In an earlier post, I wrote about the need to attend to three big factors, if we want to live a healthier life:
- General health (which includes mental/emotional health, rest/sleep, stress management, and any physiological issues)
- Nutrition (all aspects of diet; food choices, and quantities consumed)
- Exercise (cardiovascular and strength training)
I want to emphasize that I believe that each individual will need to figure out what it is that works for him or her. While general principles may be applicable for everyone, it’s not necessary that everyone observe the same specifics. This is my problem with most of the diets and exercise programs that I’ve encountered—they tend to take a cookie-cutter approach, making the same recommendations for everyone.
Have you already acquired a fair amount of information regarding health, diet, exercise, and related subjects? It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if you answered yes. Most of the folks I meet who struggle with excess body weight have already tried multiple diets and exercise plans (whether the information is good or not), and have perhaps even spent money on personal trainers, facilities, or commercial weight-loss organizations. It’s important to make sure that your information is good. Do some homework. The U.S. government has nutrition information available here, and it’s as good a place as any to start learning about the subject.
Food provides your body with fuel and the resources necessary for building muscle and repairing and maintaining cells. It’s also a source of pleasure, appealing to the senses of taste, smell, and touch (you probably have some favorite foods that you can “feel” in your mouth, even as you think of them). For many of us, this “pleasure” aspect of food is what has gotten us into trouble with it.
It’s time to take the first hard step toward healthier eating. Remember the “treats” category I asked you to make? This is where some people would simply tell you to eliminate these foods from your life altogether. Be done with them. I don’t know about you, but that’s never really worked very well for me. Instead, let’s work with this category for a bit. Write something about each of the foods you have listed as a treat. Maybe some of these foods are only eaten at certain times. Popcorn, for example, may be a food that you only eat if you’re watching a movie. Make a note of that. In addition to the annotation, assign each food a number, using this scale, or one of your own devising: (if you can’t think of anything specific to write about a food, just give it a number):
1=I don’t even really like this food, but I eat it if it’s around.
2=I could live without this food, but I like it if I start eating it.
3=I only eat this food if someone gives it to me, or I go somewhere it’s being served, but I seem to have access to it fairly often.
4=I only eat this food when I’m around it, but I look forward to those occasions, and sometimes seek them out.
5=I like this food, but don’t usually buy it; I only eat it if I go somewhere and it’s available.
6=I like this food, and eat it 2-3 times per week, or more.
7=I like this food and keep it on my shopping list. I eat it 4-5 times per week, or more.
8=I like this food and eat it 6-7 times per week, or more.
9=I like this food and eat it almost every day of the week.
10=I feel like my quality of life would be diminished if I couldn’t eat this food, and always have some of it around.
One more thing: put an asterisk beside any and all of the foods on this list that are what I call a “trigger food,” which may be defined as any food that, if you take one bite of it, you will want to keep eating it until you’ve gorged yourself on it, or eaten all of it that you have on hand (whichever comes first). Spicy corn chips and chocolate covered peppermint patties are examples of this in my life.
Hopefully, this exercise has provided you with new insight about your relationship with food, specifically, foods in the “treats” category. You might be feeling down, or even guilty, about these insights. Please don’t. The purpose here is simply to examine and establish a starting point. Don’t judge yourself! But do be honest with yourself. Identifying habits, preferences, and patterns of behavior are all important steps in forming new ones.