(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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(Our) Healthy Weight Really Is Made In The Kitchen

They say “abs” are made in the kitchen and it is actually quite true in many ways. Now that said, we all have a different “healthy weight.” We don’t need to be muscular to be healthy (that only indicates a specific level and / or type of fitness taking place for a specific individual.)

What is important, however, is that we recognize what we put into our fuel tank matters. It’s never easy to change our routine – therein lies the secret. . .

When we can make healthy long-term changes (ones we are willing and able (most importantly!) to stick to over the long haul) then we are on the way to seeing that lasting change we want.

Having been on the side where I had far too little for a time, I intimately  understand how sensitive this issue is – whether we are carrying dangerously little, or too much weight. Our self-confidence can be bound to these realities, and our relationship with food can become terribly unhealthy.

I’d also like to add, it isn’t so much the number on the scale kind of “weight.” Losing extra fat that our body doesn’t need to function (or that is impairing our proper and healthy function), and getting our BMI down to a better figure, is far more important. That number may go up if you are adding muscle mass while adjusting your meal plan…so don’t feel derailed by the numerical values necessarily.

I’ve shared other posts such as: 

10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry is Horrible!)  and, 

Healthy Lifestyle – The Way To Achieve A Healthy Weight…Without The Failure Of “Diets,”

These posts offer some ideas and thoughts about this journey, as well as some tips and tricks. There is NO reason you can’t find success with your goals but sometimes we need a little encouragement, and more understanding about how to get there.

Each of us are different – our body types sometimes are wildly different. The “outside” doesn’t always reflect immaculate healthy internally either (yes, there ARE “skinny fat people” (a term, but the way, that I don’t really care for – to me, “fat” is incredibly derogatory because of the connotation it’s gained. Unless I’m talking about an avocado, salmon, or egg yolks (etc!) I use “fuller figured” because it isn’t always about what “fat” implies. We don’t need to be using that term for ourselves either because chances are…it makes us feel worse, which is not where we need to be mentally!) 

It’s all about the manageable changes. We CAN achieve what we want to but we need to be consistent, honest with ourselves, and make changes that we are going to be able to stick with. Again, even more so, we need to make changes we can LIVE with longer term.

I don’t know about you but drinking my meals for the rest of my life sounds terrible! I’d rather eat my food, eat healthy portions, and create a plan I can live with indefinitely. 

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Nutrition Humor – PB

There’s something about peanut butter. The jars of the chocolate powdered PB2, Peanut Wonder and Nutzo didn’t stand a chance once they made it to my kitchen cabinets. It was so ridiculous (as in, I was taking in way too many calories and fat to maintain what I had, and completely mindlessly) that I had to seriously – with massively-concerted effort – reevaluate.

If I didn’t restrain myself, I would eat a jar a day easy.  

Horrifying.

It came down to not buying it to begin with because I could NOT be trusted. I wouldn’t purchase a single jar until I:

  1. Learned self control, which meant…
  2. Learned to be TOTALLY honest with myself – it’s a slippery slope when it’s you against you!
  3. Developed the willpower of the Gods 

I may not be actually be able to eat ice cream, so the catchy commercial tune falls flat on me. But peanuts and I get along rather nicely.  

Maybe too nicely.

Maybe it’s better if you just hand yours over. . . 

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10 Tips To Feel Full – Yes, Really! (Because Hangry Is Horrible!)

Feeling hungry – or getting to the point of “hangry” – is terrible for everyone. There ARE ways – yes, really! – to maximize fullness and avoid the pitfalls of poor-choice snacking.  It does take some commitment, but it isn’t so difficult that it can’t be achieved (with minimal, if any, pain, I promise.)

I struggle with snacking too – I’ve always liked eating a lot of food, so I’ve learned some tricks to keep me on track, without the starving feeling of a “diet” (I don’t actually believe in the “D word” to begin with.)  The point is to set yourself up for success, not disaster.  Binges?  been there.

