Eating for Success Just Requires Small Changes

The food we eat plays an important role in our goal of improving our health. Let’s be clear, I’m not talking about going on a diet. I’m not going to suggest you count calories or severely restrict your food. Instead we are going to take some small steps to improve our health regarding food. Since we are all different, some of these suggestions will be easy for you and others will be a challenge. Some of them you will say, “I already do that” so you can move on to another one. There may be some that cause you to say “No way can I do that” in which case you can either disregard it or put it away for later…it is too big a leap for you at this time. My point is that probably no one will follow ALL of my suggestions, which is fine—it is fantastic, in fact. This isn’t about a finite set of rules that fit everyone; this is about finding what works for YOU with your lifestyle and your personal preferences.

That being said, be realistic and recognize that you are going to be making some changes to your eating behaviors in order to improve your health. But it isn’t about restriction or deprivation. This is about wanting a healthy body and respecting and loving ourselves enough to take better care of it—not “perfect” care, BETTER care.

Step 1 is Awareness.

Just like our mindset, we must have an accurate picture of where we are in order to make an improvement. Some call it a “benchmark,” a “baseline” or a “starting point.” Get a pad of paper or a journal, something that you can easily carry with you this week—it can be a PDA or your iPhone, but your computer is a big cumbersome to use for this.

The purpose is to accurately assess what is going into your mouth. This is not a judgment. During this step you do not need to make any changes, you just need to write it down. Every bite. Every sip, too. Don’t forget the liquids, whether they are soda, alcohol, whatever…including the water you drink…write it all down without evaluating it.

I also encourage you to write down any emotions, cravings or urges that come up during this week. For example maybe you were at work and you felt really tired at 3 so you had a Coke. Writing down that you were tired may be as important as that you had Coke. Seeing that you had a disagreement with a co-worker and later craved chocolate and ate 5 candy bars may be an important clue for you.

Also write down what you were doing or where you were when you ate. Was breakfast eaten over the sink or while driving to work? Did you eat lunch at your desk while working on a big project? Did you bring your lunch or buy take out? Did you stop in the breakroom today and have a snack and coffee with co-workers? Did you stop after work and grab a beer? Were you watching television or reading or talking with family during dinner? Jot down any late night snacks in front of the television.

Do this for a full week. Doughnuts for breakfast? Write it down. Skipped breakfast? Write it down. Got a candy bar from the vending machine at 3:30. Don’t worry about grammar or writing in full sentences and above all don’t censor yourself! No one else is going to see this unless you show it to them…this is for your reference and a tool to help you later one, and the more complete you make it the easier your next step will be.

Be as specific as possible. I know this sounds like a lot of writing, but it’s only for a week and you don’t have to stop eating or drinking, so be as accurate and specific as you can. Rather than saying “drank soda” write “3pm drank 16 ounces of Dr. Pepper.”

Step 2 is Analyzing.

After you have your data from the week, take some time to look it over and see if you can identify any patterns. Also look for the “low lying fruit”…the easiest things you can change. Please be aware that is easy for you may not be easy for someone else…easy is in the eye of the beholder!

Identify healthy choices that you can build on.

For example, you eat breakfast every day which is great, and you realize you could cereal with less sugar in it. Or, you drink water in the morning but switch to soda in the afternoon and decide you can easily replace one soda with another glass of water with a little fruit juice.

Identify less healthy patterns.

Perhaps you notice you drank a six-pack of soda every day (I used to do that and I know I’m not the only one!) Or maybe every afternoon at 3:30 you grab a bag of chips or a chocolate bar or cookies for a “pick-me-up.” Maybe you see that you eat 2 large plates of food while watching television, or you get food at the drive-through and eat half of it before you even get home. Or maybe you are working or studying and snacking…I once realized that I was totally unconsciously eating cookies while studying—and I could eat an entire bag of Oreos without even enjoying them!

Identify the easiest things you can change.

Soda has a lot of sugar and calories that don’t benefit our bodies in any way, so it is often one of the first things people are told to drop. I agree that it isn’t healthy, but trying to go “cold turkey” might not be easy, but cutting out 1 a day might be. Don’t simply replace it with diet soda—the artificial sweeteners can actually cause an increase in your sugar cravings! So even if you soda of choice is “diet” reducing the amount you drink would still help you improve your health.

You don’t drink soda or can’t cut back? What else do you see that would be easy? Can you bring fresh fruit instead of using the vending machine? Can you drink more water? Can you focus on your eating without distractions of working or television?

Having trouble identifying any easy changes? Here are some other suggestions that might help

  • Add a glass of water to your day by drinking one when you first wake up
  • Eat a healthy breakfast rather than grabbing a doughnut on the way to work
  • Use less salad dressing
  • Pack a healthy lunch rather than get takeout
  • Add a piece of fruit as a snack instead of coffee and cookies
  • Have one vegetable with dinner
  • Turn off the television while eating
  • Don’t eat at your desk

Step 3 is Actualizing

Choose 1-3 changes that will be easy for you to keep. No more. Keep them for at least a week before you add any more.

Choosing even only 1 food change and working on your mindset and making 1 small change in moving your body and sticking to them will definitely help you to reach that target of a healthy body. It isn’t about doing it all for a short period of time it is about doing a little bit every day and building on your successes. Remember the beginning archer has to learn how to stand, how to aim, and how to knock the arrow before having a hope of even hitting the target!

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