Monday, September 9, 2013

Post Number Two: Breaking Up with Ben & Jerry

A few weeks back I wrote a post about motivation as part of a series of posts I intend to write all about healthy habits. When I initially posed the question on the blog FB page about this series I received some feedback with topic ideas. One was motivation. Another one was geared around food- primarily junk food- and how to change eating habits. The idea of emotional eating was also brought up but that might need to be a whole post just on its own. We’ll see.

So for today’s post I want to write about breaking up with Ben & Jerry. ..

First off I should start with this- I never broke up with Ben & Jerry, we just changed our relationship status. I would like to be clever here and say “it’s complicated” but it’s really not…

It’s true. I eat junk. Maybe I don’t literally eat Ben & Jerry’s since I am vegan but I have been known to grab a container of So Delicious Chocolate Peanut Butter Swirl coconut milk ‘ice cream’ every now and again and trust me- it’s far from health food. Yes folks, being a vegan does not automatically make me a healthy person. It is something I work at day in and day out, just like everyone else.

And you know that.

And for the most part you know where I am now, how and what I eat regularly, and that information may be helpful. But I am guessing you would want to know how to make a similar transition on your own. To start weaning yourself off of eating convenience and junk foods daily, how to start finding what foods work for your body and starting to make more healthy choices. Not all the time but most of the time.

So hopefully by telling parts of my story I may inspire you to find new ways to try and eat a bit better. Less processed junk, more real foods. That’s kind of my mantra and maybe it can be yours too.

I found my way to a plant-based diet through food journaling and I am a big proponent of not only tracking what you eat but also how those foods make you feel, any underlying emotions behind the food choices, and what cues were telling you to eat/stop eating. Food journaling is like tracking but on crack. For me it was the key to understanding my body, my eating patterns and learning how to eat mindfully. Remember- the goal of eating, first and foremost, is to keep us alive. I’m not saying to deprive yourself completely of the pleasure that you can receive from eating and only focus on intaking enough calories to survive but I am saying eating has to be about balance- eat yummy foods that bring you pleasure AND are nutritionally good for you, most of the time. Don’t let your body’s addiction to that fat/salt/sugar combo be the main driving force behind every food choice. It’s ok once in a while to eat foods just because they taste so damn yummy but not all the time, and not in excessive amounts.

Food journaling is also a great way to understand your eating habits in order to change them. Your mind needs to associate good feelings with good foods and bad feeling with bad foods so you can start to make better decisions naturally, because that is what your body will want. Plus, how can you know what foods are good for you and bad for you if you have no record of what you are actually eating? I mean we all know that eating carrots and celery is probably better for you than eating Ben & Jerry’s (on so many levels) but what about everything in between? What about grains, beans, poultry, white flour, wheat flour, potatoes, dark chocolate, wine, pasta, lean cuisine frozen dinners, peanut butter, etc? What about all the foods that we eat day to day? How are they affecting our bodies? It’s not all about eating 2 slices of pizza instead of a whole pizza or even opting for salad instead of pizza. We also need to be focusing on our ‘every day’ foods and seeing how they affect our body. And for this food journaling really comes in handy.

Anywho, I can go on and on about food journaling and mindful eating. If you want to know more, just ask. I can definitely elaborate. But for now, I think I have said enough that you get my point. Tracking is good. Food journaling is better. At least when you are starting out.

My next bit of advice is- moderation…everything in life (not just food) in moderation. For example, Paul loves homemade calzones. They are definitely not the best food choice we can make. Eating one is basically the equivalent of eating a half of a pizza, give or take. Is it good? YES. Do I try to make it better by adding a lot of nutrient dense foods? OF COURSE. Is it still junk food- I’d say probably. But I still eat it. Just not every day. Or every week for that matter. Calzones, just like pizza, are maybe a once a month/once every other month food. Yep, there are probably times where we eat calzones/pizza more frequently and times when we eat them less frequently. Same goes for pancakes. I love pancakes. I could probably eat an entire batch of pancakes on my own. I haven’t had pancakes since April (yes, I actually remember the last time I made pancakes) but not because I am depriving myself of them. I just haven’t had the time, craving or justification to make them.