#1. . . H2O

Water is essential for SO many reasons, and I guarantee that most of us aren’t getting as much as we need. When you feel thirsty, it’s usually too late.  Incidentally, in effort to get the hydration it needs, sometimes you’re sent a “hungry signal” when in fact it’s the body and brain’s way of saying “need fluid asap!”

How to make it work: Always drink water before you eat.  You WILL get a stronger feeling of fullness.  In some cases, too much water at once might make you feel sick…so go easy and give your body a chance to adjust.  Sip your water first and you’ll likely notice you don’t need to eat that whole, huge portion.

#2. . . SLOW DOWN!

Eating too quickly is a surefire way to A.) eat more than you need and, B.) leave you feeling overly full.  Stomach aches are NEVER good! Slowing the pace can make a huge difference – you will feel that “fullness” when it’s time to stop.  The body has been designed to work like a highly-tuned machine – it knows before the brain does sometimes.  Trust it.

How to make it work: Take a bite and put your utensil down.  Sound basic? It is.  But try its because it helps.  Eat a little, put your fork down, and give yourself a chance to chew and enjoy the food.  

Feeling full!?

#3. . . Fruits and Veggies

Portions M A T T E R.  These nature-made goodies are easily found, not expensive, and are one of the best ways to add bulk to your meals (not to yourself!), while also adding a dose of H2o goodness and nutrients.  Veggies in particular are my go-to for making meals a lot BIGGER than they really are without adding a ton of calories (e.g. . .or to my waistline, which can happen when I’m not careful.  Thanks, meso-endo body type!)

How to make it work: Add an extra serving of steamed vegetables as a side for your meal, or add them to it (for example, soup or pasta) to make a larger, and more filling portion. Fresh fruits are also great (and a better choice than their deliciously dried counterparts) to add to things like yogurt, cereal, or even frozen yogurt for a treat.

#4. . . Distract yourself and stay mindful

Are you *really* hungry?  Or just bored?  I have a habit of wanting to eat when I’m not busy (working on the computer, watching something on tv etc.)  Bad news, because then I look for more food to snack on…

How to make it work: It’s okay to snack here and there but if you are not mindful of what you are doing, you’ll probably go overboard (it’s easy – portions aren’t really that big!) If you absolutely *must* snack while doing something else, portion it out and remind yourself to (#2) slow down. If you are simply eating because you are bored, find another way to distract yourself to get that “I’m not hungry but I want to eat” out of your mind.

#6. . . Pre-Portion

Having some options at the ready is always a great idea, especially when they are portioned out already.  You dont’ need to buy crappy snack packs, you can make your own (hummus with veggies, popcorn in portioned bags, fruit salad etc.)

How to make it work: Have some pre-portioned items in your pantry or fridge for when you need them.  Stay mindful and remember they are portioned for a reason.  If you savor what you are having, you don’t need to eat three portions of it.  Often we do that because it’s an oral fixation – the act of just munching – vs our body really needs the sustenance.  I’m super guilty of this one.

#7. . .  Don’t BUY it!

This is a go-to for me also.  Sometimes I know I really want something…but if I buy it, I’m not going to be able to control the amount I have.  So…I don’t buy it.  It isn’t worth it to me to then be kicking myself in the butt – if I don’t have it at home, I can’t eat it.  I CAN, however, buy other options.

How to make it work: Don’t get sh*t you know you can’t handle!  I’m serious! You know your weaknesses.  Do buy things you can have instead that you won’t beat yourself up over.  You deserve to feel great ALL around.

#8. . . Get moving!

Exercise is a nice distraction technique (see #4.) It’s great for  you, but it also gets your metabolism moving along as well.

How to make it work: Maybe you don’t have a gym membership, or you are having a tough time motivating…try doing a few little things during commercials when you are watching your favorite show, or in between stirs while you’re cooking dinner (e.g. pushups, jumping jacks, setups etc.) Baby steps are OKAY.  In fact, they are MORE than okay.  It might help get your mind off the need to munch, and give your furnace a boost while you’re at it.

#9. . .  Chopsticks

Yep.  Chopsticks are not as easy to eat with and they force you to follow rule #2 whether you want to or not.  Sneaky, yes.  Genius, also yes.

