Sunday, February 20, 2011

Reader Feedback Q&A : Biggest Struggles

About a week ago, I invited you all to submit some comments in response to last week's poll about biggest struggles in health/weight loss.  Thanks to all who posted, and I want to hold up my end of the bargain by responding as well as I can!  I want to re-emphasize, I'm not a nutritionist or a medical professional, these suggestions are just things I've found while on my own long weight-loss journey.  I'll provide my best advice, and some variety, hopefully, you'll be able to find something that works for you!  Here we go...

Q:  What are some ways to navigate the lack of healthy things I would actually eat on restaurant menus?

This is a great question, and something I've had to learn to reconcile myself with as well.  It's not impossible, but it's tough, and if you're determined to stay away from eating unhealthy food but are forced to eat in restaurants frequently for whatever reason, it makes it more difficult.  First of all, there are things you will have to avoid if you're actually concerned about making healthy choices.  Anything fried is pretty much out.  The unhealthy fat used to fry food items, not to mention the empty carbs in white flour used for breading, make this a sad reality, but a reality nonetheless.  Just avoid it.  Period.  Grilled meats are great, the leaner the better, and chicken is best.  Try to stay away from heavy sauces or marinades, at the very least be aware of what's going on it.  If you order a sandwich, I would try to minimize the damage by ordering a side salad or steamed vegetables (these usually come at no extra charge as a substitute) instead of chips or fries.  Salads are great, especially with some grilled lean meat for protein, but be careful, dressings are full of hidden calories and unhealthy fats.  Ask for balsamic vinegar and olive oil, most restaurants will have them.

Q:  There's usually a certain amount of peer pressure involved in eating out with friends, how to I manage that?

It takes a lot of mental toughness, for sure.  This is one of the reasons I kept gaining weight in college, if my friends wanted to get a pizza late at night or go out for food after I had already had dinner, my social side told me I needed to take part or I'd be missing out.  Giving in to these temptations became a norm for me, and that did me in.  I had to learn to tell myself, "you'll feel better about yourself, about your body and about your progress if you just go, have a glass of water and enjoy your friends' company."

Q: How can I teach myself to NOT like certain kinds of food? If I see some candy, a bag of chips, I go for it. Why? Because it's delicious and I don't see its bad side right way. I know it is a terrible way to live/eat, but how can I teach myself to go for the carrots and celery instead of the wings?

It's impossible to explain why we like certain kinds of food, we just do, and for me to think that someday I won't like Italian food (though I haven't eaten it in months), it's just not going to happen.  Here's the thing: you won't someday look at the celery and carrots and forget about the wings.  However, the trick is to flip a 180-degree turn on your instincts.  You really want some wings?  Eat some wings!  But be sensible about it, don't drown them in sauce, and don't eat them again for a while.  Eat foods that are whole and filling and tasty in their own right.  Eventually, I promise, the craving will ease.  A few months ago, if I got the urge to buy a frozen pizza, there's no way I would have been able to hold off, because wasn't in the proper place with my eating.  Now, all I can think about when I pass the DiGiorno case is what it might do to my progress, and I can walk by.  A few tips that have worked for me, but I don't necessarily recommend to everyone; 1) I weigh-in every single day.  This discourages me from making bad choices, because I HATE seeing my weight go up...however, this works for me only because I use it to gauge progress over the long-term.  Do NOT place too much stock in your day-to-day weight...just the trends and the way your body looks is important to understand how much progress you're making...2) I hate spending excess money, so realizing that I can buy a healthy bag of dried black beans which will last me several days for the same price as buying a bag of chips.  That makes my decision a lot easier in the moment of temptation.

Q: I struggle with consistency! I'll be ultra motivated one day, super hyped for my exercise routine, and then the next day I'll eat cheesecake and not do anything physical at all. How do you keep yourself on task?

Consistency is tough for us all, you're not alone!  My suggestion: give yourself a goal for the week, eat well all week, and you can have that piece of cheesecake on the weekend!  Also, schedule your workouts!  It's easy to avoid working out when it's just a hap-hazard thing you'll decide to throw into your day, especially if you're busy and you reach the end of the day and lack the motivation to get to the gym.  That's just unrealistic.  Set a goal, 4 days, 5 days in the week.  Intentionally leave out your busiest days!  That'll give you a better chance to get there.  

Q: I totally self-medicate with food. For example, I've been having a crap-tastic day today and the only thing I wanted was some kind of cake/baked good. I knew that if I had something, it would make everything better (at least for a little while). And I had a small cupcake with dinner, and everything was at peace. This was good, because I only had one, very small cupcake. However, I will totally destroy a package of Oreos if left to my own devices. I just need to build my confidence to be able to deal with problems without resorting to food.

Listen, I understand completely...there's a reason we have a whole section of our cultural diet labeled as "comfort food."  However, having been there, this is the sort of cycle which leads down the wrong path.  I'm susceptible to binging on junk too, that's why I just don't keep it around.  I understand how this all feels, but I have to say, this was me during a dark time for my health.  It wasn't until I started taking pride in feeding my body the right food that I was able to learn how to keep food in its rightful place.  My simple advice: if it's going to be tempting, don't bring it into the house.   Absolutely and positively don't even push it to the back of your shelf, you will know where it is, and when you're tempted, your body's desire will be stronger than your conscience.  I stopped buying peanut butter, because one of my favorite indulgences was to grab a spoon and get a spoonful of PB...long story short, one becomes two and soon I've eaten 50% of my daily fat allowance in three bites!  There's no way I'd drink olive oil, so there's my temptation-free healthy fat which I use on most of my meals.  My wife has started drinking tea at night, to give her something to look forward to...I eat fruit when I go on the prowl...having harmless food around that you learn to look forward to is the best option.  Please comment further if you have any further questions, this is tough!

Q:  I overeat, but instead of eating potato chips, I try to make enormous salads. I think I find a basic satisfaction in putting fuel in my body, but of course I'd prefer pizza to brussel sprouts. I also use food as a reward, i.e., if I'm studying, I want Sour Patch kids, etc. So, I just try to eat a ton of carrots or big fruit salads or something healthy. Other relatively guilt-free snacks include Cheerios and air-popped popcorn.

Not a question, obviously, but this warrants discussion.  To tie this in to the previous question, I think I satisfy my "comfort food" craving with a lot of healthy food, like this poster is suggesting.  I love making a huge salad, rich in vegetables, a little protein and a little fiber.  My afternoon snack is often several servings of vegetables, with a little salt and pepper.  Not your typical snack food, but I promise you, it's just as satisfying, and eventually you'll learn to look forward to that instead of Oreos.  You're right on the money, food can be a reward, and you're right in making healthy choices.  Food is our friend, processed junk is our enemy.  Eating good food is and incredibly rewarding feeling, and so guilt-free.  Enjoy it!

I believe that God put food on this planet for our enjoyment, not just our nourishment.  Try explaining to me how tomatoes, garlic, onions and fresh basil can all go together so incredibly otherwise.  He didn't have to make it tasty, bland food could have nourished us just as well!  However, such a huge percentage of the food our culture eats is man-made, and that's what makes it dangerous.  We've twisted the food consumption culture into a money-making and flavor-craving venture, and we're paying for it...I don't believe we should have to feel guilty for eating anything, it's unfortunate that our food industry has created the entire problem of food guilt, and the reasons behind it.

As always, your questions, comments, agreements, disagreements are welcomed!  This is, and hopefully continues to be a forum for edification of everyone involved, and your contributions make it possible!

- Dan -

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