Tips For Healthier Eating and Weight Loss – Inspired By Japan

I recently got back from a trip to Japan and I couldn’t have had a more wonderful time. Of the many reasons I was excited to go (primarily to see friends and to train in my Martial Art), I knew that I would also have the opportunity to reset my eating habits…and I was really looking forward to that.

The truth is, I’m one of the healthiest eaters I know – it isn’t only about my wanting to achieve specific results (though that’s part of it), but also because my body is very finicky about what it needs and wants. For example, if I eat processed foods I actually feel ill – lethargic, puffy, stomach ache, the whole bit. Complex carbohydrates are fine but simple ones have the same negative effects. And then there’s those times where I wait too long (in excess of two or three hours) to eat – I get puffy, abdominal pain, headaches… It’s awful! I always do my best to manage it, and believe it’s my body expecting / needing food, but not having any.

Therefore…traveling for me can sometimes be anxiety-inducing because I’m concerned I’ll not feel as good as I do when I’m able to follow my at-home regime. I knew, however, that Japanese people eat very fresh foods and very well. I packed a plethora of snacks just in case (and remarkably didn’t need them all) but I knew I’d be able to find some healthy options (yes, even in spite of lots of noodles and tempura!)

If I eat “so well,” then why did I want a reset? I historically can eat massive portions…and there are several reasons that’s not the greatest idea. Giant portions, notorious (even – ugh! – celebrated in the US) can mean the following:

  • Missing Satiety Signals – Eating beyond the point of fullness causes us to lose touch with the neural reflex we are hard-wired to have (in other words, our “satiety signals”)
  • Excess Calories – As a result of missing our cue, we continue to eat which equates to a lot of extra calories our bodies don’t need
  • Reinforcing Bad Habits – We also, therefore, reinforce the habit of overeating
  • A Bigger Stomach – And overeating over an extended period (not just holidays, but longer-term habitually eating of too-large portions) actually can extend the stomach. BAD NEWS

Going to Japan was a welcome change – I knew that my schedule wouldn’t permit me to necessarily eat as frequently, or eat as large meals as I am accustomed to. I was THRILLED that would be the case because I felt like I need a kick in the butt to get me going.

After coming home…I feel like I’m in better shape. On top of that? My stomach didn’t hurt ONCE! I felt better in Japan that I do at home…and I feel better at home than anywhere else. For me, that’s miraculous. 

So what if you AREN’T taking a trip but you want to lose weight, or to reset your own less-than-healthy habits, you ask? Here are a few tips that can help you on the path, without you ending up starving…

1. UTENSILS CAN CHANGE THE GAME

Yes, seriously… Switching to chopsticks, a la the Japanese, will slow you (and your chompers!) down. If chopsticks feel like too much of a struggle, try a smaller utensil! Try using a much smaller fork or spoon and you will find that you are also forced to slow things down, allowing for the proper, full chewing of food as we are meant to do. You will also take less in each bite, which will ensure you can enjoy and taste what you are having…not just stuff your face and ingest mindlessly.

2. PICK YOUR DISH / BOWL / GLASS WISELY

As with smaller utensils, a smaller serving dish (bowl, plate, cup, what have you) can significantly help your cause. I typically use a large bowl…which always ends up with me needing to fill it to the brim. When I use a smaller bowl and fill that, I not only have the illusion of a lot of food, but I am eating less…which gives me the chance to get full, and not overstuff myself with extra calories.

3. GIVE YOURSELF A MINUTE

We often will “still feel hungry” after a meal. That’s great but it isn’t always an accurate assessment – our body needs a couple of minutes (20 is often suggested) to register our meal fully. If after that time you are still hungry, try a glass of water, wait a few more minutes, and then have a piece of fruit or a healthy (small) snack. No one ever NEEDED a caloric, unhealthy dessert, let’s be honest. There are healthy and delicious options out there to keep you on track (and of course, once in a while, it’s okay to indulge. We are talking about the larger picture and consistency here.)

4. LISTEN!

Listen to your body. When you take your time (the three points above can help you!) you are more apt to hear the “OKAY! WE’RE FULL! Don’t need more nutrients right now!” signal. STOP when you are feeling / hearing that alarm bell – you can always have more later on (leftovers are delicious! 🙂 ) And, if your out, you can always ask to take the rest home – forcing food down your gullet is never a good thing.

