My Heathy Eating, Japanese Reset

As mentioned in my post Tips For Healthier Eating And Weight Loss – Inspired By Japan I mentioned that I was very eager to have a reset with my own dietary habits. Generally I’m the only person who is aware that I’m puffier than normal, or holding onto slightly more weight than I should… But really, I’m the only one who matters in that equation, right? If I notice I’m not where I want to be and it makes me unhappy, then I know I have work to do. If I don’t do the work, I know exactly where that will land me emotionally – I’m not going to head that direction willingly.

So did my “reset” actually work?

Y E S!

Generally it takes a few weeks to reprogram ourselves into a new habit – a week in Japan wasn’t going to be enough, but it was a jumpstart that I knew I could look forward to. The Japanese don’t eat the way we do in America – I was counting on that! It isn’t that I’ve been through eating disorders or that I don’t think I can handle being around food establishments. I don’t have any fear or anxiety surrounding going out to eat either – most establishments have SOMEthing I’ll like (and in Japan, I knew they would.) I have a willpower the Spartans would have paid me for on top of it, so I’m not worried about seeing delicious items on the menu, splurging, and being disappointed with myself later. Rather it’s that I don’t enjoy being around the over-doing that goes on… At all.

It isn’t about a judgment, let me be clear. I don’t have any right (or desire) to try to guess as to why some people are morbidly overweight, or why someone eats well beyond when their body says “HALT!” It isn’t my place to judge, and there could be a million reasons why – it’s frankly NONE of my business. What disgusts me (and really, that’s the best word for it) is the over-stuffing, over-ordering, over-filling, over-indulging. 

As with everything else, to each their own for sure. What I’ve learned about myself is that I simply don’t want to be around that kind of splurging and binging. If I had to go into McDonalds, I’d take my food and go. You’ll never catch me on a cruise, for example – food is the focus and I am an eat-to-live kind of person. I LOVE to eat, don’t get me wrong, but my long-term goals are more of a priority than the short-term satisfaction. 

I don’t’ care about eating as it pertains anyone but myself – I am the only person / place / thing over which I have control AND, I’m the only person who’s my business! But that also means that pigouts are uncomfortable to be around because I don’t enjoy the over-doing when it comes to food (particularly here in the States.) When asked for nutritional advice, I always preface it by saying “what works for me, may not for someone else – our goals and bodies are different.”

So Japan…Japan was very welcome. The portions are WAY smaller. People don’t over-stuff themselves. People take time eating, and even buffets are healthy. You RARELY see anyone who’s overweight, let alone morbidly obese. Everyone – regardless of age – is WALKING. People are moving around all day, and eating healthily on top of it. Our surroundings matter and I’ll be honest, I really enjoyed that environment.

So, what did I learn? Which habits did I bring home?

I’ve made a few tweaks to my nutrition since I’ve been back, inspired by the change in routine:

1. I eat less at each sitting

I *could* eat more but I don’t serve myself more…because the extra isn’t necessary to feel full. Today I went back for a few more bites (a few times!) because I realized I needed more food and was, legitimately, hungry. But I ate my lunch, I waited. I had some water. And then I realized I needed to add.

2. I use smaller serving vessles

I’m using a bowl half or 2/3 the size of what I used when I left. Big difference! It allows me to fill it (looks like a lot!) but not overeat. I’d have the sensation of being full (before I went to Japan), so why was I forcing myself? No good reason! I’m not starving, and food is not in short supply. There’s more where it came from so I can chill out…

3. I use chopsticks

Yes, for every meal! Why? SLOWS ME DOWN! Seriously…there’s no need to shovel in food, and I can eat way too much way too fast if I’m not careful and paying attention.

4. I use mindfulness

I try to pay attention while I’m eating. Distraction can lead to stuffing myself more than I need to…and also delay my full signal because I’m not in tune. I try to be more aware of my food, and that I’m really enjoying it.

5. I don’t overdo

I don’t over-buy or over-order. I stock up a lot of frozen veggies because it saves me some trips (and keeps other food cold that I might buy while out and about.) But I don’t go crazy with things that I know I’ll just end up eating too much of – saves me the trouble of fighting urges (and losing those battles. Which…I will!)

