December 2015 Feature Article
5 Eating Mistakes to Stop Making Now!
Odds are good that you see the value of good nutrition for health and wellbeing. But are you turning your healthy intentions into actions? Day after day, I see patients sabotaging their efforts, sometimes intentionally (which is a whole other topic), but usually unintentionally. Sometimes it’s because they’re just not thinking…sometimes it’s because they’re overthinking. Heck, I’ve done it, too! In fact, I’ve made every one of the following mistakes at some point. What about you?
Failing to plan. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Those eating habits you’d like to change? They weren’t either. Swapping old, entrenched habits for new, healthier habits takes work, time and patience, so thinking you can turn yourself into a healthier eater without a game plan is guaranteed to leave you frustrated. Why? Because you’ll be working harder than you need to, and seeing little in the way of results. When you don’t have a plan, it’s far too easy to slip into “default mode” (aka your old habits) time and time again. The time you invest up front in a simple, workable plan will pay off many times over. Tip: “I want to eat healthier” is vague. “I will grocery shop on the weekend and do some advance food prep so I can bring a healthy lunch and snacks to work each day” is a plan.
Not having a nutritional gatekeeper
Most of us tend to eat more of what is close at hand, so if unhealthy snacks, sugary beverages and pints of ice cream are constantly breaching your household gates, guess what’s you will probably be eating. Streamline your path to better nutrition and health by purging your home of foods that are working against you and stocking it with the healthy foods that suit your tastes and your lifestyle. This is especially important if you find you often arrive home from work ravenous and looking to graze, or if you are prone to eating out of stress or boredom.
Being a human garbage disposal
Do you mindlessly nibble and sample while you are cooking? Do you pick leftover food off your kids’ plates when cleaning up? Do you let your grandmother serve you that “that last little bit” so it doesn’t go to waste…even though you’re full? Do you take every food sample offered at Costco even if you aren’t hungry or it’s not a food you are ever likely to buy? Do you ever eat crackers that have gone stale or day-old break room doughnuts? Do you eat enough to get your “money’s worth” at buffet brunches? Please stop. Being a member of the Clean Plate Club rarely does anyone any favors. Repeat after me: “Better to go to waste than to go to my waist.”
Not seeing the forest for the trees
Do you fuss about eating the latest, greatest exotic “superfood”? Try focusing your efforts—and food dollars—on including ample amounts of familiar vegetables and fruits into your meals and snacks each day. If you find yourself putting off eating healthier while you fret about what ratio of carbs/protein/fat you “should” eat, shift gears and regain dietary sanity by getting down to business with the basics: Eating more vegetables, cutting back on heavily processed food and dialing down portion sizes.
Making every day “special”
There are a handful of days of the year that warrant a little dietary splurging. Your birthday. Your anniversary. Major holidays. A rare visit from dear, long-distance friends. You get the idea. You’ll notice I didn’t mention “Fridays” or “crazy work days.” Healthy eating leaves room to enjoy cake on your birthday and a helping of your family’s secret-recipe stuffing on Thanksgiving. But if you celebrate every coworker’s birthday and minor holiday with rich desserts and calorific meals, or reward yourself with a food “treat” every day, you’ll need to buy bigger pants. If this last part sounds like you, I pose this question: “Why do you need a treat/reward just for making it through the day?” If your days are that daunting, something may be seriously out of balance, and no amount of food will fix that.
Remember: A diet is temporary, healthy eating is forever. Seeing potential food traps and learning to sidestep them can greatly improve the quality and quantity of what you put in your mouth. And that can lead to better health, and possibly smaller pants.
P.S. If you would like a little help with getting your healthy eating “house” in order, give yourself the gift of my Healthy For (Your) Life online program. The 8-week program includes video webinars, podcasts, e-booklets, motivational emails, worksheets and other resources to make 2016 the start of a balanced, sustainable way of eating to bring you improved health and well-being. Because the program is online, you can “attend” class at whatever time of day suits you best. The class starts Monday, January 4. Registration closes January 2. Learn more on the Healthy For (Your) Life website.