I love to get up early before everyone and drink a cup of coffee while I have some quiet time and get ready for the day. Unfortunately, coffee early in the morning accelerates my heart rate and affects my breathing for the rest of the day. Still, I am a stubborn woman, and out of habit I make my coffee and drink it knowing what will happen. I am not saying coffee is bad, I justshouldn't drink it early in the morning. Sounds familiar? Is there a certain food that you know you should not eat, but it seems you can’t help it because it's so good?
At times we seem to put more value on food and the desire to satisfy a craving than on our well being. We know certain foods are not good for us and yet we keep eating them. Why would we knowingly eat something that will make us feel bad or be harmful to our health? There may be many reasons: some emotional, others logical, and some based on traditions. Let’s think on a more personal level. Would you leave a precious diamond outside by the garage? Would you use one hundred dollar bills as bookmarks? Would you give your daughter a valuable heirloom to play dress up? It seems easy for us to decide how to take care of things we consider valuable, but at times we find it difficult to take care of our own valuable body.
Deciding what to eat is a very personal decision. At times, we start eating “right” because we want to follow the latest diet, but not because we have made the decision to eat healthier, so it becomes a temporary solution. Once we understand why we act certain ways and eat certain foods at certain times we can define habits and strategies to improve our eating. Sometimes it is more about the feelings involved when we eat, the reason we eat and how we feel after we eat than about the actual food. Have you ever said, “I can’t eat just one cookie?” I have. And it makes me mad to think that a cookie has more power than I do. Why can’t I enjoy just one cookie after my meal? Who has decided that I have to eat five or that I can’t eat any? Who controls what you eat? You do!
Since eating healthy sometimes may prove to be a challenge, these ideas may help:
-Pause, think and make a decision. When you know your worth, and how precious and amazing you are, you start paying more attention to how each decision affects you. And when it comes to food that means we pay attention to everything we are putting in our mouths. Saying “no” to food that is harmful for us becomes part of an attitude that says “My body is too precious for this type of food”. I know it's easier said than done, but it's the beginning of a process that doesn’t have to be as difficult as we sometimes make it. As we take one good decision at a time, positive habits will start forming making it easier to eat healthier. You and I deserve a life full of good habits, no matter how difficult the first decision is.
Food sometimes is so enticing and stimulating that it's hard to turn down. Actually, some food overwhelms the brain circuitry and when we eat it, the brain cranks out dopamine, a neurochemical associated with a reward that drives us to eat that food again and again. But your love for food can’t be greater than your love for yourself, your body and your family. We are not helpless victims of this cycle. We have the power to break it.
-Fresh food contains more of naturally occurring vitamins, fiber, and minerals. The essential nutrients in fresh produce may protect you against different diseases such as cancer, high blood pressure, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Fresh food helps us gain energy, and maybe even reduce the effects of aging. Fresh vs. processed food should be such an easy decision, right? But since processed foods are carefully designed to taste good and they are easily attainable, it's harder to ignore them.
-Set yourself up for success and start the day right; never leave the house without eating breakfast. A small protein bar is simply not enough and it will only take you so far, and depending where you will be when you run out of energy, it may be easier to fall into the trap to grab something on the go.
-Take healthy snacks everywhere you go. They will keep you focused and energized the whole day. Get your own stylish lunch bag and keep it stocked with nuts, fruits, and water at all times. Cook at home, do it together as a family, so everyone can help, or alone listening to some good music to unwind. Make eating fresh food easier. Have carrots, celery, and fruits ready to eat when hunger strikes. Small changes will make a big difference.
-If we do the same thing over and over it becomes part of our lifestyle. We seem to be surrounded by things that want us to eat more and move less, but we don’t have to fall into that pattern. It seems that so much of our eating is done without us even realizing it, which doesn’t fill us up and actually may hurt us. In the book Savor, Thich Nhat Hanh and Dr. Lilian Cheung reminds us to “Concentrate on what you are eating. See how it looks, let your eyes enjoy it, what it feels like in your mouth, what it tastes like. Chew consciously, savoring what you eat. As you become aware of what you are eating, you also become fully aware of the present moment.”
-Make eating a special occasion, whether it is with family or alone, make time to enjoy it. It takes your body around 20 minutes to register fullness, so don’t rush the experience.
-Don’t eat in the car. If you are hungry, then have a healthy snack, but try to have your main meals when you can slow down and focus on enjoying them.
-When you go out to eat, have something healthy before you go, that way you will not be tempted to order more than you need. You could share an entrée, order half a portion or pack half to go once you feel full.
Eating healthy is a matter of valuing ourselves, and our body. Don’t get discouraged if it seems too hard. Remember, it is a process, but you will enjoy the benefits of making right decisions one meal at the time.