Healthy Eating Tips For Dummies

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??!

Seriously though…..

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 😛

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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.

Ready?

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.

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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.

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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?

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What Shape Is Your Diet?

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“So, what do you eat?”  It’s one of a few common questions I get sometimes. What the seeking person wants to know or might be asking is “tell me how to eat. Give me a plan/structure ’cause what you’re doing, it seems to work for you.”

First, I personally abhor structured diets that tell me what I have to eat, how much and when. This is probably why I tossed all that nonsense 8 years ago when I started my crazy adventure.

Even when I work with people I don’t make a meal plan for them. Why? They need to learn how to eat and how to make their own plan work. I want them to know and understand their body and how to listen to it.

Second, how I eat is what works for me. My nutritional needs will be different on several levels. My natural daily metabolic needs as well as what I need athletically will influence my daily diet.

Therefore, I can’t just give someone a blanket “this is what I eat” and expect it will work for them too.

There are some things I do that I think are applicable to anyone and can lead to personal success.

  1. I eat healthy 90% of the time. Meaning, I try to eat real foods as close to their natural form as I can. Of course, I leave wiggle room for those treats that make life fun or don’t make me feel restricted and deprived. This approach has worked for me and I believe has kept me successful.
  2. I drink lots of water. It’s my primary drink ( followed by coffee of course;) I don’t drink alcohol or sugary drinks of any kind. Well, only Gatorade after intense endurance workouts, but that’s a bit different.
  3. I eat when I’m hungry and I eat enough to satisfy my hunger but not make myself feel to full.
  4. Veggies or fruit take up lots of space on my plate at all my meals.
  5. I get 3 meals in and depending on my athletic load that day, healthy snacks as needed.
  6. Protein is a major thing for me at all meals and snacks to support muscle growth and maintenance as well as it doing a fine job keeping me feeling satisfied and not hungry.

And depending on my training schedule and what type of workouts I’m facing for the day, will determine what my nutritional needs are. Obviously, some days, I will require more calories than others.

See how I can’t just make a blanket statement to someone telling them what to eat?

The first step ( I believe) for anyone, is knowing yourself. Be the best student of your body you can. Know what foods make you feel good and healthy. Know what your activities are and how you need to nutritionally support them. Learn to listen to your body and it’s natural signals for hunger and when it’s satisfied. I’ve learned what foods make me feel energetic, satisfied, help me athletically and help me build a strong body. It’s been a learning work in progress.

Make it your goal to eat real, whole foods and allow opportunities for the little treats in life you love ( in moderation)

How else can you make a winning eating plan for yourself that will lead to long term success and sustainability?

* Learn to eat three kinds of foods at meals. Obviously, the bigger variety of foods you eat, the more vitamins, minerals and nutrients you consume. Learn to experiment with different foods at each meal. Include plenty of veggies and fruit.

* Choose foods in their most natural states. Foods in their natural state or lightly processed have more nutritional value and less sodium, trans fats, and other non-healthy ingredients.

* Think moderation. Make a strong foundation of healthy foods, but don’t deprive yourself of things that are enjoyable to you too. Stop thinking of foods as good or bad. Think of moderation and if you enjoy something ( like an occasional coke or whatever your poison is) it can fit into an overall nutritionally strong daily diet. You may be surprised though, that in time, when you start eating good food, you can lose the taste for certain foods you once found appealing.

Teach yourself to not just eat, but to learn to eat better. Look at a stronger, daily nutritional plan as a way to love and respect your body.

Making small daily changes will get you on the road to healthy, balanced and successful eating and living an overall healthier lifestyle.

Tell me, have you learned about yourself? How to feed your body in a way that supports your life and daily activities? What tips or tricks can you share?

 

Cookie Cutter Diets Part 2

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Hey! welcome back to the next part of my little series  =) I thought this would work better than writing a novel you’d be reading for days…. if you missed part 1…. scamper over and check it out first.

I wanna set the stage here for you… since we’re talking about diets…. maybe you’ll relate. This was my strategy for success years ago.

* determine I was tired of being fat  (yes, I’m using that word)

* decide that,  “Monday was gonna be it…time to start”

* proceed to eat all random, crappy, junk type food I could shovel in to “get rid of it”  over the weekend ( because all that food would never, ever be available to me again. Ever.

* decide which seriously calorie deficient diet I was gonna do, and there were LOTS to choose from.

* start on Monday with lofty expectations of being slimmer by the next weekend. Engage some furious exercise. Think of all the foods I was gonna miss.

