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.

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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(Some Of) The Habits That Derail Our Diet

I am a firm believer that diets are not the answer for the majority. Diets can help jump-start weight loss and / or fat loss in the shorter term. To have long-term success with weight / fat loss or maintenance, however, we need a nutritional plan that we are both willing AND able to stick to. Let me therefore state upfront that “diet” here is referring to the way that we eat, and what we eat – our nutritional plan and lifestyle, so to speak – not a special or “fad” weight loss diet.

I got a great article from Hungry Girl today about habits that can cause us to miss the mark – not only when we are trying to lose weight (which the article is focused on) but also if we are trying to maintain it (which goes hand-in-hand, in my opinion.) I often find myself nodding in agreement with some points in any given article, but disagreeing with others. In the case of this one – 6 Habits Ruining Your Diet – I agree with them all.

A few of my previous articles on the topic:

The “habits” in question are incredibly common, and things most of us do without thinking…sometimes on a daily basis. The great news? With a little attention, they are relatively easy to catch…and correct! 

  1. Snacking While Watching TV
  2. Boredom and Avoidance Eating
  3. Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full
  4. Grazing 
  5. Snacking Instead of Sipping
  6. Meal Skipping

My personal thoughts on Hungry Girl’s sneaky traps:

Snacking While Watching TV (or Movie Theater)

Growing up, we often had dinner while watching tv – between school, homework, and sports, there wasn’t much downtime.  Back then it wasn’t such a big deal because we were not only growing, but incredibly active. Enter adulthood, however, when the metabolism takes a nosedive and we are doing less activity (generally.) Pair that with the ability to purchase our own food (and we don’t always make the best decisions when we have free choice!), and it becomes easier to slip.

It’s easy to sit down to watch something and nibble as we do…but it’s a dangerous habit because we WILL lose track of how much we are munching, often eating more than our body needs (watching a show steals the attention, leaving the satiety signals to hoot and holler to no avail.) If quitting cold-turkey is painful, try portioning a smaller amount of your favorite snack to avoid going overboard (HG agrees on this point too.) A cup of tea, for example, could be another idea – we have to sip the toasty stuff slowly (meaning –> we are occupied longer!)

Scary…but true! Most of us do this at home, or at the movie theater!

Boredom and Avoidance Eating

This is one of THE sneakiest pitfalls of all! Eating because we are bored is the kind of habit that can easily weasel its way into your daily routine. When there’s downtime, snacking seems like and easy and harmless option. It ISN’T! And it adds up. Munching mindlessly is never a good thing and it can creep up when we are trying to avoid something, not just when life is humdrum – maybe it’s laundry, or cleaning the house…whatever “it” is that you are trying to get out of, you might grab a snack to aid in your efforts to procrastinate. Bad idea!

How to address it? MOVE! Do an activity of some kind, keep your hands busy (beyond grabbing food!), and distract those false signals that you need to eat to get through the boredom.

Finishing Off Leftovers Even Though You’re Full

I don’t know about you but I grew up hearing that other children were (legitimately) starving in other countries and that I therefore had to finish my meal. The reality is…my leftovers probably could have been leftover a little longer (meaning I didn’t HAVE to pig out whether I was full or not, I could nibble the rest later.) But, it was the way it was back then – there was always a focus, even in school, on finishing everything on my plate at every meal. Is that really the best way? 

The better idea is to listen to our bodies. If we are feeling full, that means a few areas of our body are registering that we have had what it needs to function optimally – we don’t NEED more. When the satiety signals sound, it’s it ideal to listen to them – we can always have more later if we find we are still (truly) hungry. Stuffing ourselves not only allows needless calories to build up, but it also confuses our bodies (which are desperately trying to say “I’m FULL! I don’t need more.”) When we keep eating, we get used to blocking those signals and, worse, we start to not really “hear” them. 

Grazing 

This one needs to be defined a bit. When I generally say I “graze” I mean that I consciously eat mini meals many, MANY times a day. Grazing in the case of Hungry Girl’s article appears to refer to snacking all the time, and doing so mindlessly. It’s the snagging a few bites of the kids’ food (which, let’s be honest, isn’t always a healthy item), or grabbing office “snacks” here and there during the day (also not usually the “healthy” stuff.) It could be that you are cooking and eating as you go, or even just going to the pantry frequently on a day that you are home.

Eating more meals with smaller portions throughout the day often helps folks stay satiated longer (than, for example, three larger meals per day.) That doesn’t mean EVERYone, mind you, but generally when people eat smaller meals more frequently, they find that they don’t overindulge as much.

Snacking Instead of Sipping

Being in tune with our bodies means listening closely to the signals it sends us – some of them “sound” so similar that we might actually make a mistake. For example, thirst may “sound” like hunger to us – we may reach for a snack, having felt that we needed to, only to find out that we translated the urge incorrectly. A great way to ensure that we ARE on the right track – and to avoid eating excess calories (that we probably don’t need!) – is to have a solid drink of water before reaching for food.

