Weight Loss Part 2: Eat Differently

Last week I shared the news that some of those who are dearest to me have set a goal to lose weight in 2016. My adoration for dispensing unsolicited advice, coupled with my own 30 pound weight loss many years ago, has led me to a series of 3 blog posts on the key components to successful weight loss: exercise (check out last week’s post on exercise here), nutrition (down below), and our relationship with food and our body (coming soon!).

Weight Loss Truth – the formula is as simple as “move more, eat less.” Now that we’ve covered “move more,” let’s talk about “eating less.” Though I would like to reframe this as “eat differently,” because I am not interested in promoting deprivation or starvation. The tips below help you focus on nourishing your body with the right foods, rather than eliminating "bad foods."

1. Eat real food. Fat-free, sugar-free packaged foods are not food. Whole grains, produce, lean proteins, and minimally processed dairy products are food. I have a very bad habit of shouting, “Babe, there’s no food down there!” when my husband and I grocery shop together and he veers down a center aisle loaded with packaged goods. Yes, it takes more work to make everything yourself, but the gains you are making in nutrition, satiety, and lowering your intake of unnecessary calories, fat, and chemicals are worth it. Have you ever once thought to yourself, “I wonder how I can increase my intake of chemicals?” Great, get thee to the outer perimeters of the grocery store.

2. Connect how your mind and body feel and perform to the foods you eat. Meditate on this connection and allow it to fuel your food decisions. It’s not easy for me to make the best food choices possible all the time. We all want pizza when we’re tired and cranky. What I try to do, when faced with a day where I lack the energy to commit, is to ask myself before each meal, “Is what I’m about to eat going to provide me with sustenance?” My next question to myself is, “Will what I’m about to eat help or hurt my chances of a good night’s sleep and a great workout tomorrow morning?”

It’s important to evaluate food as a source of nourishment. When we look at the food we eat as rocket fuel (which is another thing I like to yell at my husband – “Babe, I need ROCKET FUEL!”), we can slowly loosen our grasp on viewing food as a security blanket or a trophy. Food gets you through the day and helps you perform at max capacity, it does not hold your hand when someone calls you a name and it does not go on a prized shelf in your living room when you accomplish something great. You can soothe yourself without having a cupcake. You can reward yourself without having French fries. You cannot perform to the best of your ability without having proper nutrients coursing through your system.

3. Please, I beg you, do not label foods as good or bad. You’ll find you connect yourself to these labels and YOU ARE NOT good or bad based on whether you ate kale or a cupcake. (You are great no matter what you choose to eat today). In a world filled with temptation, we’re going to eat a meal or two that is not on the nutrition plan. Allow yourself to be ok with that. Strip yourself of any guilt associated with “falling off the wagon.” And challenge that all or nothing thinking that makes you want to tip over the rest of the wagons and eat everything in sight. You can indulge in a meal without giving up on making healthy eating decisions for the rest of your known life. 

Deprivation associated with “bad foods” can lead to over consumption. I had a light bulb moment when reading a woman’s story about how her young daughter taught her to view food differently. When she offered her daughter a cookie, her daughter said no. She said no because she could have a cookie anytime she wanted one without guilt or shame. For the woman telling the story, the level of the temptation of that forbidden cookie, waving a lifetime of tantalizing baked goods she should never eat, was excruciating. She reached a conclusion I have since adopted. Deprivation is straight up silly. Eat a cookie when you really want a cookie. Then re-align yourself with food as nourishment and move on.

The best way to flip the switch to start eating healthier foods and less junk is to pause and consider what you want your meal to do for your body. Reevaluating what food can do for your body and making your eating decisions accordingly is a powerful component to weight loss and extremely effective when combined with building exercise into your daily routine.

Stay tuned for the third and final (phew, let's move on to new things!) blog post on weight loss this week!