Guest Blog written by Peter Han, a personal trainer and club manager at Anytime Fitness in Santa Clarita, California.
How often do you think about your thoughts about eating?
Probably sounds like a weird question, huh?
So often we eat and drink mindlessly…until the scale creeps up or our pants stop slipping on so easily. It is then that our body reminds us of what we consumed when we weren’t thinking about it.
After 12 years of consistently working out, I still have to adjust and readjust my thought process when it comes to nutrition.
Let me explain what I mean…
The way we eat is habitual, shaped by necessity, routine, schedule, and values. We all have tendencies – good and bad – like skipping breakfast, snacking at work all day, or Friday martinis after work. Then we wonder how we gained weight, or why we can’t lose it, or assume our bodies “just weren’t meant” to look the way we truly wish they would.
Without an intentional approach to food, we are left reacting with guilt, regret, or painful hours of cardio for those calories we didn’t need or intend on. This is what I mean by “reactive thinking”.
Does This Sound Familiar?
Let’s say your food choices weren’t so great on Monday. You ate more than you should have and scarfed a few cookies that spiked your calorie count. Feeling badly about it on Tuesday, you skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and have yogurt for dinner. Now your food choices have become a reactive measure rather than a predetermined choice made with intent. It’s as if food has the control over you, leaving you with shame (and a growling stomach), rather than you feeling empowered through choices.
If you eat less one day because your calorie intake was too high the day prior, when the weekend hits you’ll believe it’s okay to overeat because you “ate clean” during the week. But this disables any healthy habit from forming. Your thought process with food will not change, and consequently, neither will your weight.
When this happens with my clients, I tell them to go right back to their normal eating before the “splurge” – continuing to practice good eating habits and food choices with intent, being fully aware. Don’t allow the previous day’s calories to determine your calorie intake for the current day. This will not help change your behavior with food – and that is what must take place in order for lasting results to occur.
If getting or staying fit is important to you, you must start thinking about what you eat, when you eat, and why you eat. This proactive awareness will reveal your habits and foods that you gravitate towards. Then you can begin making wise choices that put you in control and set you up for success.
For instance, maybe you find that you end up eating takeout multiple nights a week because you’re too hungry to cook after work; or you down a bag of chips late at night when you’re watching TV to unwind from a stressful day.
Once you can clearly see your tendencies, it becomes easier to prevent poor choices and change your patterns. And as they say, “Knowing is half the battle.”
So How Do You Apply This?
Here is what I do with my clients that I recommend for you:
1. Write it Down. Track what you’re eating – the time, type, and amount of food consumed. (You can also use an app like MyFitnessPal to take the hard calculating work out of it for you.) This will document exactly what your habits are for you to see and learn from.
2. Set a Goal. Start the process of eating “proactively”. The analogy I typically use with my clients is this: When we drive, we put on our seatbelts, check the rearview mirrors before changing lanes, and stay within a certain speed limit – we drive with intent. There is an end destination in mind, so we choose to act accordingly with the result we desire; in this case arriving safely at the determined destination.
Once a goal is set, whether it’s losing weight, gaining muscle, or running a faster mile, everything you do is going to either help or hurt that goal. So eat with intent just like you drive with the intent of being safe.
3. Plan Your Meals. Preparation is your biggest ally when it comes to changing your food habits. It’s much easier to say no to pizza in the office if you have your lunch next to you, packed and ready to go. I’m not saying it makes it easy, but it does make it easier.
When you wake up (or the night before), plan your entire day’s worth of calories. This doesn’t mean you have to cook everything you eat. It means you plan ahead, with full awareness of what you will consume that day, and what you should avoid. Pack some meals and keep snacks on hand so you’re never stuck eating whatever is around out of desperation.
Renew Your Habits
The act of replacing a habit is not easy to do. You’ll hit some road blocks, and some days will be great and some days won’t be so great. These steps are not concrete and definitely not a one-size-fits-all method.
But increasing awareness, intentionally planning your food, and practicing those habits will help renew your mindset and change your relationship with food.
However tough it may be at times, if you plant the right seeds of hard work and consistency, you’ll reap the fruits of your labor.
Check out the video below for more discussion on this topic