Healthy Eating Is Not a Diet – It Is a Way of Life

This posting is critically important for anyone who wants to lose weight and keep it off. I hope that you will take it very seriously.

Image by akra38
Image by akra38

I passionately believe that healthy eating is not a diet – it is a way of life. Several previous postings have been dedicated to my philosophy of dieting, “Stay Close to Nature for Healthy Eating.

The seven basic principles are:

  • Eat as close to nature as possible (shop the periphery of the market)
  • Give up all processed foods* (including junk food)
  • Choose a wide variety of colorful fruits and veggies
  • Eat only whole grains
  • Drink lots of clean, fresh water
  • Get your body moving everyday
  • Get adequate rest (7 to 9 hours/night)

*Processed foods like white sugar, white bread, frozen dinners, and many boxed and canned foods are not good for anyone – don’t buy or eat anything with additives.

I don’t know a single person who smiles brightly and enjoys the thought of starting a diet. In fact, when the word diet is mentioned in a conversation, it usually elicits a groan from the group.

As stated in my last post, it takes times to find a diet or weight loss program that fits your needs and will be effective. The process can be frustrating, discouraging, and exhausting.  The result is that many people opt for the extreme diets, including starving themselves for a few weeks just to get the pounds off as quickly as possible. Yes, you can shed pounds that way, but they will pile back on rapidly as soon as you end the diet and often with a few extra pounds to boot.

Losing weight in a healthy way, takes time – it is a process that takes planning, focus, and commitment.  And . . . there is a way to do it without endangering your health.   Healthy eating is not a diet – it is a way of life.

There are a few simple steps to can take to move in the right direction – toward a healthier lifestyle.

Simplify Eating

Over the years, I have tried everything – counting calories, weighing/measuring portions, keeping detailed records of everything I eat, etc.  It is mind-boggling and overwhelming. Eventually, I always gave up because it was all too much! Does any of that sound familiar?

The only thing that has worked for me is to simplify the process!  Instead of being obsessive about what I eat, I focus on eating a variety of healthy foods in small portions – three simple meals and two healthy snacks (morning and afternoon), and I never eat after 8:00 p.m. at night.

Your meals should be colorful and varied. Color ensures that you are getting the proper amount of fruits and vegetables (more nutrients). If the food you eat is essentially white or beige, you are not only jeopardizing your health, you will not lose weight. Variety adds the texture and flavors that make eating fun and satisfying.

How much you eat is important; but, rather than measuring and weighing everything, stay with portions that are about the size of your fist. The only exception to this is vegetables – eat as much as you want (just don’t get carried away dipping them into a high-calorie sauce).

Simplifying is a key factor for success – make eating simple and fun to stay on track and eliminate frustration.

Focus on What You Can Eat

Most diets focus on restrictions – what you cannot eat.  There is usually a list of foods that are “off limit.”  When you eat close to nature, there are a number of things that should be eliminated from your diet such as, junk food, processed foods, white sugar and flour products, and anything with additives.  If you truly want to be healthy and lose weight – eliminating those will be critical.  BUT . . . rather than focusing on all the things you cannot eat – focus on all the wonderful foods you can eat!

Also, if you have one particular food that falls into the one of the above categories – give yourself permission to eat it “on occasion.” (Mine is a piece of pie from Village Inn – every month or so). This will help you make healthier choices most of the time, and still have those favorites once-in a while.

If you absolutely forbid yourself to ever eat anything bad again, when you do give into the craving, you feel like you have failed, which is often an excuse to give up and slip quickly back into old habits.

Enjoy that occasional piece of pie or chocolate chip cookie, then get right back on track and eat healthy! Follow up the indulgence with a large glass of water and make sure the next meal is filled with of healthy choices and an extra serving of super-crunchy veggies. DO NOT beat yourself up!

Always Eat Breakfast

Healthy Breakfast
Image by urbanfoodie33

Breakfast means “break your fast.”  When you sleep, your body is at rest. Your metabolism slows down and goes to work – muscle repair, memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite.  When you awaken, the body needs water and food to replenish the systems so that you can lead an active, productive life.

