From January 15 – February 15th I had 12 clients take part in an exercise and nutrition challenge. I asked them to record as much of what they ate as possible to help them reflect on their eating habits and I provided general nutrition information as well as specific questions and suggestions for each of them. Below is a summary of all the themes I noticed and spoke about. I have included all the videos at the start and the written summaries below.

Video #1: Be mindful and reflective here

Video #2: Lessening the demands of choice here

Video #3: small changes here

Video #4: avoid labels here

Video #5: Final Review here

Late night snack. As the day goes our will power lessens and we are more likely to make poor choices. I try to keep temptation out of the house – beers, junk food, etc – as I know i can’t resist it. If you really want it make a late night trip to the store – more often than not you will make an alternative healthy choice:)

Variety of proteins. There is a trend to reduce and eliminate meat from out diet. This is a good thing but sometimes it does make meal time more challenging. I’ve seen lots of lentils, beans, and tofu – all great alternatives. Here are three great meals without meat as the shinning star.

  1. Panang tofu curry (To make this even easier keep curry paste in your fridge – all the spices with no aditives)
  2. White bean, kale, and sausage. You can always cut the meat and use another bean.
  3. Green lentil stew.

Eating out. I still advocate for eating home cooked meals as much as possible (myriad of other benefits) but some of you have to eat out, so eat out wisely. Make as good a choice as possible. Eat slowly and only eat what fills you.  

How to improve your mental capacity for good decision making

  1. Consistent choices
  2. Less alcohol and caffeine
  3. Better Sleep
  4. Stress management tools

Creating good breakfast habits

  1. Prepare the night before
  2. Fruit, veg, good whole grain, simple protein
  3. Stick with something you like, have a good routine and allow for variety to occur naturally

Consistency and habits: certain meals lend themselves well to consistency. Variety is important but so is reducing effort and mental fatigue. Build of current habits or start a new gradually. The more healthy habits you have the easier it is to yes to the fun stuff!

Alcohol, caffeine and sleep: How these three interact and impact our ability to recover and maintain a healthy weight. Alcohol and caffeine affect our sleep and sleep affects our ability to be healthy. When we reduce alcohol intake, we may improve our sleep, which may result in a healthier lifestyle. One decision has multiple effects down the chain.

Health and good eating is not day to day its weekly, monthly, and over a year. You want to be able to look back over a month and see a mix: meals out with friends, a couple drinks, a few treats but mainly quality nutritious food: proteins from fish, chicken, legumes // carbs from high quality grains // fats from fish, oils, nuts. Fruits and vegetables smattered into each day. If you feel like you are on a diet reconsider your approach. Research shows us time and time again that diets only work in the short term. You want to find a calorie balance that can be sustained over the long run

Counting calories vs eating quality food. Refined foods digest quickly into sugar spiking insulin. Insulin’s directs cells to snap up calories and store them as fat. It leaves the body still feeling hungry. This is why it is very easy to lots of these foods (devour a bag of chips or piece of cake and still feel hungry). By replacing unhealthy snacks, meals outs and drinks with quality food cooked at home you end up more satiated and in better calorie balance.

Little changes. have some but not too much. As you learn to be mindful of your eating you can enjoy drinks and treats but in smaller doses and less frequently. As a mindful shopper you will chose to forgo the poor quality food and as a mindful eater you will truly enjoy the treat and stop at one. Over time these small changes will accumulate and produce the desired result of a healthier you.

Spend time reflecting on the questions below.

  1. Why might dieting approaches fail?
  2. Why do you think there are benefits to focusing on variety, balance, and moderation?
  3. Why might it be important to avoid labelling the way you eat? Avoiding Atkins, low fat, low carb, intermittent fasting…and replacing it with “I eat healthy food, most of the time, and not too much:) (moderate, balanced, varied).”
  4. Does restriction really work over the long term? What happens when you restrict something and then fail to follow the rule? How does it make you feel? Not including allergens of course.
  5. Baby steps and self compassion – a good route to permanent change.

Trust in you bodies ability to adapt and maintain a healthy weight. It can get stronger, it can lose weight, it can be healthy. Trust in the long term process and think about what works best for you.

The words we use and how it might affect us: I don’t eat that vs I can’t eat that. I “dont eat that” lends itself to self control rather than implied forced restriction. Restriction sets us up for failure in the long run.

Final Summary

What we set out to accomplish:

  1. Unless you have a medical dietary restriction all food can and should be enjoyed
  2. There are lots of ways to move. Find exercise you enjoy, do it consistently and make it challenging when you can
  3. By being mindful of what you eat throughout the day it can be easier to eat a balanced diet
  4. Some of my views will challenge your own. Hopefully this allows for reflection and questions

This is what I set out to help you with. Weather you journaled everything or fell off the wagon, I hope you still spent time reflecting. By being aware you can start the process of change. You all eat well. It’s often just a matter of a little more consistency and little more compassion. We can’t expect to be perfect eaters and exercises – when we let go of this notion I think our health naturally starts to improve. If there are specific things you would like to change remember these important aspects of the change process

  1. Make sure it is something internally driven and not told to you by someone else…myself included. Change doesn’t happen well when you don’t create your own solution
  2. Start small and stay focused on one piece of change
  3. Consider the habit loop – trigger, action, reward – how can you use this to your benefit
  4. Take a long view and know you wont always get it perfect. You will make mistakes, get up the next day and start again.
  5. Continue to reflect and be sure the change is sustainable.