Tag Archives: Diet

whole world in your hands

How To Start Eating Healthy

I hear the comment often, “I don’t know how to eat healthy”.  Packed between those words after exploration are fears of being overwhelmed with the idea of EATING HEALTHY as if that means suddenly having to transform into a Jedi Knight with the Force giving strength and determination to conquer the late night munchies, the afternoon nibbles, the morning Stars and Dunks.  Making changes in how you eat does not have to require this monumental overhaul.  There are steps you can take to make it easy but first there are some preliminary things to consider to help you have success at eating healthier.

Eat Healthy For The Right Reason

Knowing why you want to eat healthy is the first question.  Is it your desire to eat healthier to lose weight or for better health?  Are you doing it to look better or to be healthier?  If the desire is more about appearance, then the barometer for success is only the scale, not the improved blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, energy level and improved relationships as you gain confidence from your effort.  Furthermore, losing weight only for appearance tends to lead to expectations for rapid weight loss, usually from a fad diet.  And losing weight this way can lead to complications and regaining of weight once the diet is stopped.

Not that appearance can’t be part of the reason for eating healthier, but isn’t it more compelling to eat healthy in order to feel better and be healthier?  Having lab numbers, waist size, blood pressure and energy level become the barometer for success, not just the scale, sound a lot more convincing?


Make sure you have realistic expectations.  I don’t know of anyone who has said to themselves that today he/she was going to start eating three balanced meals with lots of veggies, lean protein, no refined carbs, no sweets and start exercising for 60 minutes every day.  Maybe I should qualify that, I’ve known a few who have attempted it, but they did not sustain it for long and it only added to their stress.  Eating healthier is not the same as going on a diet.  “Prescription” diets like the Blood Type, Cabbage Soup, and Master Cleanse are designed to lose weight quickly.  Even the Adkins diet and the Paleo diet will help you lose weight but can you eat that way for the rest of your life?  Once people quit eating the structured meal plan, weight is most often regained.  Furthermore many fad diets are lacking in key nutrients for health.

Knowing you are in this for the long haul will help you to have success.  Learning how to live a healthier lifestyle should be a gradual series of small changes.

Make Your Environment Safe

Where you live and work can be toxic.  The prefrontal cortex controls our inhibitory decision-making.  Parts of the prefrontal cortex are stimulated when people exhibit control over food urges.  Research in this area has shown that some people have better self-regulation because of more stimulation in this part of the brain.  If you find that you are someone who can be easily tempted by unhealthy foods, then make your environment safe.  Clear tempting foods out of your house.  Take different routes home from work.  Get your coworkers on board with keeping healthier foods around so that you can reduce temptation.  It’s better to go out and splurge on a single serving than it is to buy a larger amount (hate those 2 for 1 chip sales!) and bring it home.

Know Your Causes For Unhealthy Eating Or Overeating

Are you not making good food choices or overeating because you are stressed, bored, eating out of habit or need to decompress, or just eating mindlessly?  If any of these reasons sound familiar then you need to start here first.  Food fuels our body, but it can also alleve stress, anxiety, boredom and become an unhealthy habit.  Addressing the stress in one’s life, through time management, conversation, delegation, planning, exercise and even counselling may need to happen first.

Food Cravings

Food cravings can happen from big swings in blood sugars.  Look at your style and pattern of eating.  Are you eating too many refined carbs at lunch from white rice with the Chinese meal, white flour from the pizza or white flour and sugar from cakes, cookies and chips and notice you get hungry and have food cravings in the mid-afternoon?  That sugar spike from all those “white” refined carbs will hit you like a ton of bricks a couple of hours later making you reach for any candy lying around or that leftover donut or slice of pizza to make that feeling go away.  Looking at your hunger level and how it fluctuates during the day will convince you to try eating differently or reinforce what you are already doing well.  It may also convince you to reach for a cup of tea or go for a walk instead.

How To Start Eating Healthy

Where to begin all depends on what you are currently doing.