* Tuesday… hunger is my new best friend. Food is always on my mind and I  have fantasies about my next meal more than a teenage girl does Justin Bieber. Get on scale and check for weight loss. Get mad when it hasn’t changed.

*Wednesday hop onto scale… first thing early… naked… carefully balancing and holding my breath. Yay…  a pound or two gone. It’s gonna be a good day. I can do this. When do we eat again ?? Weigh again later in day hoping for more good news…think about when it’s over…

* Thursday no new change in the weight. I’m getting kinda sick of a piece of fruit, an egg and water for breakfast and similar things rest of day. Hunger sticks closer than a bee on honey. I think about…cake… and cheeseburgers… and all things fat.

*Friday almost have a week down. I’m getting used to the light headedness from not enough food… besides the scale told me another pound was gone… I can handle being hungry…. I’ve been thinking about “when this is over” and getting back to normal.

* Saturday… I’ve been good! I deserve a treat, or two, or three… right ?? And the whole day turns into a happy eating feast of all things that have been banished in the past week. OMG… it all tastes sooo good.

*Sunday… I’m not realllyyyy needing to lose weight, am I? I mean, I never will be able to anyway…so… I might as well just do what I’ve been doing…. maybe I’m supposed to just be like this. I  just don’t have the will power or strength to be successful.

* Monday…. resume my old ways. Resolve to try again another day.

Do you relate ? Have you done things like this ? You can tell me in the comments section.

I’ve since learned a lot. There were several flaws with my plan for weight loss.

→ Not understanding my needs or exactly how many calories my body required to just be alive on a daily basis. At the time 1200 calories was standard diet fare ( sadly it still is today) If you were living large, 1500. Imagine my shock when not to long ago I learned that my daily BMR (basal metabolic rate which we’ll talk about later) was actually 1500 calories. This is if I were to sit on sofa doing nothing and to support the normal functioning of my body. No wonder I was hungry all the time! There were no extra calories for my daily living or exercise built in.

→ Removing, depriving and taking away everything I perceived as “bad” Giving power to foods and not keeping them in a proper  perspective. We  are living life and have to allow for it even as we pursue our weight loss goals. Occasional treats keep us on target and cut off binging. Putting foods on a banished list only made me think of them more.

→ Not treating my body with respect by giving it adequate food for health and living. Being hungry is a God given signal to feed our body.

→ Not having realistic goals for myself. I would not reach a slim status in one week. That set me up for failure…. as if  not enough food wouldn’t.

→ Not setting long term, permanent, life goals instead of just weeks out goals.

→ Trying to fit my body into that standard diet and not knowing my own needs.

When you and I began to grasp and understand that we should be focused on all of our lives and not just a few weeks or months, we’ve made huge progress. Eating well and movement  are, or should be, what we do all our life.

Now, remember your homework you had from last post ? You were supposed to set a goal and determine what your weight loss fitness goals are

Now along side that I want you to consider what your needs are. Could you relate on any level to my story above ?  What mental changes do you need to make for success ?

Finally, think about your life. Your work , activities, hobbies, exercise etc. and consider what kinds of food will give you energy and help you on your weight loss journey.

In our next post we will look at how to figure how many calories you personally need to reach your goals and most importantly how to make it your plan for success.

Cookie Cutter Diets Part 1

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As I shared with you in another post, one of the questions I get from seeking people is :

What do you eat?

They know I’ve been on this journey for a few years now and they are wondering what “formula” I use and would that be successful to help them achieve their fitness/health goals.

Overall, I think I eat fairly well, but will freely admit I haven’t “arrived” in a perfect nutritional way ( I still like my occasional treats 😉

I don’ t micro manage macros and micros and obsess over every single calorie. Personally, I find that really freeing, but it is a process I’ve learned for myself these past few years.

Now keep in mind, I certainly wouldn’t be offering them a horrible food plan. In fact, it would (overall)  probably be very beneficial to them. I have enough knowledge to help them figure out basic daily calorie needs and how to operate within that structure.

But here’s the deal. Just because what I’m doing works for me…. doesn’t mean it will work for every person who approaches me. I’ve really developed my own thing over time that allows me to live my life, and do my athletic(y) stuff too. I’ve gotten a pretty good balance of how much food I need to lose or maintain my weight and operate in those boundaries.

You know what that’s called? Sustainable.

I’ve worked out a healthier way of eating and living that is easy enough for me to keep at day in and day out. It allows me to eat overall healthy 90-95% of the time and still lets me have some of my fav treats when I want them ( like those Peanut M&M’s 😉 and I’ll tell you, the less you eat it, the less you want it. Your tastes really do start changing with a healthier diet.