5. FOCUS ON THE GOAL AND BENEFITS – YOU WANT TO LOSE / MAINTAIN FOR A GREAT REASON

There are a ton of reasons why eating healthy is important, and why you should make the effort. It isn’t only about how we look – it’s about FEELING great about ourselves and internally. It’s about aging well and staving off unnecessary ailments that do not have to be associated with growing older.

It’s also about operating at a higher level and being able to not only function well, but optimally…at work, at home, in our extracurricular activities etc.. You deserve to feel great on every level! To deny ourselves that opportunity or to make excuses is a huge disservice to ourselves, and the body we have been given.

Having watched my almost-87-year-old Grandmaster demonstrate Martial Arts techniques this past week was inspiring and beyond – his grace, the fluidity and power in his movement, his accuracy… I want to be like that at 87…and so I take FULL responsibility of treating my body and mind as well as I can NOW, so I can get to that point too.

PS: My Grandmaster paints during the break in class. Sips his tea and keeps his mind and body active. AWESOME.

The American way of life when it comes to food is one I’m not ultra fond of. I was when I was about 12 and figure skating hours a week…I could do it then. But I have to accept the reality that I’m NOT that active, not that young, and therefore I don’t have that metabolism. That’s OKAY. It just means I have to approach eating a little bit differently – food is one of the fun aspects of life! We don’t have to be miserable or miss out at all. But it is important to recognize that the fuel we put in the tank matters…and that no one else is responsible for our health except us.

I loved having the opportunity to shift my habits a bit, and I’m working on the very tips I outlined here. We know ourselves better than anyone – how we feel, how our clothes fit, how we are doing overall. A doctor can certainly tell us, but I don’t want to wait to hear something bad from someone certified! I’d rather take the bull by the horns…

There’s inspiration everywhere – the Japanese are a culture of healthy bodies, and it’s noteworthy. A mediterranean approach is another wonderful way of life also…and that’s really the key here. It’s a WAY OF LIFE. There are some incredibly healthy cultures out there (Japanese is consistently among the top ten), so it’s worth taking a look. America is a phenomenal place to be for many reasons, but we aren’t as great when it comes to health…and a monstrous portion of that comes from what / when / how the population ingests food.

 

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Nutrition Humor – Photo Bombed

I have an entire folder dedicated to the food photo bombs my husband has managed to pull off…

But…I wouldn’t have it any other way because we have SO much fun, and humor in Life and partnership is so integral.  

Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, who pull you out of your comfort zone, your habits, yourself and your mind… Laugh and love, because Life is amazing when you inject a little fun.

Thankful For Healthy Food

I eat.  A LOT.  And I eat really healthy foods, which may or may not be a little bit pricey, if in season at all.  

I feel blessed in so many ways, and for so many reasons…but I am immensely thankful that I am able to have foods such as scallops, shrimp, and fish every so often.  It matters what we put into our bodies and I’m grateful not only that I can have these things to begin with, but also for my better half, who both supports my clean regime, and who always manages to cook them so well.

Once upon a time I harbored and intense fear that no one would be “okay with” my nutritional habits or preferences – to the point it was debilitating. I was judged – often – for my choices, and was convinced I was somehow “too different” or “too difficult” as a result.  Fortunately, I’ve learned the error of my ways!

My body is ultra-attuned to certain nutritional guidelines.  That said, it isn’t because I imposed them ON myself (back when I had eating disorders, that is exactly what I did.  But, thankfully, not now.)  

In recovery by body decided what works for it…and what doesn’t.  I’ve gained a handful of allergies and intolerances, as well as symptoms when I don’t eat frequently enough – curious, but I’ve learned to honor and respect what my physiology is asking for.  It’s changed a lot over the years, and in recovery, and that’s okay.  

When I travel, my body is therefore never 100% – being at home allows me to stick to what works best, but that doesn’t mean I can’t (or don’t want to) go anywhere!  There are always healthy options to be found, so even if I’m not having my absolute “usual” I still can make solid choices, and set myself up for the best success possible.  (Frankly, I’d say scallops multiple times in one weekend is pretty world-class!)  

Blackened catfish and turkey

My goals are maintenance – I’m not looking to gain, neither to really lose weight.  I want to support my muscles and any physical activities I’d like to do, as well as to function as optimally – and comfortably – as possible.  That includes everything from sleeping, to energy levels, to a calm tummy!

