For a short time in the beginning of high school, when I started to care what I looked like, I had a love-hate relationship with food. I loved food but hated calories. I wasn’t technically overweight but I wanted to be skinny.
I never reached the point of an eating disorder, but do remember feeling guilty after most meals, even if they weren’t particularly indulgent. I pored over photos of Victoria’s Secret models, hoping that if I could just ingrain their forms into my brain, I too, would be a size 0; I attempted skipping meals and opted for coffee, water or gum instead; I worked out obsessively and even had a phase where I would write down everything I ate each day, thinking it would curb my appetite. The craziness took some time to get over but eventually I realized that what I was doing wasn’t healthy and that I wasn’t any happier doing it. I realized that there was nothing shameful or wrong about eating and learned to control myself and to love food.
Here are some rules I’ve been adhering to since that phase ended:
1.) Don’t drink your calories: Soda, processed juices and other sugary drinks are enemy #1. Processed sugar, especially in liquid form, has zero nutritional value and only means one thing – weight gain. Yes, if you’re a daily soda drinker, it may be hard to quit cold turkey but try to slowly wean yourself off of it. Drink water or unsweetened green tea instead. Adding more water into your diet will speed up your metabolism and cleanse your blood as well as your skin. (And don’t try to take the diet soda route, either! The sugar substitute used to sweeten diet soda causes cancer in rats. Think about it.)
2.) Fruits and vegetables: Eat them. A healthy diet consists of 50-60% fruits and vegetables since they provide most essential vitamins and minerals. And if you choose to cook your vegetables, do so minimally. If a vegetable doesn’t retain it’s natural crunch after cooking, you can be sure you’ve gotten rid of all the good stuff in them. Recommended cooking methods include: blanching, steaming, sauteing and roasting. Also, always have a package of cleaned greens on hand. Green foods are super healthy so try to sneak some kale/spinach/arugula into every sandwich, soup, pasta dish and, of course, salad.
3.) Keep healthy options at eye-level: Re-organize your fridge and cabinets so that when you open them, the first foods you see are not guilt-inducing – and by these I mean fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like hummus, Greek yogurt and organic peanut butter, whole wheat crackers and granola bars, etc. If you see them first, you are more likely to eat them.
4.) Don’t buy junk food: This may seem kind of obvious and redundant but it is not. When shopping for groceries, just skip the cookie, chips, cake and soda aisles. If there is no junk food around, you won’t eat it. It’s that simple.
5.) Come to work prepared: And I don’t mean with a PowerPoint presentation. Most people spend most of their waking hours at work, which means that most of their meals are had at work, too. To avoid trips to the vending machine or pizza parlor, keep a few healthy options at work at all times.
6.) Limit your meat intake: Carnivores are used to thinking that each meal needs to revolve around an animal protein, but it is just not so. Eating meat a few times a week or once a day will provide sufficient nutrition. It’s an arduous task for the human body to digest meat (ever wonder why you get sleepy after a meat-heavy meal?) so it’s best to skip it most of the time. As for all those other meals, substitute with non-animal proteins, like beans, chick peas and lentils.
7.) Moderate, not eliminate: I would never tell you to cut doughnuts, burgers, creamy pastas or other soul foods out of your diet. However, these delicious foods ought to reserved for special occasions and enjoyed in moderation. If a colleague brings in doughnuts from your favorite shop, have one – not three. If you plan to go out for pizza with friends on Sunday night, eat light throughout the day in preparation. You get the point…
8.) Don’t eat in front of the TV: Studies show that hunger, appetite and consciousness are closely intertwined. If you’re eating with your mouth and concentrating on the TV with your mind, that fact that you’ve just eaten will not register in your head so you’ll still feel hungry after a meal. Don’t check your smartphone or computer either, and I guarantee you will eat less.
What tips would you include on this list?