Meals and Decisions
I have often heard people complain that they have tried and tried to lose weight, but it just doesn’t work for them. Quite often these words are spoken between sips of a sweet “coffee” drink topped with whipped cream. Whenever I ask if they have any idea how many grams of sugar are in that drink or how many calories they are ingesting, after I’m met with an icy stare, they say “No! I don’t care! I like it.” …and that, my friends, is the problem. Healthy meals are a small part of their caloric intake.
I was just now looking at a popular weight loss social media platform and I saw a conversation about what foods and drinks have to be “counted”. There’s a simple answer to that. It’s the ones that have CALORIES. A woman actually asked if she should count olive oil. It has 120 calories per Tablespoon. YES, you must count it! Healthy food calories will make you just as fat as junk food calories. They all must be counted. When you prepare your meal, track every calorie into My Fitness Pal (I use the FREE version.), or some other calorie tracking app or write it down! If you use olive oil and don’t want to “spend” a lot of calories, use the spray. It still has calories, but less. Read the label and count them.
In the same app, I also read a discussion about alcohol where the question was actually asked if it should be “counted”. There were all kinds of absurd comments justifying ignoring the calories in alcohol. Regardless of how many other people you get to agree that you don’t need to be accountable for what you eat and drink, the truth remains that you do.
If we are going to be truly accountable about what we are eating and drinking, then it stands to reason that everything that we eat, and drink has to be counted in our daily calorie allowance.
Cravings are a main reason that people do not want to be accountable. While addictive substances like alcohol definitely cause cravings, sugar is so addictive that people are willing to die for it. Sugar acts on the same part of the brain as alcohol and other addictive drugs. When a diabetic continues to gorge on snack cakes or someone who has been advised to lose weight boastfully states, “I’m not giving up MY sugar!” as if it’s a family member, they have chosen empty calories over their own life and everything and everyone in their lives.
I was dominated by cravings for most of my life. The main reason that I could not escape them is simply that I would not eliminate the foods from my diet that caused the cravings. As long as I ate even a small amount of added sugar, I craved sweets. With every bite of cake, I was feeding the demon of addiction. I also craved MSG-laden chips of all kinds. As I grabbed them off the shelf in the grocery store, I would tell myself that I would only eat ONE serving OCCASIONALLY. An open bag would turn into a single-serving container and the occasion was the day that I bought them. It was necessary to remove ALL “trigger foods” from my diet to gain control over my life and health. David often asks the question, “If you have never had control over the amount of a certain food that you eat, what makes you think that you will now?” The answer is obvious. You won’t.
So, the first step towards gaining control over your health is to remove the foods from your diet that you cannot control. That is almost always sugar, followed closely by all kinds of processed junk foods that light up the same addiction pathways in the brain. You know what those foods are. They are your favorites and they hit your brain with force. These same foods are also capable of producing neuroinflammation which can actually damage brain cells. (1)
So, what’s a body to do? Are we destined to a lifetime of either constantly craving foods that we can’t eat or being unhealthy? No. You don’t have to live that way.
You can develop habits that will remove the offending foods from your diet and keep you from cravings and endless hunger. That’s what we live and teach here at David’s Way to Health and Fitness.
Once you have determined to remove the junk from your diet, it’s mandatory to establish good eating habits. The second thing that you need to do is plan your meals. I have found that pre-tracking my meals in My Fitness Pal helps me avoid last-minute meltdowns about what I’m going to eat. That way, I can plan around what I have on hand, know if I need to shop and tweak my calories, carbs and protein before the day begins. You might even like to meal prep. Personally, I don’t like spending most of an off-day prepping food, so simply tracking my meals the night before works great for me. Food prep, where you prepare several days food at once is the ideal however, it’s just not practical for me.
When you plan your meals, INCLUDE BREAKFAST! there are so many reasons to eat breakfast and none to avoid it. You need nutrition early in your day to avoid energy slumps. It’s also much easier to rationalize eating junk food when you have not “eaten anything all day” I can’t tell you how many times that I have heard that excuse for someone scarfing down two saucer-sized cupcakes. Guess what. You will still rationalize that you “haven’t eaten anything” after you eat those cupcakes. Then you’re looking at a massive lunch, probably followed by dessert and snacks all afternoon until you sink into the sofa with an oversized pizza and all the trimmings. EAT A WHOLESOME BREAKFAST. If you eat three meals and two snacks in the day, your breakfast should probably contain about 25% of your daily calories. I always have oats and eggs. Those are my non-negotiables. I also like to add flax, chia and hemp seeds for dense nutrition.
If you tend to graze or get hungry before lunch, make sure to have a protein source and some fiber for a snack. One of my favorite snacks to quell hunger and increase nutrition is an apple and a couple of cheese sticks. The fiber in the apple and the protein in the cheese sticks bind together to stave off hunger for a couple of hours. WHATEVER you do, DO NOT eat anything with added sugar during mid-morning. It will throw you off-kilter and increase cravings all day as it causes your blood sugar to begin to fluctuate. The next thing you know, you’ll be hitting the pastry cart.
If you are at home during lunch, you have tremendous control over what you eat. If you are at work or out on the town, you can still choose wisely. Lean protein, vegetables and some healthy fat can sustain you through the afternoon. Sliced chicken or steak atop a bed of romaine lettuce with various brightly colored veggies is a favorite for me. If you like creamy dressings, measure your serving and try dipping your fork into the dressing instead of pouring it over the salad. It goes much farther this way. If you don’t like salads, you can have a sandwich. Measure your mayonnaise, skip the cheese and fill it up with lean meat and veggies. If you want fries, go for oven fries. They save you hundreds of calories.
Afternoon snacks can mimic those you choose for morning. Protein will give you a mental boost and focus and complex carbs such as those found in fruits and veggies will give you energy to power through the afternoon. I like a baked sweet potato for my carbs and sometimes have a protein shake during this time. While I prefer most of my protein to come from meat, I do use various plant proteins to ensure that I get enough protein for focus and muscle building. I like soy and whey isolates. There are many to choose from. You don’t have to buy the expensive ones touted by your favorite Instagram model. Most of mine come from Walmart.
Dinner at my house is usually lean protein such as steak or chicken, pan seared and seasoned with dry spices. I usually avoid creamy sauces because they are high in calories. I like no sugar added barbecue sauce such as Ray’s. I also buy Heinz no sugar added catsup. I like smoke liquid flavoring. If you like cheesy sauces, you can make a serving with one serving of cheese and a teaspoon of milk that will add a minimal amount of calories. Baked potatoes are quick and easy from the microwave and they are GOOD for you! Add a salad made of dark, green leafy vegetables and an olive oil vinegrette and you have a quick dinner formula that you can modify based on what you have on hand, your budget and your taste. Meals can be varied, yet convenient.
If you have eaten well all day, the truth is, you will most likely not have cravings for night time snacks. If that’s a tradition in your home or you feel hungry, that might be a good time to try a protein shake. Experiment with a few different types until you find one you like. If chips are your thing, you can cut one tortilla of choice into wedges and bake them in the oven at 425 degrees Fahrenheit until they are just barely brown. Eaten with salsa you can enjoy every healthy bite! Salsa is a powerhouse of phytonutrients that are really good for you. Pile each chip full!
A healthy lifestyle is based on the choices that we make every moment of every day. This article deals with some basic meal ideas. There’s more to living a healthy lifestyle than just food. Get some exercise as your doctor allows and decrease stress. You will live longer and happier.
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(1) Five ways junk food changes your brain – RMIT University