In our frenzied, time-crunched culture, health has gone by the wayside in favor of convenience, comfort and pleasure. For many of us, our relationships with food are dysfunctional, to say the least. We love to eat- perhaps too much- and hate the ramifications of our often less than stellar dietary decisions. It’s like finding yourself halfway through a bag of peanut m&m’s, yet still debating what healthy meal you should make for dinner? We want our comfort foods in the moment, but at the same time we desire a healthier diet.
So, why do we keep shooting ourselves in the food, so to speak? Why do we repeatedly fail to exercise healthy decision making? Why are we halfway through a bag of candy, cookies, chips, etc… yet still thinking about our next snack?
In the absence of structure, chaos occurs: we eat too much, we eat the wrong things, we fail to meet our weight goals or maintain a healthy relationship with food. It is time to make a plan and put some structure to your weight loss and wellness goals.
Structure is absolutely vital to our decision-making process: when we have structure, we are able to thrive.
Slow Down! Create structure, and then be patient. Adhering to a meal planning or exercise schedule can feel foreign at first, but structure is the first step to creating a healthier relationship with food, and a healthier relationship with yourself.
Plan, plan, plan!
With the advent of photos sharing sites, like Pinterest and Instagram, and a renewed interest in health and wellness, many women and families tend to “humble brag” photos of their ziploc-ed, tupperware-d, calendared meal schedules that seem to be prepared, measured, and portioned with army-like precision.
Unfortunately, this creates just one more to-do in our minds that ultimately stresses out many overworked singles and families, creating a yo-yo cycle of meal planning and binging/fast food ordering.
You don’t necessarily need a rigorous meal planning schedule, but you do need structure to reach your goals. Create a loose structure and a plan for each day, whether that’s making breakfast at home, buying a health lunch at the office, cooking dinner back at home, or all three meals prepared or prepped in-home in advance.
Each week, you should aim to buy mix and match staple foods for easy dinners, lunches, and breakfasts. With a “kitchen library” of no-cook grains (whole wheat bread, buns, tortillas), microwavable grains (whole grain steam-in-bag rice is great), lean, easy-cook proteins (port tenderloin, chicken breast, canned tuna and salmon, low-sodium deli meat, shrimp), vegetables, fruits and healthy dairy options (yogurt, cottage cheese, cheddar cheese), you’ll have endless meal and snack options.
Vary your dishes with herbs, spices, homemade sauces and seasoning mixes. Consider purchasing rotisserie or pre-grilled chicken to save yourself some time. Canned soups, beans, and frozen veggies are also easily prepared. Calorie-controlled meals can be available on your table in minutes.
Although many people tend to look down on frozen or prepared foods, a lean frozen entree and a side of steamed broccoli, but most of the time it is a healthier option than dialing in for takeout or inhaling a bag of Doritos. You have to do your research on ALL accounts. Don’t make any assumptions…check the labels and keep your nutrition goals in mind when it comes to eating any prepared or frozen foods.
If you find yourself stressed, tired, hungry, and teetering on the edge of a very bad decision (hello, donuts!), take a moment. Slow down. Breathe.
Remove yourself from the source of your stress, or go to a quieter space or location, even if that location is a bathroom stall or your car. Close your eyes, and breathe slowly. Ask yourself: how can you respond positively to the situation? What outcomes will make you feel proud- choosing something healthy for yourself and taking a positive step forward, or making an impulsive decision that you regret later?
After a bad eating decision occurs, it’s difficult to face: you ate a half pizza (ok, a whole pizza) again. You hit the drive-thru again, You finished off a pint of Ben and Jerry’s- again. Naturally, you want to forget about it, push it out of sight and out of mind.
In order to create a healthier decision making process and to learn and grow from your experiences, you must reflect on instances in which you’ve failed. Ask yourself: what was the trigger? What might you have done differently? What other outcome might have occurred, or what outcome do you wish had occurred?
Rather than internalizing this dialogue, try writing it down. Seeing your thoughts on paper can help you acknowledge a mistake or explore an issue in a more abject, comprehensive manner.
The most important thing is to not criticize yourself: treat yourself with kindness and forgiveness. You cannot move forward and create a healthier future from a place of shame or embarrassment. Acknowledge that where there are mistakes there is also the chance for future success.