How to Make Eating Right a Stress-Free Event
It’s so simple, but hard to always remember. Food Feeds Us. It gives us energy, vitality, and strength. It nourishes our complex muscular and vascular systems to perform miracles daily. Food is one of the only things we actually need to survive, and it’s something we need to do at least three times a day.
So why is that so many have an unhealthy relationship with it? It seems like the word ‘diet’ is a permanent part of many people’s vocabulary, and they’re either trying one, on one, or have fallen off of it and trying to get back on. On the more extreme side, it is estimated that 8 million Americans have an eating disorder – seven million women and one million men. As people are bombarded with different information from ‘experts’ on how to manage their weight, the pounds continue to pile on and people are more and more confused on how to achieve balance.
About 10 years ago, I finally beat a severe eating disorder that I had lived with from my late teens into my twenties. I never admitted it to ANYONE, including my own parents, because I thought it meant I was a complete failure. You could say my fear of food was eating me alive. When you come from a family that plans lunch while eating breakfast and has conversations about dinner at the lunch table - where you’re not supposed to leave the table without stuffing yourself to the gills - it’s easy to get crazy about the subject. My eating disorders started in my late teens. Somehow, I lost my way from the dinner table. I swung from gluttonous overeating binges where I’d make myself sick from excess to a starvation diet because I got tired of making myself throw up.
I would fast until 3:00pm everyday then maybe eat a bagel, some rice, celery sticks, a few rice cakes and a green salad, washed down with a bottomless supply of black coffee. I counted every bite as though my life depended on it and if I indulged in anything that I perceived as excess I’d kill myself at the gym until late in the evening so I would avoid eating dinner.
After a few months, I became too weak to exercise and cut back my intake even more. At my lowest, I reached 87 pounds. In a twisted way, I thought this was an incredible achievement, and in my mind, restricting my calorie intake and getting to that new low showed discipline. But my body was clearly in distress.
I started losing clumps of hair. I became an insomniac and began having panic attacks and memory black outs. One night, I was out with some friends and had a panic attack with hallucinations so intense that I was rushed to the hospital because I felt like I was going to die. I had such an unhealthy relationship with food that I avoided any social events where eating was involved, which alienated me even more from friends and family. Birthdays, anniversaries, weddings – life’s most cherished events – I found an excuse to get out of them every time. When I missed my best friend’s wedding and felt so guilty afterwards, I knew it was time to make a change.
The road to healing was long and winding, but the pivot point was my newfound knowledge in sound nutrition. Once I understood how to combine macronutrients, eat smaller meals more frequently and focus on nutrient dense foods, it all fell into place. As soon as I started eating regularly, it was like I had gotten a shot of adrenaline. I looked forward to waking up in the mornings and I had an insane amount of energy and enthusiasm. The insomnia began to turn into hours of deep sleep. The panic attacks went away. I felt comfortable showing up at food functions and even began hosting dinner parties to flex my culinary muscles.
I learned and lived what it meant to feed my body at the cellular level. I didn’t have to be tempted by a sponge cake filled with cream and a 20 year shelf life. What was that going to do for me, anyway? Food was meant to keep my body moving and thriving and even though there were a lot of choices out there, I learned which ones were best for me inside and out.
The recipe to happiness turned out to be by creating a real strategy around being prepared for good food choices so I wouldn’t be in a ‘Food 911’ situation – starving with nothing but the fast food lines flashing at me, trying to lure me in.
These 5 tips can help you achieve success and pure bliss in the kitchen.
#1: Ditch the diet mentality
How is it that the number of people dieting has increased, and so has the percentage of obesity America? Because dieting doesn’t work. Diets come from a place of deprivation and no one likes to feel that way. If you’re not eating enough of the right foods in the right combination, it can actually undo all the good, including burning muscle instead of fat.
There is nothing more stressful, mentally and physically, than trying to reinvent what your body requires you to do to survive and thrive daily. The better and more consistent your habits become concerning what you eat, when you eat, the quantity of food you eat, the quality of food you eat, and how those foods combine, the easier this concept of health maintenance becomes.
When you eat cleaner and exercise effectively, you are living a sustainable lifestyle - the Cleaner Plate Club Lifestyle - that feeds your sanity.