  • If you eat most of your meals out:   Begin by making better choices at those restaurants or switch to restaurants that will give you healthier choices.  Getting a turkey sandwich with lots of veggies and little mayo on a whole grain roll at Subway would be a much better choice than going to Burger King and getting a Whopper value meal.  The next step might be to decrease the frequency of eating fast food and stopping instead at the grocery store to buy a rotisserie chicken and hitting the salad bar (put the dressing on the side and skip the cheese and mayonnaise-packed salads)
  • For the breakfast skipper:  Begin two days a week and try eating something small like:
    • a hard-boiled egg with a piece of fruit
    • a peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread
    • a low fat Greek yogurt topped with walnuts
    • a half cup of low fat cottage cheese with diced fruit
    • a package of old fashioned oatmeal  topped with walnuts                                                                                   

Notice that each of these meals includes some protein, fiber and some fat.  These are key nutrients for fullness.   Dietary fat should come from the heart-healthy fats like nuts, canola and olive oil, avocado and fish, rather than from animal fats like red meat, whole fat dairy and palm oil.  Take notice of how you feel on those days you eat breakfast.  Do you have more energy?   Do you eat less the second half of the day?  Do you think better at work?  Do you have fewer cravings?  Listen to how your body talks to you.

  • For the person who does not like to plan meals:  Plan just two healthy meals for the week with enough for leftovers for two other meals.  Write down the list of ingredients and take with you when you go shopping.  Include on the list some quick things you can take for lunch like Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, whole grain crackers and pre-cut fresh veggies.  The next step might be to make foods on the weekend or days off that you can eat during the work week.  Use this cooking strategy to save you time and stress.
  • For the person who does not like to cook:  Try grilling chicken or fish for several meals and eat with lots of fresh produce around will keep it simple.  Soups and crock-pots also reduce food preparation time and can contain a whole balanced meal.  check out some of the soup recipes like my chili or chicken soup on this website for ideas.
  • For the person who does not have time to prepare meals:  If you can’t get help from family members then buy prepared veggies or frozen veggies.  Buy a rotisserie chicken or meats that are already cut up.  Buy canned beans or grains that are already cooked.  When you do cook grains, make extra and freeze.  Brown rice and other grains like bulgar and barley freeze well.  Pre-prep some of your meals on your day off.  Use a crock pot so you can get up a bit early in the morning or prepare the night before so the meal can cook while you are at work.
  • For the night snacker:  Start by eating breakfast.  Research shows that when people eat a breakfast with focus on healthy protein they remain fuller during the day and eat less at night.  Then make sure you are eating a dinner with a good amount of protein, some healthy fat, lots of non-starchy veggies and a fiber-rich starch.  Here are some ideas;
    • 4-5 oz of chicken, 1 cup of brown rice, 2 cups of broccoli or salad, and healthy fat from canola oil or olive oil on the veggies or maybe some nuts stirred into the rice or sunflower seeds topped on the salad.
    • 4-5 oz of salmon grilled or baked in the oven (salmon and other oily fish contain a lot of the heart healthy fat which will also help with fullness), 1 medium baked sweet potato, 12 asparagus and one piece of fruit
    • 3 egg omelette with 1 cup of spinach, onions and mushrooms, 2 pieces of whole grain toast(the first word under ingredients should be “whole” or 100% whole) and topped with 1 tsp each of whipped butter, and a side salad.  Try using salad spritzer dressings instead of pouring a high fat dressing on the salad.

Night snacking goes hand and hand with watching TV.  Try turning off the TV, play a game, read, go for a walk.  Even try brushing your teeth after dinner.  If you really must have a little “something something” start first with a cup of tea, seltzer water or just water and see if that hits the spot.  If you still need something then keep it to a serving by putting the food on a plate.  Do not eat out of the box!

  • For the person who does not like veggies:  Hide your veggies.
    • put them in a blender and add to soups
    • make mashed potatoes with half steamed cauliflower
    • double up on what you do like
    • puree them into tomato sauces
    • mix spaghetti squash with your pasta
    • make zucchini pasta
    • try new ways of eating them like roasting potatoes with onions and peppers in the oven
    • try seasoning them or dipping them in yogurt dips
    • try making dips out of them like salsa or a kale, berry and olive oil dip made in a blender
    • try them in a  smoothie

Forming New Healthy Eating Habits

Gradually incorporate some of these ideas into your routine.  If the changes seem unnatural then you are making changes too fast.  In general, it takes about three weeks for a new habit to feel natural.  Start with the above suggestions that you feel more confident about.  If you are telling yourself that you “should” do something, then you’re probably not ready to take that next step.  Focus on what you don’t mind doing and branch out from there.  Over several weeks and months you will begin to notice that some things are easier to do and don’t require as much thought.  This means you are ready to tackle more.  And as you take on new habits, continue to notice how your body feels.  Not only will you start to have more energy, but if you are overweight, you will lose weight as well, naturally.  No pills, no cleanses, no diets.  Just learning how to nourish and fuel your body like a Jedi.  Before you know it, these changes will become less forced and you will have the Force with you as you become that Jedi Knight on the way to conquering the world!



