In terms of general topics about which I plan on posting, I would like to keep a fairly steady rotation through mental/spiritual well-being, physical well being, and the occasional “sharp opinion piece” as my husband calls it. So far I have covered my opinion piece, given an introductory glimpse into the mentality needed for a lifestyle change, and touched on meditation. Since everything so far has been on the mental/spiritual side of things I think that it is now time to start talking more about the physical side of well being. Specifically, let’s talk about….food.
When beginning a change towards the healthy everyone is pretty much in agreement that exercise and good nutrition go hand in hand. This combination is the best for physical health for a number of reasons, but it all starts with food. There is a lot that can be said on this subject, so I am going to break it up across several posts to cover portion control, smarter food choices, how I put together a meal, how to splurge without guilt, and how to navigate eating out at a restaurant or party without derailing your efforts.. I am not a nutritionist, and I don’t claim to be, but I have found something that works for me and that’s the point. The best food choices are the ones that will work for you for the rest of your life, so without further ado, let’s begin.
Raise your hand if you are now, or have ever been part of the “Clean Your Plate” club. (Keep them up while I count) Like me I’m sure most of us grew up in the well meaning ideology that you needed to eat everything on your plate because it costs money, there are starving children all over the world, and so on and so forth. Whatever your reason for being a part of this club let me just say to you in plain, and simple words, “Get out now!” Whatever your reason for clearing your plate, stop it. Stop it right now. Let go of the guilt that comes with seeing food left on your plate. Let go of the idea that the starving children need you to eat. Whether it goes to waste, or goes to your waist the children will not end up with that food. At least putting it in the trash doesn’t add to your waistline. There is absolutely nothing wrong with leaving food on your plate. (That’s right, I said it)
Besides the food choices that we make, portion control, or lack thereof, is the main culprit to fat gain and overeating. If you’re like me, you just don’t understand the difference between being genuinely hungry, and just wanting more food, and you probably underestimate the amount of calories in the food you are eating. Portion control of any food, whether it be nutrient dense or not, is paramount to maintain a healthy eating lifestyle. When you’ve been conditioned to clean your plate, you have also conditioned yourself to ignore your body’s natural hunger cues, and this is what fouls up our ability to maintain appropriate portion control. What does this mean exactly? Well, it means that when it comes to leading a healthier lifestyle, you will probably have to retrain your body, and yourself to understand your natural hunger cues.
Again, this is what worked for me, and I share it now because it took me 20 years to figure it out, and by Jove someone else should benefit. When I say portion control, I am specifically talking about how much of what food group you eat. Some people try to count calories. If that works for you forever, great. To me it is a huge pain in the ass. Do I count them at all? Sometimes yes, but only for meal planning purposes, which I’ll go over in a later post. Getting back to portion control, the big idea is to limit the calorie dense food you eat to smaller portions, fill up on lighter foods, like produce, and to also listen to your body for when it is full. In an earlier post I mentioned how my husband and I began with the 2020 diet. Even though we didn’t stick with that plan there were several useful pieces of information, one of which I am about to share with you. If your stomach isn’t growling, you aren’t hungry, and if you feel full or stuffed, then you ate too much. Does this mean that you should let yourself get mind numbingly hungry? No. But, when your stomach starts to growl, then you know that you are actually hungry. This has been useful for me because for so long I would mistake just wanting the mouth-feel of food, or having a particular craving (usually triggered by food network), or having the munchies for being hungry. Now my plan is simple. I eat 3-5 times a day,(3 meals and 1 snack, or 3 meals with a snack and dessert) and let my stomach decide. The other side of this is stopping before you eat too much. Your body takes around 20 minutes to decide that it is full. This means that if you’re one of those people who eat like their head is on fire, and it will only go out if you clear your plate, then you are eating all of this food before your body has time to process it. This goes back to my previous post, “Open up and say Om”. Slow down your eating. My little trick has now become putting my fork or spoon down after every bite, and before I finish my food I stop eating, and just sit for a moment. 5-10 minutes depending on how much time you have is long enough to give yourself time to see if you forget about those last few bites, or if you still feel hungry.
No matter what food plan you eventually choose, the most important thing to remember is portion control. Eating nutrient dense food is important to health, but using portion control, and understanding when you are actually hungry is the key to long term success. There are some clubs that you just shouldn't be a part of. Say goodbye to the “Clean Your Plate” club, and never look back.