diet” implies temporary. Therefore, as soon as you resume your “normal” (old habits) of eating, you will gain weight again. As for exercise, if you have or make little time for it, or just plain dislike it – no video, class, trendy running of 100 steps in Brentwood will work in the long run because you will get bored, or see so few results that you’ll give up.
So rather than obsessing, let’s accept. With that hurdle jumped, we can address those issues that we can actually do something about.
Set a realistic goal for what your body can look like.
Once you figure out what your body type really is, and how much time you can give to exercise and proper nutrition (see the points below), you can set a realistic goal – one that you can actually achieve and then feel satisfaction and accomplishment about.
Where there’s a will there’s a way. If your job or home responsibilities are too stressful, I guarantee with a little “un-panicked” soul-searching you can find a way to make even a small change that will allow you enough time to schedule regular and consistent exercise. Between the positive stress-reducing effects exercise offers, and the changes in your body that will please your head, even that small change will result in something huge.
As for financial concerns, there are very inexpensive options to exercise and nutrition that you can adopt. You don’t have to join a gym or shop at Whole Foods to make these changes.
Again – change happens slowly. So make a plan, and step by step execute it. Think of all the time you sat around wishing and obsessing instead of doing. If you start taking baby steps towards your goals – and stay focused – within a matter of months, you will be closer (or even there) to achieving what you wish for.