6. I have lightened up on cruciferous veggies and go for free instead

Some vegetables can upset the stomach. Though I can tolerate a LOT more fiber than the average person (it’s been the bulk of my diet for over a decade – as in, four to eight pounds of veggies a day!) it can still be too much for me. Switching to lesser puffy-producing veggies has meant less stomach aches. I tend not to overeat green beans, snap peas, legumes, or greens as much as I do cauliflower so I’m also having a little less overall. 

What have I noticed with the reset?

  1. I’m feeling better overall!
  2. My stomach doesn’t hurt as much (WIN! I suffer from regular stomach aches)
  3. I’m not as puffy feeling or looking
  4. I probably lost a pound or two (or at least puffiness from too much food and fiber)
  5. I’m not starving. At all!
  6. I have plenty of energy
  7. I’ve been sleeping better overall
  8. I have less anxiety about having to eat right away because my body isn’t responding as poorly to not eating quickly enough (still happens, but not as horribly)

So yes, my ruse worked! BUT…a big part of it is sticking to the plan. I’m making sure I KEEP good habits because it’s easy to revert to poor ones.

My goal has always been to maintain a healthy, happy, strong body…and that hasn’t changed. My nutritional needs, however, have. I’m 40…not 20…so it’s important I listen to my body, and that I try to fuel it with the proper food…not to mention the proper QUANTITY of it. America doesn’t help us a ton there because it’s always about how much can you stuff in for how little money. That is a horrifying concept to me! Again, different things work for different people – because I know what I need, I make sure I’m not around what doesn’t support my goals, or whatever makes me feel uncomfortable. Nothing wrong with looking after ourselves – we do, at the end of the day, have to live with ourselves TRULY 24/7. We deserve to feel – and be – healthy. Period.

Nutrition – 100 Calorie Snack Packs

Hard to beat!

Fresh fruit is a great (and easy!) snack to tote along – high fiber, low calorie, full of nutrients, pre-portioned…and no hard-to-pronounce ingredients on the list!

Setting Up The Day

There’s something to be said for having breakfast in the morning.  It doesn’t have to be sitting on your night table and devoured the moment your lids go up…but having a meal in the morning as you get going can set you up for a much better day.

My system is a little quirky – if I wake up early, before my usual (and more natural) time, I have to eat pronto.  Not doing so lands me in a puffy and uncomfortable way – no one can explain it, it just is what it is.  Same thing happens if I wait too long between meals or snacks! Frustrating but…I know it happens, so I’m able to be proactive and head it off!  If I wake up at my usual time, a cup of coffee and a little time before eating works best.  Everyone is different and there is nothing wrong with the way your morning routine is if it works for you!

I don’t vary a ton with my food in general – I could list my staples on one hand.  So breakfast is either eggs and vegetables, or eggs and fruit.  I don’t manage to get bored, remarkably (spices and sometimes even salsa or hot sauce can make a nice change!)

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What I find, though, is that having a decent amount of protein, paired with high fiber and high water content foods sets me up to have more energy for the not just the morning, but the day.  It kicks starts the metabolic burning process, and it often keeps me from devouring everything in sight later (that happens – for sure – when I don’t.)  

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Whatever mix of macronutrients works for you so that you feel your best, have the most energy, and feel satisfied, is what you should do!  That might be toast with peanut butter and some fruit, or a big greek yogurt smoothie… Whatever it is, though, squeeze it in if you can.  Breakfast is hugely important and will give you the support you need internally to start the day right. 

 

Healthy Breakfast When Dining Out

This really is my usual cast of characters, so it’s fair to say that MOST of my dining-out breakfast options look a lot like this (which, for me, is a good thing!) 🙂  

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There are always a lot of great options, though – you never have to have full fat milk in your cereal, or even milk at all, for example – most places offer skim (lots of protein, less calories and fat), or soy or almond options.  You also can ask for greek yogurt in most establishments, in place of plain (less protein than greek, and often more sugar.)

You can absolutely ask for any condiments on the side, lest your dish come out drowning in something more caloric than you need.  Fresh fruit and a tall glass of water are also great as they give some volume and a feeling of fullness…without being bad for you!

