One of the most overarching things I hear ( and read) are from people who want to eat healthier, who desire to do so, but often seem at a loss of where exactly to begin.
I mean, really, it shouldn’t BE hard, right?
Get the good food, eat the good food.
Why on earth are chocolate covered donuts in the basket??!
As I write this I’ll toss out the disclaimer that I’m certainly no expert on perfect nutrition. I openly and freely share my vices with you….hello powdered sugar donuts and salt and pepper kettle chips 😛
I have just learned how to control my behaviors associated with those things. I’ve learned that those foods don’t support my athletic or health goals. I also don’t deprive myself so if I want something, I have some of it and move on.
On the whole of my day though, I make constant choices to choose wisely in what I eat.
It has been a learned process.
Some days are awesome other days are …..meh.
Ok so now that we’ve got THAT outta the way, lets continue.
You aren’t a dummy, really.
When it comes to eating and nutrition you really are largely a product of what you’ve been raised in, what you’ve been taught, and what you’ve been exposed to. Ok and you do have a healthy amount of “free will” as a grown up in your food choices as well.
You can “choose” to buy a candy bar and coke in the gas station… or you can “choose” to buy water and a banana or pretzels.
Huge difference in calories and nutritional content.
So free will goes a long way to helping us become more successful in our efforts to eat better.
I totally understand environmental factors. I didn’t grow up with a focus on healthy, moderate eating.
I grew up with good food, cooked by a mom and grandmother who knew what they were about in the kitchen ( skills they taught me to which I’m grateful) and food was all about not just eating, but comfort, family, and eating, plenty!
Seconds were just expected and a given. Everyone ate till they were in the food coma stage.
Of all things I’ve learned/taught myself these past years is to stay away from that mentality. It is a feeling I don’t like experiencing anymore, nor want to.
So some beginning steps towards getting smart with food is to understand your background environment ( what food was for you in your family, how it was treated, foods that were prepared etc) and accept your food behaviors today.
No one makes you eat anything you don’t want or more than what you need.
In the beginning….
Ya know, when our Creator landed us here a zillion years ago, eating wasn’t complex. I have no personal experience with this but eating then was probably what it was designed for.
Food was fuel.
You ate to get fueled and you didn’t eat again till your tank was running low and you needed it. Repeat process. Spend time running from wild animals to survive ensured you got your cardio in 😉
Of course our early ancestors didn’t have all the processed, fatty, sugary non-essential foods we have today or I’m pretty sure they woulda been having brownies for dessert too.
One thing is still the same though.
Food is fuel. We need it to survive and to have adequate energy to get through our days.
It’s WHAT we choose to fuel or bodies with, how much, and how often that has become the issue.
It’s eating to eat and not eating because we have genuine hunger and need to fill our tank.
We eat to feed our eyes, mouth, and minds very often, without as much thought to what our stomach is saying.
Are we really hungry?
We’ve been given natural signals to indicate we need to eat yet many people go through their days never being aware of those signals because they never let themselves become hungry.
Back to the basics.
There are a few things you can do that can help you get smarter with your eating. They aren’t complicated or really hard, but they may feel that way as you have to intentionally work to adjust your thinking and behaviors.
Eat when you’re hungry. When you’re authentically hungry, feed your body. You get no extra points for ignoring your hunger or pretending it isn’t there, so eat. If you aren’t experiencing those hunger signals, find something else to do.
Eat just enough. Now this can be a fine line to walk for all of us as we tend to eat and think we need more but if we give our bodies a little time to process what’s been taken in we would realize that we’ve had enough. One thing I’ve learned and been amazed over is how little food it really takes to satisfy my appetite and end my hunger. The same is true for you but you may have to teach yourself new patterns and behaviors with it.
Be mindful and intentional. This is where your food choices come in with the other points above. Assuming we’re all adults here, each one of us knows and makes choices over the foods and drinks we consume in our days.
No one *makes* me go through a fast food drive thru or *makes* me buy non-essential, empty calorie foods at the stores.
I am responsible for what I do.
Same goes for you.
I’m at a point in my journey now where if I want something, I am fully aware of the choice I’m making. For those of you who still operate in a zone of feeling “guilty” over food, ( find my post on food guilt here… https://sassyfitnesschick.com/2018/07/07/food-and-guilty-feelings/ ) this becomes very freeing as you know you’ve made a purposeful choice and not just been swept away because you’ve deprived yourself for so long.
Making different, healthy choices won’t be easy in the beginning. Work on listening to your body and eating just enough to feed your hunger, even if your food choices aren’t the best.
As you master the first two habits, you can begin to change things you’re doing. DON’T make sweeping, broad, extreme changes to your eating all at once. You will be setting yourself up to quit in 24 hours.
Small steps are the best steps.
DO think about the foods you consume. Make a list if you have to. Which are healthy and offer good nutrition to your body? Which are non-essential empty calorie foods that don’t promote good nutrition ?
What non-essential foods could you swap for something healthier? Don’t forget what you drink too.
What non-essential. empty calorie foods do you consume that you could learn to live without or have on a less frequent basis?
Are you willing to try new things? To change you must be willing to step out where you haven’t experimented before. Add in a new fruit or vegetable to your week. Find a healthy recipe or learn to swap out higher fat ingredients for less fat options.
One of the biggest swaps I’ve made is using my non-fat, plain Greek yogurt in recipes that call for sour cream or mayo. Sometimes with the mayo I only use half to half yogurt. Not only do you cut fat and calories, you get a little extra protein thrown in too. I also use this when making dip for veggie trays and as well as other sour cream based foods.
Look at how much added sugar or fatty foods you consume and see if you can eat less of it or make healthier swaps for something you like.
Learning to be intentional about what you put in your mouth will be your biggest challenge and your greatest victory to healthy eating.
Once you begin to master that, eating healthier begins to feel like an easy choice.
Why? Because when you build new habits, they tend to take over the old behaviors.
Undoing and changing a lifetime of learned behaviors is a purposeful and intentional choice made day by day, but with time and consistency you will be on your way to healthy smart eating and permanent lifestyle change.
What steps have you taken to becoming a smarter, healthier person?