By: Mat Steinmetz
I have friends who eat healthier than anybody, but it takes them all day. And if they don't have their sprouted bread, they go into a seizure. I can eat a Big Mac. I'm not going to love it, but it won't put me into toxic shock. It's like if a car is too high-performance, then it's sensitive to any kind of fuel. I like being more like a truck. If a little diesel gets in there, maybe a little water, it'll cough and burp a bit, but it's gonna get through it and keep running.
The above quote got me thinking about eating habits and the Holidays. I like the quote because it speaks of having flexibility in your diet. The quote doesn't mean that you should add McDonalds to your diet, but there will be times when you will make bad food choices.
With all the articles out there about how to avoid Holiday weight gain and tips on how to get the New Year started out right...I thought I'd share my experience with "diets".
I'll start with the Holidays. Food is a very emotional thing and the Holidays...good or bad can be an emotional time. Kelly and I make the trip home to Indiana every year and tell ourselves that we are going to keep things in-check this year. We will show some restraint against all the sweets and desserts sitting around. But, every year, we give in and indulge. I guess we have accepted that this is the likely outcome and know that it is only temporary. We don't let a week or two of poor eating turn into poor eating habits. By the time the Holidays are over, we're ready to get back to our normal routine.
Rather than being strict with yourself for 2-4 weeks over the Holidays, focus on creating a habit of good food choices the other 48-50 weeks of the year.
Once Christmas is over and you're thinking about New Year's resolutions, I advise you to not go on a diet.
Diets don't work because you know you're on one!
The key is to make food modifications rather than declaring yourself on a diet. A diet typically is right or wrong and you're either on one or off. By making food modifications over time, you're not eating bad or good, you're just eating...and that happens to be mostly healthy foods.
As someone who has a habit of being "all or none", I'v personally gone through this battle.
I used to get caught in the trap of being either "on" or "off" with no happy medium. I'm either training or I'm not, eating healthy or binging, on the wagon or off...you get the point.
This mentality had me constantly failing. I'd set unrealistic expectations of what I thought was proper training and eating habits. I'd stumble for a bit, then eventually hit the switch and begin training and eating at levels so perfect that there was no chance of sustaining it. Eventually, I'd fail and after a low period, I'd repeat this emotionally draining pattern.
I can't point to one moment in time that allowed me to make this change, but it didn't happen overnight and I didn't go on a diet. Again, if you go on a diet, every time you eat something that is not on your diet, you've failed. When I would fail, I'd take that opportunity to fail some more...You had one piece of pie, you might as well eat the entire thing, right?
My goal was to be able to eat something that I wouldn't normally consider a healthy food choice, but then forget about it...I wouldn't let it make me feel guilty. If I viewed certain food items as restricted or forbidden I would constantly think about them. This restriction created a craving, that I'd eventually give into and would trigger an emotional low for me.
The heaviest I have been is 172 pounds, but my normal off-season weight gain during this time would be 20 pounds, which is quite a bit for my build. Now, my weight remains stable between 140-142 pounds and I don't put much thought into food.
What worked for me? Everything in moderation. It sounds cheesy and overly simplistic, but it worked. I stopped labeling foods as "bad" and if I wanted to eat something, I did. It seems that the restriction is what triggered my cravings and the constant ups and downs.
Where to start?
Like I said, this wasn't something that happened overnight. The first thing I did was think about my health. What foods should I be consuming most days of the week. These items would be the staple of our grocery list. These items rarely change and I'm in a habit of eating these foods. I don't restrict the portion sizes of these staples...especially meat and vegetables. I don't want to be walking around hungry and if I'm going to overeat, I'd rather it be these items.
*We all have different dietary beliefs, so choose what your staples are. I think we can all agree that sugar is not one of them.
I then stopped buying foods that I'll regret having around the house. I've had clients complain that it's hard with kids and I'm sure I will experience this as my daughter gets older. My thinking right now, is that my daughter can only eat what we provide in our household.
I do buy foods that I would NOT consider a quality nutritional choice, but you have to live a little and complete restriction is not an option. My list includes...bagel chips, smart puffs, chocolate, pizza, and beer. It's not like I'm living life on the edge, but for some reason that's all I need to avoid binging on rubbish.
I eat ice cream, sweets, and fatty foods when it's present, but it's rarely on my mind. I've made this transition by not trying to eat perfect all the time. To eat perfect, you have to think about eating perfect. Always thinking about what you eat is where an unhealthy relationship with food begins.
To sum things up. Start with your health in mind...what does your body need on a daily basis. Make these items your staples. Find a variety of healthy food choices you like and buy the same thing every time you go to the store. This will create a habit of purchasing and eating quality foods.
If you can stick to this, the "filler" foods are less of a worry, but eat in moderation, not deprivation.