Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Art of the Simple Swap

One of the first things I have my clients do is to track their calories for a few weeks.  Be as honest as you can.  Don't log "carrots" when you know you ate carrot cake. 

After those few weeks, take some time and look over what you ate.  Think about why you ate it.  These reasons why you ate what you did, when you did are the keys to your health.  Your nutrition is a direct reflection of your life as a whole. 

Was it full of planned healthy meals with the occasional treat factored in?
Was it nothing but convenience?
Was it all stress eating?
Was expense a factor?

Take a moment and, in the scope of what you are eating and why, think about those things around you that influence these patterns.  Work, kids, commute, income, health concerns... any reason is valid.  Every reason you list is "one little thing"...  but make no mistake.  These are actually big-picture items that can trickle down to your waistline.

I cannot fix everything in one blog, but let's aim for one thing- a simple swap.

If you see from your food log that you are reaching for the crunchy at 3:30- pack in carrots instead of chips.  And no, the walk to the vending machine does not count as cardio.

If you reach for the sweet, have fresh fruit available instead of the Twix.  Alternately, if you must have the chocolate- upgrade the chocolate to dark to reap the antioxidant benefits.  And savor it.  Slowly. Really.  Eat it slow and let it melt in your mouth.  The slower you eat, the more mindfully you reach for the flavor of each bite, the less it will take for you to feel satisfied. 

If you must have The Mega Caramel Froopity-do from the coffee shop, omit the sugar syrup and try sugar free.

If you like rice with your Chinese take-out, ask them to hold it and try some quinoa instead.

What these swaps have in common is not just about a 100 calories loss and a gain of better nutrition- what they have is preparation. 

You become aware of your habits, and you can change them by having a game plan.  It's like premeditated fat murder.  There is no "100%" here, no perfect score.  There is your best effort under your day's circumstances. If you know that fast food is in your future, then arm yourself with the best options (steamed over sauteed, grilled over fried...).  If you know your paycheck is going to be short, plan your meals around sales and what you already have.

It all comes down to "default living"- not thinking, not assessing or examining.  You break that cycle by stopping, evaluating, and making a decision.  

One of the biggest changes in my life came from default-eating chips every day.  I was on my 3rd or 4th serving before I realized that I was not even tasting the chips,  I was just going for the crunch and the habit.  I stopped immediately and realized that I only ate the chips at the most stressful part of my day.  I made a point to schedule my break for the 15 minute stretch before 3:00 pm, and to use that time for walking or jogging the stairs.  I began to pack in carrots, celery, and cauliflower as an easy swap.  Now, I was still "mindlessly" munching, but I was deliberate in my approach to it.  I ate less over all, took in more nutrients, and was more calm.  It all began with stopping and examining.

What I would love for you to focus on over the next month-
  1. Maximize the clean, whole foods. 
  2. Minimize the processed junk.  Minimize- not eliminate.  Why?  Because life happens.  Be kind to yourself, and forgiving.
  3. Plan your meals ahead of time and be creative:
    1. Take advantages of sales and seasonality
    2. Use ingredients you already have and try AllRecipes.Com.  Queue in what you have and make the healthiest option.
    3. Take a loved recipe and swap one less ideal ingredient for a healthier option.  Sour Cream or plain Greek Yogurt for that ranch dip?
  4. Have a plan for life happening.  Keep clean snacks available. 
  5. Repeat after me:  Pyrex is your friend.  We'll go into why later.

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