You see, I know what foods are good for my body. I know what I need to eat to be able to live an active and healthy lifestyle and I stick with them 80% of the time (that’s my goal at least) and leave the other 20% for beer festivals, homemade calzones, desserts, or late night veggie burgers- or whatever else my normal ‘social life’ brings with it.  I love the 80/20 rule and have had much success with it. It brings me balance. It brings me to a point where I don’t feel deprived and I need that. For me, it’s much easier to make the healthier choices 80% of the time when I know I have full freedom to have whatever the other 20% of the time.

But I can only manage that 80/20 split when I meal plan. When I grocery shop. When I make a conscious effort to prep healthy snacks, keep the pantry stocked with basic staples, and put forth the effort to spend a bit more time in the kitchen and a little less time on the couch – which is ultimately a win-win even though it never sounds like fun.

It’s not always easy. Yes, there are days when I really feel like I would prefer a life filled with convenience foods and eating out. When I don’t want to scour the interwebs for fast AND easy AND non-processed AND vegan recipes. Sundays when I don’t want to have to shop AND cook AND clean AND do schoolwork AND prep BUT my mind knows that it’s really not that bad, it’s really not that time consuming and that yes, it will always be worth it. Every time. Like I’ve said countless times- I am always in a struggle against lazy. But over time I have gotten better about planning, more efficient with shopping, and have gotten smarter about picking out recipes that make cooking and food prep much easier. You know what else helps- asking for and receiving help from others.  Maybe you don’t have a spouse or partner you can guilt trip kindly ask to lend a hand in the kitchen or send to the store with a grocery list but maybe you have a parent or child or friend that could lend a hand. Maybe you have resources available to help you come up with new ideas for meals. Or lend a pair of hands to clean up some produce. Or even throw some oats in a crockpot for you overnight. I know a big key to my success in terms of eating comes from my ability to ask for help.

And also because the main stars of my life recognize the importance of healthy eating and want to work with me, not against me.

And lastly, for now since this is turning into quite the novel, monitor your hunger scale. This is the most basic of my conditionings when it comes to food and it has helped tremendously. Think of your  feelings/levels of hunger on a sliding scale from 1 to 5; 1 being full, no hunger at all and 5 being stark-raving ravenous hungry. Don’t eat when you are a 1-2, don’t let yourself get to a 5 before you eat. Eat when you are at a 3, just starting to pick up on the beginning hunger cues. Train yourself to recognize the potential dangers of eating at 1-2 (mindless snacking, empty calories, probably emotional eating or just eating out of boredom- try not to do either) and the danger of eating at level 5 (overeating, eating too quickly, not allowing your body time to send of signals of fullness, making bad food choices because you need something, anything, at that moment) and how to work around them. Eating when bored- DO SOMETHING ELSE- anything! Clean, go for a walk, call a friend, read a book. Emotional eating- this one is trickier but my biggest piece of advice is reach out to someone (anyone) and talk it out, or even take to social media/blog and write about it. Bring the emotions to the surface and try to work through them. Eating will not fix any problem.

The other end, getting to level 5 hunger scale, pack snacks. Lots of them. Keep extras in your purse. I pack two snacks for work every day. Plus I always have a protein bar or some sort or snack bar in my purse. If I can't get to my snacks at work I know what vending machine options will work.  I have no qualms with eating roasted almonds out of a vending machine or a gas station banana if need be. That banana will probably prevent me from going home and eating a whole pizza- which is what happens when I get to level 5.

So, to make a very long story short

·         Tracking/food journaling is your friend

·         Everything in moderation (or 80/20 if you are like me)

·         Investing a little bit more of your time planning and shopping will yield great benefits and set you up for success

·         Listen to your hunger cues

·         If you need help, ask for it

·         Don’t break up with Ben & Jerry, maybe just start seeing them less and less

I hope this helps get you started. If you want any additional information or have any questions just let me know!

What advice would you give to someone starting out/over? What has worked for you?
Disclaimer: I am no doctor or expert, just a girl who lost a lot of weight by changing what/how she eats and being more active. Find what works for you and do it J