Just because I am wired to work on a very specific blueprint doesn’t mean that I can’t live freely, and happily.  It takes a little bit of foresight and work, but I love being healthy, at a good weight, and feeling like I can perform well.  

As I’ve gotten older, I need more recovery, and sometimes even more food  – allowing ourselves to evolve and grow is a beautiful thing.  Appreciating the blessings and fortune we have just makes life all the more wonderful. ❤ 

How Well The Internet Knows You

On one hand, it’s a little (or a lot) frightening what the Internet knows.  Fortunately I’m not a celeb so I’m not really worried about anyone looking up my “dirt” and coming after me.  (That said, I’m not sure they would once they saw my preferences…)

Pinterest

Pinterest

(Pinterest, for one, is always sending samurai my way for one – they clearly keep track!)

amazon.com

amazon.com

amazon.com

amazon.com

And then there’s Amazon and their recommendations…

Even though data is being gathered, it’s nice (on the other hand) that a a monstrous retail site can suggest things you may like.  Double edged sword (no pun intended!) in that I might spend more, true. . .

Swords: An Artist's Devotion, Illustration (C) Ben Boos (Author, Illustrator)

Swords: An Artist’s Devotion, Illustration (C) Ben Boos (Author, Illustrator)

Swords: An Artist's Devotion, Illustration (C) Ben Boos (Author, Illustrator)

Swords: An Artist’s Devotion, Illustration (C) Ben Boos (Author, Illustrator)

BUT…I’d rather have the option to skip the fluff and go to the “good stuff” (or at least what I consider the good stuff) even if it means seeing The Art Of War, 5000 Spells, or Sherlock Holmes again (which already grace my bookcase.)

amazon.com

amazon.com

So – at least for now – I’m okay with the gods of the ether picking up on my search habits.  At least then I won’t have to look at Justin Bieber cds or a princess coloring book to get to the badassery.

Eating At Home

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again…I’m very blessed.  My hunnie is amazing in so many ways.  One of those, while seemingly minor to him, is a big deal to me – he doesn’t make me feel badly that I don’t “cook.”  I’ve sadly met a good number of people who DO see that as a huge problem, and I’m vastly more thankful for his “what’s the big deal if you don’t?” than he may imagine.  

I’m not a terribly “domesticated” type with hundreds of recipes up my sleeve.  In a way, I have felt badly about it…but only in so far as other people are concerned.  I pretty much subsist on easy-to-make foods (or I’ll just wing it.  Winging it, however, only applies to me – messing up my food isn’t a big deal, but I’d never want to mess up someone else’s food.)

He’s also incredibly supportive of my clean and (relatively) healthy nutritional habits – he actually cares that I am comfortable, happy…and FULL!   If you are in the fitness industry, or follow this lifestyle, you may know how UNsupportive people can be about our personal choices.  (You did read that “personal” part, right?  😉 ) 

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He has a long and exhausting day…and he will still make dinner.  And dinner is always perfect.  It’s most perfect because he is with me, but whatever he does make is always delicious…and right up my alley.  He thinks I’m biased about it, or just being polite but…I’m not.  When you are as particular about food as I am…and I say “I love it”…I LOVE it. ❤

I’m so grateful I probably get annoying saying “thank you!” all the time…but it is something I appreciate enormously. We have a snazzy Breville Smart Oven Pro that we call the “Magic Machine.”  It’s amazingly efficient and has a ton of functions!

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I never really eat a meal withOUT my veggies…so he will often roast some in the oven, while preparing chicken or something else in…the “Magic Machine.”  It could be shrimp or scallops, broiled salmon…or wok-tossed asparagus…  It’s all wonderful, and has NOTHING on it but some salt, pepper and spices.   

That’s the thing…you don’t need much!  You can always add a touch of salsa or something more if you need it.  But it doesn’t need to be doused in oil or butter to taste good or stay moist.  A spray of olive oil is enough…. REALLY.

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It’s also often more cost-effective to eat IN.  I don’t really eat a ton when I’m out, and I would be fine with something simple.  But the point is, it doesn’t HAVE to be.  AND…if you have someone in your Life who prepares the meals…don’t forget to say THANK YOU.  It really is a treat, and a blessing…and something I am thankful for EACH TIME he does it.