How to make it work: Pick up a pair and start pinching!  If you have trouble, there are modified ones that are joint at the top (not as good, but still slower than a fork or spoon.)

#10. . . (Worse comes to worse, and ps, I’m NOT a dentist!) Have some peppermint, or try a piece of gum

I am NOT recommending chewing gum as much as I do (it is sugar-free, but I’m sure it’s not the best habit.) There are plenty of healthy ways to avoid overeating but sometimes a quick piece of gum can keep me from eating something I don’t really want or need.  A dose of peppermint tea, or a mint can also help. Again, not trying to suggest this is should be a default – I’m slapping my own hands given that I love my Bubblemint.  But…if all else fails, it can help in a pinch.

How to make it work: Have some peppermint tea, suck on a mint, or even have a piece of sugar-free gum.  As a last resort, this can actually help.  Some folks recommend smelling fragrant oils – you can try that too, though the physical act of chewing, or having the taste on your tongue, might have a stronger result.

Once again, not a doc, and not a dietician..but these are a few tricks that might help when the munchies hit.  As someone who LOVES volume (e.g. LOTS of food) I can say honestly that these tricks CAN work.

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The Role Of Consistency In Achieving Your Goals

Consistency can literally make or break you – but it’s important to understand that “consistency” doesn’t necessarily translate to 100% of the time (no, not 110% either.)

Life is complicated – there are days that derailment occurs because of a last minute schedule shift.  It could be, instead, that you come down with a bug. . .one that keeps you down for a lot longer than you’d expected.  Nothing is for certain, no matter how well you plan, so you need to make room – if nothing else, mentally – for the possible blips that may arise.

The principle can be applied to anything – work, home life, fitness goals, an on and on.  For the purpose here, let’s stick with health and fitness – keeping oneself in good shape is important, especially as we get older.  For each of us, the goal is a little different…

It may be simply that we’d like to feel less lethargic throughout the day.  Maybe we have a few pounds of extra “us” that we could honestly do without. It could be based on performance in our sports, for another… Whatever the case is, you must be consistent in your approach.  Successfully reaching goals isn’t only about maintenance, but making it a lifestyle – a comprehensive course of daily actions.

So let’s say that most of the time you eat healthily, and exercise…but you suddenly can’t, for weeks, because you caught a nasty virus – not easy for those who have a need to move around, and for sticking to routine!  (This happened to me just recently, quite unexpectedly, and it was definitely a challenge for my go-go-go personality.)

So what do you do when you simply can’t mange your regular schedule?  Recognize that you:

  1. Are being told to “slow down.” Pay attention!
  2. You can still maintain a level of consistency
  3. Even without your specific routine, you aren’t going to go to hell in a handbasket
  4. Along with #4…it WILL be okay

You need to remind yourself that it takes a lot longer than you probably think to get completely off track.  In the case of not feeling well, rest is necessary – the body has to heal and get back on track before jumping in head first (doing so is a surefire way to stay down for longer.)  I have a hard time with it myself – I want to “DO,” and sitting at home, especially when I haven’t had a chance to move around, can bring my mood down quickly.  But I was actually good about it – I took it slow, and for many days I did absolutely zero.  That was exactly what my body needed.

With nutrition, consistency is HUGE.  But again, remember that deviating from your plan once in a while is not a big deal. AT ALL.  What matters is whether you take it in stride, and get back to the usual…or if you let it pull you into the downward spiral.

When I was sick, I wasn’t quite as hungry as usual…but I still prepared the meals I normally do, because even without the exercise, my body needed the fuel and replenishment.  It isn’t worth abstaining because I think I’ll gain a pound or two.  I might not be processing as much, burning as many calories, or even keeping my muscles as cut as usual…but even two weeks isn’t going to turn me into a lump!

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It’s definitely frustrating when you can’t be “on” like usual – for some of us it isn’t just relegated to the physical, either, it’s as much mental.  But take heart that when you do get back to it, you are going to do great – your motivation and mind WILL return to go-go-go mode, and your body will respond.  

