When it comes to making long-lasting lifestyle changes, I have a few basic, easy-to-remember guidelines. In the May issue of SUCCESS magazine, I spoke of the three C’s as the basic questions to ask yourself when embarking on a new exercise program. In addition, when it comes to eating healthy and weight management, I would like for you to think of the two Q’s: quantity and quality.
It’s no secret that Americans are fat and that the obesity rate is going up every year. More than a third of the American adult population is obese. The “bigger is better” way of eating is creating huge health consequences. And, in addition, low energy and high stress lead to unhealthy eating habits like late-night gorging, mindless eating, calming yourself with food and crazy diets followed by binges. These behaviors do a number on your mood and your waistline!
Portion control says it all. “Would you like to add another 600 calories to your food order today?” Nobody would answer yes to that question, but, unfortunately, that’s what so many of us are doing when we say yes to bigger portions. “Bigger” does not mean “better value” if it means increasing your waistline and your risk for disease. From coffee drinks to fast food and snack foods, Americans are eating huge portions with too many calories.
By being accustomed to platefuls of pasta and 20-ounce steaks, we can no longer eyeball what a healthy portion size looks like. So what is the difference between a portion and a serving?
A portion is the amount of food you choose to eat. There is no standard portion size and no single right or wrong portion size. A portion is what you dig from the bag or plop on your plate. A serving is a standard amount used by food companies to help give advice about how much to eat or to identify how many calories and nutrients are in a food. Portion size is printed right on the nutrition label.
So the question of the day is: How many servings are in your portions? If there is one takeaway from this blog post, it is to spend a full day or two figuring out just this. Are your portions bigger than one serving?
Here are a few tips for cutting back on your portions:
- Use your salad plates as dinner plates—less food fits!
- Eat an apple, carrots or celery before each meal to help fill up and satisfy your need to crunch.
- Read nutrition labels on all packaged foods, especially snack foods. Often the package is really two servings, not just one.
- Don’t eat directly from the bag, the container or the box—this mindless eating can sabotage your daily calorie control.
- Identify trigger foods and don’t buy them
I cannot tell you how many times I have heard clients and friends say, “I totally cheated and had a piece of birthday cake.” We’ve all heard it, right? And actually, we have probably all said it. But, there is a fundamental problem with this line of thinking that works against each and every one of us.
Food and eating are not ethical issues! You are not good or evil because of what you eat. If you allow yourself to attach such negative values to certain foods and to yourself for eating them (i.e., “I’m a cheater,” “I failed,” “I can never have another brownie”), you are setting yourself up for failure. And when we think we have failed, we feel guilty and tend to give up.
Remember, a healthy lifestyle is about balance, calculated choices and motivation. No more all-or-nothing attitudes and no more reasoning like “I blew it with one cookie, so I might as well have six!” Choosing to eat one cookie isn’t blowing it, and I personally couldn’t live without a good oatmeal-raisin cookie every so often.
Therefore, the key to good and sustainable health is to make your lifestyle about choices, not about cheating. We make choices every day, some good and some bad. And when it comes to eating, a few small changes in the way you cook and eat could start you on a whole-new path to better health.
I have been talking about “clean eating” for the last two decades. My definition of clean eating is choosing foods that come from plants, animals or trees. In other words, real foods as close to their natural state as possible—things like fresh fruits and vegetables, legumes, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats, poultry and fish. In addition, much of clean eating is about preparation, because it’s not always what you eat as much as it is about how it’s prepared. For example, chicken is one of the healthiest protein sources when grilled or broiled, but dipped in the deep fryer is a different thing.
When my kids were young, I took the approach that knowledge is power. The more I could educate them about food, the better off they’d be to make healthy choices as they got older. I sounded like a broken record, but during every meal, I would point out the protein, the carbs and the fats. I would talk about the value of eating fruits and veggies. It doesn’t mean that I never let them eat junk food, but the key word was and is occasionally and not on a daily basis. And now, as teenagers, their friends ask them about how to eat healthy, so I guess it worked.
A few tips for eating clean:
- Eat five fruits and veggies a day. Start your day with one or two to make sure you hit your quota by the end of day.
- Shop often. Make time for a few more stops so that you can pick up fresh produce, low-fat dairy and lean protein.
- Be a brown-bagger. Don’t get caught without healthy options at the office or on the go. I’m always equipped with an apple, yogurt or baggies of nuts.
- Skip the extra stuff. Ask for sauces and dressings on the side when eating out. Avoid breaded, crispy or fried.
Call to Action: Week Two
Cross-Training Tip: Swap out an endurance run once a week for an interval workout. You will find that doing intervals will help you strengthen your heart, strengthen your lungs, increase your endurance and help burn calories at a faster rate.
Chris Says: You can create interval workouts with using the ratio of speed to recovery. Basically, sprint for a while, then slow down and keep repeating. By breaking up your workout and adding some high-intensity bursts, you are able to train your body to run at race pace or faster, churning through the calories and getting you Race Day ready!
Food Tip: Add a recovery meal. Use your two-hour window after your workout wisely, and eat a protein/carb snack (1 gram/3–4 grams). Think of protein as your repair food. By consuming protein with carbohydrates during recovery, you will improve your subsequent endurance performance. (Carbs let protein do its job, and protein helps repair and build muscle.)
Chris Says: Go for nonfat Greek yogurt topped with blueberries and almonds (quality protein, carbs and even some healthy fat). Or try a few hard-boiled eggs sliced on a piece of whole-wheat toast— two of my favorites!
From the SUCCESS store: SUCCESS fitness combo, including Move to Lose DVD by Chris Freytag, Fitness that Fits: A Realistic Way to Reshape Your Body DVD by David Kirsch and Eating for Life hardcover book by Bill Phillips