You have heard, “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” and it is. Without breakfast you are running on empty – like trying to drive your car without gas. For that reason it should be eaten within the first two hours after arising. Sooner is better than later.

In addition to providing energy, many breakfast foods are filled with important nutrients such as calcium, iron and B vitamins as well as protein and fiber. Research shows that when you skip breakfast, it is almost impossible to make up for the loss of those essential nutrients later in the day.

Take care of your body – starting with breakfast. You do not have to eat a lot. The best choice is to sit down and have a nice full breakfast.  However, if you are pressed for time, keep hard boiled eggs in the frig, add a glass of milk and a handful of nuts and be on your way.

There are many healthy breakfast choices for busy people such as:

Skipping breakfast keeps your body in hibernation mode and continues to store fat away for later (and causes weight gain).  Eating breakfast wakes up your metabolism and jump-starts your body’s systems for the day so that you can lead a healthy, alert, and productive life.

Eat Healthy Snacks

Image by Pakhnyushchyy
Image by Pakhnyushchyy

Some people can eat three meals a day and be perfectly satisfied. There are others, myself included who need that additional fuel in between meals – and can be a good practice for almost everyone. The in-between snacks keep your metabolism and blood sugar on an even keel and sustain your energy throughout the day.

Since we have been talking about simplifying eating, my recommendation is a nutritious breakfast, a mid-morning snack (a little protein and piece of fruit), a light lunch, mid-afternoon snack (veggies with hummus, or a handful of nuts and a piece of cheese), and then your healthy evening meal.

As noted above, a good practice is to never eat after 8:00 p.m.  The only exception to this is if you have trouble falling asleep, try eating a few cherries, a slice of turkey breast, or a small glass of warm milk with a few drops of vanilla to help you fall asleep.

A cardinal rule is to eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full.  (This means actually physically hungry with real hunger pangs –not emotionally or stressed hungry.) It is important to feed your body when it needs to be fed so that it does not go into starvation mode and start storing fat to protect you.

Eat with Family or Friends

When you eat alone, there is a tendency to “chow down” with little thought about what you are eating or how much you are eating.  Stuffing food in your mouth while standing up at the kitchen counter, or eating in front of a computer or TV leads to mindless over-eating.

When you eat with others, there is usually conversation that allows for healthier eating habits – eating slower, taking smaller bites, taking a break between bites, and being relaxed while eating. All of which gives your mind time to process what you are eating and the body time to signal when you are full.

Do Not Rush – Eat Slowly

A fact of life is that many people live along – and as a result, eat alone most of the time.  If you are among that group, remind yourself to slow down. Allow time for your meals. Sit down at the table as enjoy the food.  Rushing through a meal is never healthy.  It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that it is full.

Even though it is a meal for one, arrange your food nicely on a plate. Always sit at the table, maybe with a hot cup of coffee in the morning and a nice glass of wine in the event.  Eat at the table – not in front of the TV.

Choose a variety of foods with lots of flavor. Take time to chew slowly and savor the different flavors. When you eat slowly and take breaks in between bits, it give the stomach and the brain time to catch up and send a signal that you are full.  This helps prevent overeating (if you can learn to stop eating when you are full.) Eating in a rush negates that entire process – and you will over eat.

Final Thoughts

If you follow these six steps for healthier eating, you will begin to establish a healthier lifestyle – and lose weight at the same time. The weight loss will take time; and once it is off, if you continue to eat this way, it will stay off.

Think about eating a healthy diet in these small, manageable steps rather than trying to do it all at once in a short period of time will lead to success.

Remember – losing weight and eating healthy are not all or nothing propositions.  A key element in all of this is moderation.  Your diet is more than the food on your plate, it is about taking care of your body and how you think about food.

These few changes in your eating habits, can put your on the path to reaching your ideal weight and staying there for a long, long time.

Good luck!  ENJOY the journey!

P.S. There is an excellent article written by Lindsay Brustein Rosen, MS. RD that you should read. It was posted on Grandparents.com:   7 Healthy Foods that Are Worth the Hype.

2 thoughts on “Healthy Eating Is Not a Diet – It Is a Way of Life”

Comments are closed.