As we have evolved into the wonderful human beings that we are, our eating habits have drastically changed over the last 40-50 years. Not that long ago, processed foods and microwaves were non-existent and fast food restaurants were still a nascent concept. We did not have quick little snacks like Energy Bars, Twinkies, Weiner Sniglettes, or those little packets of Goo that help keep you fueled for the day. I'm all for convenience, but at what cost has it come? How about the label of "fattest nation in the world"? How about the steady climb of childhood obesity? Or the rising numbers of heart disease and other health-related issues caused by a poor diet? That's the cost.
We all love a good meal – especially me. I have a sweet tooth that demands to be fed daily as well as a love of a nice rare steak. But thankfully, the basic stigma of dieting, that you cannot enjoy your favorite foods, is going out the window. Sure, you still have extreme diet plans you can follow and pills you can take, which can have their own negative side effects. But alternatively, you can simply train yourself to eat in moderation.
Your meal is bigger than you think
Average meal portions in the U.S. are 75 percent larger than in most countries. What you consider as one meal could actually be two or three. When I started working with my new personal trainer, I was shocked at the small portions of meat he wanted me to eat. My first thoughts were of starvation, but it turned out not to be the case.
Our portion sizes have grown over the decades. Just go to your local grocery store and look at the normal size of steak, chicken, pork and fish. Cuts that are 8-10 oz are the norm, and you can always find bigger. Restaurants are even worse with their insane portion sizes. Not only can you find 24 oz porterhouse steaks or seven-layer chocolate cakes, but even the side dishes could be cut into two or three portions. You can pick from their Lite Menu, but if you are dieting and you go out to a restaurant to eat, it's usually on a cheat day. You want the full-size meals they offer, blowing all of the gains you made during the week.
Eating until you are full is not a good option
In my journey to a better and healthier life, I have had to relearn how to eat. Before I started down this road, my daily intake of food would consist of a breakfast burrito for breakfast (if I felt like eating, which was only about half the time due to overeating the night before); a big lunch from a local restaurant; a bag of chips or crackers for a mid-day snack; and an 8-12 oz portion of meat, some veggies, and 2-3 pieces of bread from dinner. Then my sweet tooth would scream for attention, and I would end the day with a bowl of ice cream or a handful of cookies.
I feel sick just reading about how much I used to eat. Try it yourself. Write down or take photos of every meal you eat, and then look at it the next day or two. You will become more aware of what you are putting into your body, and I feel that will help you move towards a healthier way of eating.
Because of my poor diet and lack of exercise, I gained more than a bit of a spare tire. My energy levels dropped, my lack of motivation grew and I kept eating more and more. When I topped the scales around 240 pounds, and given my family history of diabetes and heart problems, I knew I needed a change. So I joined a gym, bought a juicer and made big plans to change my lifestyle.
The first week, I was all gung-ho, eating healthy and going to the gym. Life was great for about three days. Then my body did what any body would do when thrust into a workout program without any supervision. I was one big walking (shuffling, actually) knot for several days. After that, it was back to my old habits.The gym membership went unused, and the juicer started collecting dust.
This went on for several years. I would lose a little and gain it all back and then some. I yo-yo'd around 230-235 for a long while, and my health continued to decline. My knees started to ache, my lower back would start hurting with very little effort, and my energy level was non-existent. I read some articles, rethought my diet and started to do a little better, but I could never get or stay below 220 (my goal is 190). I then met with a physical trainer who was looking to update his website, and after talking with him for a little while, we decided to do a trade. I would build his website, and in exchange he would work with me to get me back into shape and improve my diet.
He put me on a 1500-2000 calorie diet, and we work out every day of the week. My diet was 6 meals a day, with my main meals no more than 500-600 calories and my snacks are no more than 200 calories. This helps in several ways. You avoid that food coma feeling, you are less likely to overeat at a meal, and of course, by eating smaller meals you will lose weight.
As the pounds come off, your spirits will lift and your body will thank you. Not only will you feel an increase in energy and less joint pain, but with less processed foods entering your body, you will feel better as those nasty chemicals common in fast food leave your body. There is a reason you crave fast food, as the chemicals in them have addictive traits. Casein and MSG both have addictive qualities and are used in the majority of fast food restaurants.
Healthy eating does not mean eating cardboard
Another stigma to healthy eating is taste. Broiled chicken, steamed vegetables and plain rice do not sound very appealing, but unless you are competing in a body building or fitness competition and trying to get to 6 percent body fat, you do not have to take it to that extreme. Healthy eating is far tastier than eating fast or processed foods.
Sitting in front of me while write this is a nice chicken and rice meal with mushrooms and spinach topped with a mango salsa. Four ounces of chicken, a handful of mushrooms and spinach and 1/2 cup of jasmine rice. The mango salsa is simply red onion, cilantro, red bell peppers, mango, and lime juice (squeezed). While a mango salsa was not my first choice, it added some nice flavoring to the meal.
You are not a great cook? Neither was I! But as with anything, the more you do it, the better you get. Pinterest is a lifesaver for finding healthy meals. You will have to adjust the portion sizes depending on your situation, but it is an easy way to learn how to cook healthy meals for yourself. If that is too daunting of a task, there are plenty of Home Meal Delivery options available such as Home Chef, Sun Flower and Freshly. There are a lot of services out there these days, so do your research and find the right one for you. If you have gluten issues, Freshly is the one my parents use and they love it. I personally used Home Chef for six months and liked it. I stopped the service as I was traveling a lot at the time.
The choice to eat healthy is yours
It is easy to move towards better eating. Sure, you will have a couple days of cravings as you stop eating so much and cut out all of the bad stuff. It will be tough, but you have to push through it if you want to reach your goals. Also, stop calling this a diet. You're not dieting, you're changing your lifestyle for the better. This isn't something you do to reach your ideal weight and then go back to your old ways. If you want something like that, there are plenty of Get-Skinny-Fast diet plans or pills out there that will allow you to reach your goals over and over again. I say over and over again because you WILL go back to your old weight if you do not change your eating habits.
Please note, what I am doing may not be right for you, as each person's needs are unique. If you have not done any serious exercise in a while, go see your doctor for a full physical. You do not want to injure yourself the first day in the gym. I would also suggest working with a personal trainer, as they can tailor your workout and meals to get you the most benefits. There are a number of books and articles about what is best for you. Finding the right one may feel a bit daunting, but the more you read, the better informed you will be, and you will be more able to make the right decision that is right for you.