Being too restrictive, not eating the right combination of lean protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, and not eating often enough, can all sabotage your efforts to get slim and healthy. This is exactly what diets do.
#2: Eat more often
One of the most important and overlooked keys to controlling your weight that I learned is managing your blood sugar. If your blood sugar levels and insulin levels are spiking and dropping, it puts an enormous strain on your metabolic system and signals to your body the “I’m in distress mode” message to store fat and energy. Your body is pre-wired to take care of you in the event of an emergency. Stop telling your system that it needs to store fat and you can turn your body from a fat storing machine into a fat burning machine.
Caloric intake will vary based on your sex, age, activity level and pre-existing health conditions. But if your goal is to get leaner, you must start by eating cleaner, not by going on a diet that focuses on deprivation and what you can’t have.
#3: Focus on whole foods
Human beings are amazing machines. Keeping our engines humming is a pretty clear-cut science, but most people don’t eat enough whole food and don’t eat often enough for their bodies to work efficiently. The way to real, effortless, and permanent weight loss is a proven formula of eating the right combination of foods – or what I call “the Fit Foodie Triangle” – at regular intervals throughout the day. This will rev up your metabolism higher than you ever thought possible. While the point is not to be a slave to calories, this proven formula of eating cleaner, unprocessed meals and focusing on the right combinations at the right times will help get you where you want to go and keep you there for life.
The key is fill up on foods as close to what you would find in nature - items recognized by our grandparents. A balanced meal would look like this: ½ the plate filled with fresh fruit and vegetables, ¼ of the plate filled with lean protein, including natural meats and poultry, wild caught seafood, eggs, nuts and seeds; and ¼ of the plate filled with slow burning carbohydrates. Single ingredient grains like farro, buckwheat and brown rice are all good choices.
#4: Prep ahead
My favorite quote of all time and my mantra for life is ‘Fail to plan, plan to fail.’ There’s nothing more distressing than being hungry and having a bare pantry and nothing but ketchup in the fridge. By taking a couple of hours on a Sunday to shop, wash and chop fruit and veggies with our Eat Cleaner Fruit + Vegetable Wash to help make them safer and last up to 5 times longer, cook a batch of brown rice and grill off some chicken breast or salmon, you have endless combinations of meals to enjoy throughout the week.
Invest in good set of BPA-free containers and turn your fridge into a salad bar with all your pre-made, healthy options. Make snacking a ‘fast food’ event by having some cut-up veggies with hummus or some nut butter with cut apples, pre-portioned and ready to grab and go. Carry a bag of nuts with you and keep something in the car. You never want to be caught without something in the case of a food emergency.
For a well-balanced plan, I created the Cleaner Plate Meal Prep Club to show you how to do it effortlessly right from home, every day. This includes a shopping list, meal planner, prep tips and clean recipes to help you get through the entire week.
#5 Make it a habit
Your body needs regularly scheduled care. Not sporadic, when stuff starts to break down kind-of-work. It’s the little things every day that will keep your engine humming like the well-tuned machine that you are. Make proper nutrition a habit, and your relationship with your plate will never be more fulfilling.
Once I got the hang of how to put it all together, it took preparation and practice to be consistent. They say it takes 21 days of repetition to create a habit, but when it comes to food I think you need 31 days – enough days to get you through even the longest months of the year.
My book, The Clean Eating Handbook: 31 Essential Rules for Health, Wellness, and a Fabulously Fit Life, are bite-sized approaches that, when practiced every day, will help you establish the most important habits you’ve ever wanted to make – the ones that will carry you through your months and years of the fit life. I call them my Fit Foodie Filosophies because, as guiding principles, they are a mindset for your new, cleaner lifestyle. They literally saved my life.
Just like anything new, don’t worry if there are days that don’t go as planned. That will happen because life happens every day. The idea is to just get back on board and keep practicing, eating, repeating and doing it all over again. Soon enough, you’ll be making some beautiful music in that kitchen of yours. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for your new vitality, unprecedented energy, and fabulously fit body. Are you ready to sink your teeth in?
For more recipes and fit food for thought, visit http://www.eatcleaner.com