Wednesday, October 28, 2009

A Moment on the Lips, Forever on the Hips

I've written a lot lately about how good nutrition is ALWAYS important to your overall health and fitness plan, no matter how hard or how much you exercise.

Even if you're training for a marathon, you will not see a leaner version of yourself emerge if you use that tough physical regimen as an excuse to eat whatever you want.

It's one of the most common pitfalls people encounter: we're working out more, which can make us hungrier (and therefore more susceptible to the siren call of the Twinkie), and we begin to rationalize; we've burned all these calories and worked so hard, haven't we earned the right to reward ourselves with dessert every night? It's only a LITTLE cheesecake.

The truth is, occasional treats are ok; A diet that is completely devoid of the foods you love is a diet you're quickly going to abandon.

The trouble starts when we confuse "sometimes" foods with the healthy choices that should comprise the majority of our meals - and we don't even realize it. Lucky for us, there are plenty of ways to stop ourselves from sabotaging our hard work.

  • Dear Diary - A food journal never fails to be a major eye-opener. If you want to see just how often you are indulging in "sometimes" foods and figure out the triggers that make you most susceptible, write down every single thing you put in your mouth for one week. Get a small notebook and carry it around so you don't miss anything. That teeny piece of Halloween candy? It counts. The bites you snuck off the kids' chicken nuggets? Those too. It all adds up, and at the end of a week you will see where your diet needs tweaking. Also write down the times and circumstances under which you're noshing so you get an idea of those triggers. Are you eating healthfully right up until bedtime, and then craving sweets? Or is "tasting" dinner as you get it ready your pattern? Maybe you'll find that you need a salty snack when you're under stress - identifying the things that make you indulge is half the battle. Once you know your triggers, you can see them coming and head them off at the pass with a little creative strategizing.
  • Weighing in on Portion Control - Ever read labels to see how big a serving actually is? Too often our eyes are bigger than our metabolism, and we are eating for more than a single serving. For example, that "single" bag of Cheetos you buy at Speedway likely contains three servings - meaning you're consuming three times the fat and calorie content you think you are. At home, your best tool to help you understand portions is a food scale. If a serving of chicken is three ounces, weigh your piece to make sure what's on your plate matches what's in your head.
  • A Stitch in Time - To keep yourself on track, don't leave room for chance. Plan your meals ahead of time and stick to them. Before you go to the grocery, figure out what you're going to eat at each meal and snack for the next week. Then list the ingredients you need and buy only those items so temptation doesn't lurk in your pantry and everything you need for healthful meals is at your fingertips. Hang your meal plan up in the kitchen and FOLLOW IT!
  • Plan for a Pinch - Sometimes we just don't have the time to prepare a full meal. Here's where it's easiest to stray - you're in a hurry, you're starving, and a trip through the drive-thru sounds perfect. To stay out of the danger zone, keep quick healthy foods handy. Carry an energy bar in your pocket (check the sugar content), keep lowfat cottage cheese in the refrigerator at work and top it with fresh fruit and a half cup of whole grain cereal, and have whole grain breads, nuts, low fat meats like turkey and sliced tomatoes ready to make a quick sandwich.
  • A Winning Strategy - Now that you know your triggers, how can you combat them? Try chewing a piece of sugar-free gum when that 3 p.m. sugar jones hits. Put leftovers in the fridge immediately after dinner to prevent picking, and then brush your teeth - that clean feeling in your mouth helps ward off the desire for a bedtime snack.
Eating well isn't rocket science - it's just planning, a little willpower at first, then the new habits begin to take shape (as you start to enjoy YOUR new shape). I know you can do it!

Your friend in fitness,

Brian Calkins

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