Changing Lifestyles Takes Trust, Confidence and Experience

blueberryChanging how we live is a decision based on trust, confidence and experience.  Do you remember the time when you first took the training wheels off your bike and your Dad encouraged you to try to ride without them, but it meant you had to go fast enough for the bike to get momentum and get your body properly balanced to stay upright?  Those handle bars would be jerking back and forth, your feet would hesitate between staying on the pedals and dragging on the pavement and your eyes went wide with the ever so slightest growing smile the longer you went.  This was an act of both trust in your father, confidence in yourself and skill to stay upright.

Making the decision to be healthy takes the same kinds of qualities. For someone who has always eaten only to assuage their hunger, without thinking about their food choices, and without planning their meals, the concept of doing anything differently can seem absurd.  But this is where changing one’s mindset can make a big difference and increase the confidence in one’s ability to master fueling the body while having fun in the process.

A Good Coach Builds Confidence and Skill

This is where a good coach can give you the confidence and skill to be healthier.  There is a saying in health coaching – that the coach’s confidence has to greater than the clients doubt.  A good health coach will get to know you and help you connect with your strengths as you are taught how to fuel your body in a way that is energizing and fun.  From my experience, after a few sessions with a good coach, my clients have an entirely different outlook on life, on all the possibilities as they find their way to sustainable change.  I tell my clients that they are not on a diet which implies the changes only being temporary.  I tell them that they are on a path of making lasting change.   There might be a few wrong turns along the way but they have already left the destructive path that they were on before and are heading to the holy grail of health.

Coming up next – Ten things you can do that will make a big difference

There is Payback for the Hard Work of Making Lifestyle Changes! (May 1, 2013)

IMG_0148Remember how awkward and uncomfortable it is getting back into a healthier diet or exercise routine? Have you asked yourself where is the payback for all the work and just quit because you couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel? It is very normal to feel that way and this is where coaching can make the difference and get you over the hurdles.

My father recently dropped considerable cash for some hearing aids. After finally deciding on a pair, getting fitted, adjusting frequencies and then disconnecting from the machine, hearing aids locked and loaded, the audiologist asked how they felt. My father paused in contemplation, and commented, “Unpleasant – I can hear my voice too much. I sound loud!”. The audiologist explained that the brain has to relearn how to hear sounds differently after getting new stimuli for the first time, but that this would improve and he would completely adjust in a couple of weeks and begin to enjoy all those sounds he had not heard for years.

This same kind of process applies to making lifestyle changes. Often times as old comfortable habits are stopped and new ones are put in place it can be awkward and unpleasant those first few days, but then there is wonderful payback as thinking patterns adjust and our body begins to notice the positive changes. Like hearing the sounds of birds chirping or being able to hear in the movie theater for the first time in many years, having energy restored, a sense of confidence and control, moving towards healthier habits does awaken other positive changes that reward all the initial unpleasantness. Become aware of the subtleties of these gifts and know that it does get easier and so much better!

How to begin making lifestyle changes? (April 25, 2013)

IMG_0210It’s not easy changing how we do things.  Our emotions drive most of our actions.  We constantly hear how we should eat healthy and be more active but often times we think we are already doing these things or we say to ourselves we’ll do it later when there is more time.

Change is difficult and we make it even more difficult my setting the bar too high so that we can not sustain the change.  Connect to the “why” of making lifestyle changes with a strong drive and desire. Know what your cholesterol numbers, fasting blood sugar and blood pressure numbers are.  Know your family history.   It has been estimated that 30-70% of type 2 diabetes is due to genetics. Perhaps it’s to have more energy so that you can feel more productive and content.  Perhaps it’s to come off some medications that are expensive and are causing some unpleasant side effects.  Perhaps it’s to be more attractive and physically agile.

The more you create the picture of where you want to be and what does that look and feel like, then the more committed you will be.  Decide on a strategy that starts with small steps and is sustainable.   Tell yourself that you are not going on a “diet”, which implies these changes are temporary until you reach your goal.  Rather, it is changing your perspective, your mindset, and your habits for this new vision you want for yourself forever!