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No matter what life throws at you, or how the routine shifts, you can achieve your goals – it’s a lot like the “be water” concept – allow yourself to be flexible.  Move with tides, and you will find your usual stride soon enough. 

 

Healthy Father’s Day

Whenever a holiday or special weekend comes up, I always see people the following Monday in the gym dragging themselves and lamenting about how much they overdid it.  Family gatherings and summer get-togethers don’t HAVE to be bad for you, guys!

I think one of the biggest saving graces is staying in control of your shopping – you absolutely can stock up on unhealthy options while at the store (especially if you are shopping hungry!)  But you have control over what you put in your cart and end up with at home…so stay focused from the get go and you will avoid having leftovers or unopened boxes of cookies that you really don’t want around as a temptation later on!

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For us, the goal was to get a good, heathy variety that would keep everyone filled up…even the kids.  Surf and turf always works, giving everyone a few options for the bulk of the meal.  Corn on the cob is a fun, summer veggie, that is totally okay to have also – I have some friends who avoid corn completely but it isn’t going to kill you once in a while, so don’t stress.  

The benefit of the foods we grill primarily is that we don’t layer on sauces and dressings – Montreal Seasoning, or salt and pepper does the trick – it gives you a little kick, but still allows you to actually taste the food itself (which I always think is the point, no?!) 

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We didn’t actually buy desserts so we didn’t’ end up with them.  Instead, we had some sweet red grapes laying around – which definitely worked! – and later we took a walk to get some ice cream for the youngest of the group.  Adding a walk is always helpful, as is not having the extra goodies left over, so it worked out perfectly.  

I was definitely full after dinner but it wasn’t a feeling-guilty kind of full…which no one – truly – has to feel after a shindig.  Just remember that you have full control over what you buy and serve…and also what you eat!  

(PS – Don’t forget about having breakfast and regular meals during the day, prior to gatherings where food is served – if you go out hungry, you might set yourself up for a binge!)

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Keeping it CLEAN. . .

Weekend Meals

Weekends are my wind-down time – I do have two activities on Saturday (Ninjutsu Combat Simulation, and Aerial Yoga), but they aren’t as rigorous as my weekly workout routines (Brazilian JiuJitsu four times a week, cardio three times a week, lifting at least four times a week, Ninjutsu classes four times a week…, and some teaching with Martial Arts kids classes.)  I’m incredibly thankful I can schedule so many activities, as I’m energetic by nature and need to move around.

But for me, Saturday afternoon and Sunday I can give myself a little bit of a break physically, and sometimes as far as eating out.  During the week we usually eat at home, and my meals don’t vary hugely in terms of content… On the weekend, I’m still really clean, but I might have more yolks than I typically do in the mornings, or I might have more servings of fruit, or almonds.  None of it is unhealthy, but I’m less concerned with portions and timing – I sort of just have the clean foods I like with less stringency.  

I’m asked a lot whether or not I have “cheat meals” – I don’t really.  But again, the weekends, or when I travel, I loosen the reigns a bit, going with whatever the flow might be.  That’s enough “cheat” for me – I stick to healthy options, so I never get totally out of hand, or go so overboard that I’m beating myself up.  Just what works for me personally!

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This weekend we went to brunch and my fiancé – who’s always looking out for me! – ordered the eggs that came with HIS meal exactly the way I ordered my three.  😀  Normally I have a whole egg and egg whites in the morning, with a ton of vegetables – but when I’m out, I’m eating three whole eggs in a sitting…and in this case, a few more!  It isn’t something I do every day, so I’m not overly worried about having a few – I could definitely use the aminos, and the healthy fat…plus…PROTEIN! ❤ I always order fruit salad too, for some sweetness…AND extra vitamins!  

We had dinner at home – my favorite ground chicken recipe, and tons of roasted broccoli (he’s always makes it perfectly.) Filling, wonderful nutrients and solid macros…good stuff!

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What’s your weekend plan?

For more of what I munch…!