As far as nutritionally from an athletic stand point, I’ve really had to teach/train myself more to take in adequate food for training because my needs really can vary day to day. Obviously, doing a 20+ mile run will require more than a 4 mile run. It really becomes a matter of learning to fine tune what each days needs are. And I’m pretty sure, you, my lovely reader, are no different.

So what would tips/suggestions or helpful advice would I offer up to someone asking ?

First, let’s start with this.  It’s important to really know and understand your goals. What are you wanting to achieve ? Have something clearly defined… write it down or post it where you can see it.

Is it primarily weight loss with the goal to improve your lab results? to lose fat, lower blood pressure, prevent disease, to have more energy, less aches and pains, and better quality of life ? To just… move better ?

Do you have a specific athletic goal in mind ? Training for a 5k, or maybe a longer race? Maybe you want to learn to run. It could be cycling or maybe a triathlon. It could be you’re wanting to get stronger, build some muscles.  Perhaps it’s just to get out and walk for a couple miles and not be out of breath doing it… or hurting and exhausted.

You might be at a place where your weight is managed but maybe you’re wanting to focus more on building and defining what you currently have. More aesthetics. You could be highly motivated and want to do figure competition.

Defining your goals are very important to help identify where you want to go before you just jump into a standard 1200 calorie per day diet ( please, please don’t do that.. we’ll talk more on that later)

There’s a reason I titled this  Cookie Cutter Diets our nutritional needs are not all alike! And depending on what our lives involve, those needs can change day to day.

I believe one of the keys to success is not just jumping into a horribly restrictive food plan, cutting out all things you love, and hoping to grind it out for maybe 2 weeks, getting frustrated you don’t see instant results, and then **with a sigh of relief** at the end of those weeks, you go back to what you know and what you’ve been comfortable in.

Once again you…. abandon your weight loss attempts and determine it’s to hard and you’ll never accomplish it.

BUT, if you make small gradual changes, and add slow and steady exercise that doesn’t kill you on day one, your chances of success greatly increase.

Now, you’re job is to determine what you want and how to go after it.

That’s your homework.

Think on it, and come back for the next part where we figure out what kind of calories you really DO need each day to reach your goals, and sustain them.

So Much Food. What To Eat ?

So today’s post is coming from questions I sometimes get… and there can be some interesting ones 😉 one that has come up several times is this :

In regards to health and wellness, it’s the “what do you eat / do for meals ?” question

Let me say first, what works for me, might not be the “thing” that works for you.

Also, on any given day what I eat depends on the training I’m doing. Obviously, my needs are greater with a 20+ mile run, versus a strength training day so my caloric intake can be quite different.

And the other thing…. it will also depend on our likes and dislikes and overall personal tastes. I don’t follow any current “trends” of don’t eat this or that. Unless you have a food allergy/health reason, eat the food. It disturbs me how many people today follow a certain trend without even knowing the why’s of doing it….

There are some things that I do which, I believe, are beneficial to everyone….

I rarely eat fast food. I don’t do a lot of processed, refined or fatty foods. I keep sugar to a minimum. I don’t drink alcohol or sugary drinks or fake sugars. I skip creamy stuff like mayo, spreads, and those sort of items. I prefer whole grain/brown foods over “white”.

I do drink a ton of water (’cause I really do like it and it’s the best thing for your body)

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Side note…. I don’t use bottles… I really run around with a big glass full of ice water.. it travels everywhere with me.

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One of my fav healthy breakfasts….

Fruits and veggies make up a large part of my daily nutrition. Not shown here are sweet potatoes. Such tasty little suckers. I often roast them with some olive oil for dinner, and use the cold ones with my breakfast or toss them in with my lunch salad. These are a great nutritional super food.

I believe dairy is important (especially for women) so I try and get in a couple glasses of milk a day and my Greek yogurt snacks 🙂

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seriously, the best. I also add a few roasted coconut almonds into it for a tasty midafternoon snack

Protein is very important with my training to make sure my muscles have enough to grow on =) I know it’s not currently trendy, but I love real milk. No apologies.

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Eggs are a perfect breakfast food for me. I also keep them hard boiled for afternoon snacks.  I eat the whole egg… the most important nutrients are contained in the yolk. I find protein does a much better job to keep me feeling satisfied and “level”.

I have no issues with “grains” and enjoy multi whole grain breads/bagels, oatmeal and some cereals.