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For me, the combination of healthy fats, protein, fiber and water content helps keep me satisfied a good while – I’m the kind of person who eats a LOT during the day, so consider that I probably need to eat more often than most.  In this case, the fact that I am satisfied for a while indicates that the food items are doing their job nicely…withOUT being bad for me!

More Deliciousness

FY-EYE

New jazz from Maybelline that wasn’t supposed to be out quite yet…but that IS.  Ballroom dancers rejoice – less need to wear the falsies (which I couldn’t STAND!)

The Falsies Push Up Angel Mascara promises to sweep your flutter to the side, giving a lifted, winged effect – how pinup and fabulous!

Ulta.com

Ulta.com

Maybelline’s Brow Precise Fiber Volumizer is hopping on the heels of the brow building trend, not only adding color, but filling out sparse areas with its fiber-infused gel formula.

Maybelline.com

Maybelline.com

My Current Go-To Meal

Despite my immense propensity for “getting bored,” I never seem to tire of healthy foods.  I’m enormously thankful for that, as I am scarcely exempt from getting cravings.  Fortunately a giant bowl protein and vegetables is generally enough to derail those venomous “you know you want a cookie”s, but it doesn’t mean it is always easy!  My willpower is tightly tied to my goals – I do my best to adhere to those, and focus on the end result as much as I can, which helps me see past the immediate satisfaction I *think* I’ll feel. 

gvu.gatech.edu

gvu.gatech.edu

Eating protein DOES help – you are providing your body with a slower-digesting source of fuel that registers as “satiety” for a longer period…and I definitely need that!  If not, I’d be in trouble – after my late 20s, food started to “stick,” whether I protested or not.  Staying well hydrated helps to stave off cravings as well, which helps me stick to my goals as best I can.

Shutterstock 283730408

Shutterstock 283730408

Lately my protein choices have changed (just a hair!) – since I eat a lot of the same foods, it isn’t at all surprising!  That said, it also isn’t so dramatic a change, my body will have any issues processing.  I’ve swapped out chicken breasts and tenders for ground chicken.  At least for now. I can’t say why specifically, but it totally hits the spot! 😀 Regardless of the protein source (salmon, shrimp and mild fish are other favorites!), I will always add vegetables.  

I add a few veggies into this recipe, but I add even more with it for a meal – I probably go through about 8  lbs of vegetables a day.  Yes…I said A DAY.  You know those enormous 4 lb frozen mixed vegetable packages at the supermarket?  I go through at least two a day (sometimes I use one, along with several smaller packages, varying the “mix.”)  Veggies add healthy, less calorically-dense VOLUME and, because I love to eat, volume is key.  My favorite picks are:

  • California Blend – broccoli, cauliflower, carrots. (I use these for the bulk)
  • Italian Blend – broccoli, cauliflower, Italian green beans, zucchini, carrots
  • Asian Blend – broccoli, snap peas, water chestnuts, red peppers, mushrooms
  • Ranchero Fiesta – broccoli, white beans, chickpeas, carrots, red peppers, dark red kidney beans, Italian green beans. (I generally use half a bag, mixed with less starchy vegetables, but I love these for the extra fiber and protein (which, again, helps you stay satisfied longer!))

Those aside, my favorite vegetables to prepare with the ground chicken are organic red, yellow, and orange peppers (sweeter than the green), sliced baby bella mushrooms, and fire roasted tomatoes.  Sometimes I also add baby spinach, but I’ll toss it in towards the end if I do so it doesn’t get cooked too much and lose nutrients.

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I slice the peppers into small strips, after removing the stem and seeds, and quartering.  The mushrooms just need to be rinsed, and that’s it!  I will heat the stove on high and toss all the veggies with some salt and pepper into my snazzy Curtis Stone pan (which I don’t have to use any oil with! 🙂 ) I generally put the cover on and let them simmer, stirring occasionally, for about six or seven minutes.  

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Then I put two pounds of ground chicken (Whole Foods can grind breast meat for you if they are out!) into a second, larger pan, over high heat – again, no oil is necessary, but I do sprinkle Jane’s Mixed Up Salt on both sides (it’s easy to sprinkle on one side while in the package, then when you place it in the pan face down, you can add to the second side.)  I give it about two or three minutes on high to let one side brown gently, then I flip.  I’ll give it a minute or two and then start to chop it with my spatula, and flip as necessary.  