If we are dehydrated, water will do the trick right then and there. Having a nice glass of water will also fill us up a bit so if we happen to be thinking about food – but our body doesn’t necessarily need it at that moment – the drink will satisfy us longer. It’s also a great trick when going out to dinner – having a full glass of water can save  you from over-ordering (it’s the grocery-shopping-while-hungry scenario – not a good idea!)

Meal Skipping

This is a HUGE non-no, especially if you’re skipping breakfast! Don’t. Do. It! I do know a few folks who can’t eat immediately when they wake up – that’s okay. Depending on the day, I may eat an hour or two after getting out of bed. The idea is that you are providing your body with the proper fuel to get rolling, and your stomach something to work with. When you skip a meal, you are a great deal more likely to go overboard later. I’m sure you know the feeling… Don’t want breakfast, too busy to get a good lunch…dinner comes around and you basically inhale your whole fridge and pantry! Try to give yourself a fighting chance, and be kind to your body – have SOMEthing healthy at mealtimes to keep  yourself from going from zero to ravenous. Getting to the point of “I can eat a horse” will leave you to sabotage all of your other efforts.

So those are my personal thoughts about Hungry Girl’s habits – they aren’t at all far-fetched (there are of course others, but these are common culprits in our society!), and they are possible to fix (good news!) 

If you are serious about weight / fat loss or maintenance it will take attention, patience, and consistency – but it isn’t as hard as you think. Once you eradicate a few of these saboteurs, you’ll find yourself dropping weight without altering anything else. Nutrition accounts for probably 80% or more of how we are doing weight-wise (don’t kid yourself!) The wonderful news there is that we CAN do something about that.

 

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Green Giant Keeping Healthy Food Fun, Functional, And Convenient

If veggies had a number one fan, it would be me. Yes, hands down, I’d be the one with the glitter and pompoms up front. That, or I’d be threatening someone in effort to secure some…

I’m the one with the hair dryer…

I’m not necessarily partial to brands when it comes to vegetables, though – I do prefer fresh, but for convenience (and a more likely guarantee of peak freshness) I tend to hoard the frozen kind. (“Hoard” is not an exaggeration, however slightly misleading (in that I consume them as feverishly as I amass my supply.))  

Anyway, I don’t have to have a certain name on the package, or even organic depending – it’s more about value in this case. That said, I do like the brands who innovate – frozen foods do not have to be unhealthy, number one… And number two, they can make life a whole helluvalot easier. Especially if you eat like a zoo animal (—-> ME.)

Although Green Giant is not alone in the pursuit, they were one of the first companies to make riced vegetables accessible. For those of us with limited counter space and / or those not wanting to clean the food processor every two minutes, these frozen, steamable packages are a godsend.

Green Giant launched the plain, riced cauliflower variety first, along with a basic, healthier take on tater tots, but have since added to the lineups. They also have a nice selection of roasted veggies, though I confess to not really caring for those as much. 

In addition to bulking up the options within each category, they have since come out with veggie spirals – not new if you like to cook or follow healthy eating trends…BUT…no one has come out with them for the freezer aisle until now. YAAHHSSSS!

I actually spotted – and purchased – the zucchini spirals recently (above.) Though I admittedly wasn’t a huge fan, I think it’s because I didn’t drain the water right away (which I would highly recommend doing.) Because I go through my veggie stashes so rapidly, I often steam them and leave them in the bag – for the riced variations, you’d be fine with that. For these guys, though…definitely drain.

What’s so great about all these seemingly fancy preparations? As I said earlier, the convenience can’t be beat. In addition to that, however, these are THE perfect way to bulk up your meal. If you love to eat, or enjoy larger portions (the brain *can* be tricked!), adding extra servings of vegetables is a healthy way to fill you up without adding too many calories. 

Now…all that said…keep in mind WHICH variety you choose – obviously the options with a sauce mixed in, or the comfort food remakes will have higher calorie counts in the nutritionals than the plain variants. Still, it’s better than housing french fries!

I applaud Green Giant for pioneering these ranges – I do buy other brands sometimes, and have seen a few come to market with newer options (such as a healthier stir fried rice option from Hanover, whose plain riced is good too.)  But Green Giant has the broadest mix, albeit not ALL the versions are as easy to find in every super market. Definitely worth trying for yourself if you haven’t yet!

Happy munching!

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Cat Humor – Expression…less

Actually…we have two additional modes different from the rest:

Banana mode – I’m a feline torpedo on speed. Face is the same but the eyes are wide with a feverish, almost diabolical glint. Otherwise…as above. Game on.

Hungry mode – I will run several laps around the kitchen island, sometimes in varying directions. My face will remain as above save for my mouth, which is – in bullying fashion – frequently opening and emitting loud-and-whiny sounds.

Ahhhh… Felines. ❤

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Cat Humor – Starving

I know a certain somebody who insists that he’s gone skeletal, heaven forbid mom is two seconds past 6 pm with dinner.  His dramatics are – I think, but of course I’m biased – worthy of the New York stage. . .

Encore!