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Keeping foods that are easy to quickly grab in your ‘fridge is a first step to making good snack choices =)

Basically, I try and eat, the majority of the time healthy foods. I don’t believe in eliminating food groups unless you have a valid health reason to do so.

Oh, and some treats are allowed and completely enjoyed at times =)

And of course, this is always a part of my day. Isn’t coffee a food group ??

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I’ll tell you this, of myself and people I know who have it going on nutritionally, they have a strong foundation in their daily diet of lots of fruits and veggies. These not only fill you up with less calories, the nutrients they deliver to your body contribute to your overall health,wellness and appearance.

If you don’t currently eat a lot of these tasty food items do this:

Start by eating more of what you like.
Try something new every day or two.
Cook veggies in different ways. I love roasting or sautéing mine
Experiment with new recipes to get more veggies in.
Do fruit salads instead of veggie salads in your meals.
Reach for these things as snack items…understand you must train yourself to do so.
Stop treating these foods like they are the enemy…they are health and wellness for you.

Oh, and if you can’t STAND a certain veggie/fruit… then.. don’t eat it! There’s a lot more out there to choose from.

Making slow shifts in your daily diet and replacing not so good foods with better choices will get you on a healthy lifestyle path =)

That Nutrition Thing

What came first? The chicken or the egg ?

I think it’s like asking in the health and fitness world, what came first?

The knowledge  your body needed movement and exercise for better health? Or that you needed to eat better and make intelligent food choices for better health ?

We all arrive in different ways. If you are gonna get out there and kick your butt in some hard physical activities , do you really wanna come back in and feed it garbage ?

Oh, in the beginning it might be like that. “I worked out today! I deserve this!” as the cheeseburger and fries go down… or the fancy sugary coffee drink or whatever your poison is. There’s a sense of entitlement.

It might take awhile, or not so long, for the shift to occur. To realize if you’re doing this hard work you don’t want to undermine your efforts. You start looking at things in a different light.

If your physical activities are really hard and demanding it doesn’t take long to understand that what you put in you IS fuel and you need a) enough fuel and b) the right kind of fuel to sustain your activity level.

Last year I picked up a sports nutrition book for endurance athletes to read and teach myself more of what I needed to do. Training for that 50K I knew I needed to really eat…. intentionally.

Let’s just say, there were a lot of days I wasn’t eating enough for what I was physically doing. It takes planning and forethought to consume foods to not only support your daily living and activities but also your purposeful exercise.

I’m learning. I’ve learned a lot and don’t think I’ve arrived at getting it right. It’s a constant work in progress.

Anyway on my journey of the foods I eat, salad has always been a standard for me. Not as a “diet” food. Not because I “had to”… I’m a weirdo… I just enjoy them.

Before I became somewhat knowledgeable of foods and nutritional content one of the food groups I enjoyed in my salad was…… Ranch… yes, Ranch dressing.

It is a food group, isn’t it ? 😉

Then I started getting smarter and realized I was killing and totally negating any positive effects of salad by the dressing on it. Now I was horrible about it, not like some salads I’ve seen where the lettuce is buried under a sea of white dressing, almost no longer visible….

Over time, I slowly weaned myself away from it. Oh, I have it occasionally ( I like it with my salad and pizza 😉 but this is rare for me.

Let me say this. I often eat salads. Most days of the week they are my lunch staple, because I really, honesty, enjoy them. And, you can seriously get all your daily servings of veggies in with it….. double win.

My salads are not just the standard lettuce, tomato, cucumber kind of salads. I throw all kinds of colorful veggies in, sometimes a fruit of some type, some nuts, seeds or other crunch along with some protein. I’ve learned to use spinach as my “lettuce”. It’s a creative venture for me each time 😛

Seriously, spinach is like a powerhouse of amazing, good for your nutrient rich stuff for almost zero calories. You wanna eat that stuff. Our store has been carrying locally grown and it’s spoiling me!

So I learned, if you add enough texture and variety of tastes and flavors to your salads, dressings are only needed in very minimal amounts.

But, as mentioned, when you are on a health and fitness journey, you do begin to look critically at how and what you eat to support and sustain those goals.

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A sample of a lunch salad…lots of fresh spinach!

One of the main “suggestions” I offer to people who are wanting to lose weight, is to keep a record of what you eat for about a week, and really consider all the little “extras” you might consume but don’t consider empty calories piling into your days.

Things like an over abundance of salad dressing, mayo, and other creamy sauces and the like really do add up. When you can see from your food journal what your consumption of certain items are, you can then begin to examine what you don’t need or could eliminate to help you on your journey to shed weight and get healthier.

Small steps can lead to big, long term changes!