Oh sure, everyone always says to me, “Shaun, I swear, I eat very healthily. I have a clean diet.” But when people are experiencing “stubborn pounds” that won’t budge off their bodies, I see uncertainty and fear in their eyes when I say, “I bet it’s a common eating habit that is undermining your hard work.”
Oh yeah. It’s natural for us to be less than honest with ourselves about where we’re cheating on our nutritional plans. We work out and have the best of intentions for our daily meals, but we end up falling short of our goals for having a balanced nutritional plan for various reasons. Some of the most common pitfalls can be avoided simply by being aware of them.
Hey, I readily admit that food is comforting—especially comfort food. You know, the mac and cheese; the meatloaf and buttery mashed potatoes; an entire pint of butter pecan ice cream . . . enough said. But there are so many better ways to beat stress than by eating yourself into a stupor.
Do this instead: My favorite thing to do is to get out and just take a walk. Focus on your body and forget the snacks, and get some air deep into your lungs, clear your head, feel your blood pumping, and stretch your legs out. It won’t take but a few minutes for you to reap big benefits from taking a brisk walk . . . away from the vending machine. Or if it’s raining, put on some great music and dance—that works too! You can get plenty of this done with Dance Party Series.
Many people have a complete lack of structure to their daily meals—they actually never stop nibbling throughout the day—from bits of bagels and bites of donuts in the morning all the way through to chips in front of the TV for late-night channel surfing. Grazers have absolutely no set meal times, and end up shutting down their bodies’ natural calorie-burning cycles through the constant onslaught of fat and calories.
Do this instead: Of course, avoid the bad stuff. Instead of vending-machine junk and food with a low nutritional value, pack healthy snacks for nibbling. And make time for balanced meals that will satisfy your appetite so you won’t be reaching for whatever’s near. See the action plan for #3.
Eating without paying attention to what you’re doing, or without even realizing that you’re consuming calories.
Do this instead: Keeping a food journal is the best way I know to determine whether you have unconscious-eating tendencies. One of my clients confessed that while keeping her journal, she would catch herself working at her desk and suddenly realize that she needed to jot down the cookie she’d just eaten at a coworker’s desk. They’d offered her a homemade cookie, and she’d eaten it without even thinking about it—much less factoring it into her daily planned food intake. Cha-CHING! Those 200 sweet calories needed to be added to her daily tally in her food journal to get an accurate picture of what she was eating.
It’s not just restaurants that are offering us bigger portions to show us the value of their meals; it’s loved ones and friends and ourselves who proudly serve up much more than our bodies need for fuel at mealtime—on a regular basis. It’s because we think we’re showing love, or are being shown love, through food. We’d also feel stingy if we were to serve the plate with less on it. The sad fact is that “normal” portions in the U.S. aren’t just a fraction more food than needed for having a balanced meal—they’re like double, which is in excess of what your body requires, and WAY more than you can burn through your daily workout!
Do this instead: Ask yourself, “Do 20 bites of a huge sandwich really taste that much better than 10?” How do those 10 extra bites taste when you know you can’t burn them off that day and at least half that sandwich is going to turn into those “stubborn” pounds? Stick with sane portions; listen to your body.
Yes, these are four common pitfalls. They’re all too common—but that doesn’t make them any less devastating to our fitness results and our ultimate health goals (and don’t forget that it can also be discouraging to the mental image you have of where you want to be). Be aware of where you might be defeating yourself, and take some time to form a personal plan to help you avoid these pitfalls on a daily basis.