I DON’T like dried-out meat, so I will get it cooked about 75% through, then add in the vegetable mixture, which is softened by now, but not overcooked.  I’ll let that simmer on a medium to high heat mixing periodically until it’s cooked through.  

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And voila…easy as that.  The whole thing doesn’t take more than about 15 minutes or so, and it lasts me through a few meals.  I DO tend to eat “dinner” a few times at Night, though… 🙂  It really is like feeding a raptor.

For more of my Nutritional Choices… 😀

Travel Snacks and Meals

I recently had to head back home for a weekend and, despite that I stay at my parents’ house, I always have to hit the road prepared!  

It is true that living a fit and healthy life can mean that you need to think in advance, but it sincerely ISN’T a hassle (or doesn’t have to be!)  Once you get the hang of it, healthy eating on the go is pretty easy to achieve – physical benefits aside, you will also emotionally feel better that you took some time to prepare, allowing you to make better food choices along the way.

I took a bunch of goodies on the road with me – not only to snack on during the long ride, but also to have as in-between-meal snacks (and, admittedly, MIDNIGHT snacks!) for my stay.  Generally I take more than I need, but I’d rather do so than feel famished, then reaching for a less-healthy option.  Here’s what I took along for the few day trip:

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  • Single servings of Almond Milk – used for coffee, since lactose is no longer my friend!
  • Via Instant coffee – I drink one cup a day in the morning.  Since I often workout in the morning, it always provided a lil’ extra boost!)
  • Pistachios – great, healthy fats and protein = filling snack!  Just be careful with portions!
  • Almonds – as above! 🙂
  • Chomperz Seaweed Chips – love these for a salty, crunchy, relatively healthy option.  LOVE that it’s portion controlled!
  • Organic Fuji Apples – perfect combination of crunch and sweetness, plus fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins!
  • 35 Calorie Maple twisty cookies – I get these at the supermarket.  I might eat one or two a day if I need something sweet.  They aren’t hefty in the stats department, and they don’t have much sugar (which I generally steer clear of) so I like the option, as it will stave off sweet cravings.
  • Flavored gum – Gum isn’t great for you, AND it can add to your waistline because of the air you can take in unknowingly.  That said, sometimes it can stave off a sweet tooth, and keep you from chomping down on extra calories.
  • Touch of Olive Oil Popcorn – I love popcorn!  The one I buy has popcorn, sea salt, and olive oil…period.  It IS kind of easy to eat a ton, so important to portion out…but it’s a fun, light, not-terrible-for-you choice if you are craving a traditional kind of snack food.
  • Frozen veggies – yes, they could make the trip (I use cold storage shopping bags!)  I eat several pounds of veggies DAILY, so it is kind of a must have for me!
  • Chia Bars – I LOVE the chocolate peanut butter flavor and often it’s a wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night snack for me.  Good, bad, or otherwise, call it a VERY long-time habit!

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When I GOT to the house I had a little time to go shopping for other meal items. I already had the veggies, and my parents had whole eggs, as well as fresh fruits, so it was off to the produce and poultry aisles!  I usually try to find the organic ground chicken or turkey, but settled for what they had (wasn’t terrible), and snagged a carton of egg whites for breakfast.  As a note, our Whole Foods will ground breast meat for you at the counter, as other markets might – worth asking!

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I’m not a cook by any stretch, so anything I DO make is incredibly simple. The fresh mushrooms got tossed into a pan with the ground chicken, to which I added a bit of salt and pepper and a dash of low-calorie teriyaki sauce for flavor.  Plain jane but uber delicious! 🙂 

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Breakfast was an egg with some egg whites and, not surprisingly, a hefty side of veggies (I love to add some salsa too for an extra kick.)  This actually is my usual fare to start the day, along with my cup of coffee with almond milk.

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I definitely had enough for the weekend, and didn’t find myself overly hungry or in need of something else (scouring the pantry hungry is never a good idea!)  I brought a few things back home, which was A-OK with me – I’d rather be overly prepared than reach for something I…or my tummy…won’t be happy about later!

For more of my meals…click here. 🙂