How I Changed My Relationship With Food

Monday, January 2, 2017

If you read my recent post about how I'm on the path to a new healthier lifestyle, you'll notice I changed my eating habits.   But today I wanted to get more in depth with that topic.   In order to change my eating habits I had to change my entire relationship with food.  That's not something you can just do overnight, trust me.  Even if you do it with in a week, it doesn't mean it will stick.   So here I'm going to break down how I changed my relationship with food in a natural way so that it's now part of my lifestyle.

In order to understand how food benefits you, you need to understand the point of food and look at it as something that nourishes your body rather than something you do for fun.  So I read all kinds of books about food and nutrition, but my favorite was The Body Book by Cameron Diaz.  I actually took notes and memorized information on things like simple vs. complex carbohydrates.  What clicked for me was remembering back in the day before I was ever even on this Earth, when humans had to work hard at every single thing.  Back in the primitive days all you did was move and expend energy. You woke up, tried to keep warm, explored, hunted and prepared your food, etc.  Everything you did burned calories.  Food in turn, was a way to give your body nutrients it needed after all that hard work.   

I had to channel my inner cavewoman.  If I were living out in the wild, what kind of things would I eat to survive? It certainly wouldn't be processed and pre-packaged foods. It would pretty much all be things found naturally outdoors.  Heck, I wouldn't even be eating bread.  Bread is processed from wheat.  So technically I would be eating meats, veggies, fruits, nuts, and grains.  Ever hear of a paleo diet? Yup, that's what it pretty much is.

The next step was reconfiguring what I allowed into my body on a daily basis.

So here's the thing about carbs, some people avoid them, some people don't.   I started to pay attention to what carbs like bread did to me.  It made me feel full but also made me feel tired the rest of the afternoon.  I don't like that feeling.  We all need carbs of course but the way you get them is what you need to focus on.   While I love burgers, I don't like how the bun makes me feel, so I began having burgers without buns or even just with two pieces of lettuce as the bun.  I noticed that I actually had more energy.  And I never felt sickeningly stuffed.    I also changed my relationship with potatoes.  I love sweet potatoes and they are just a bit better for you than white potatoes so I always make my own sweet potatoe fries at home and I love the sweet taste that comes naturally with them.

Ugh sugars.  Added sugars suck! They totally mess me up.  I feel hyper, then tired, and I know it's nothing but crappy calories.  So I cut out added sugars.  I don't put creamer and sugar in my coffee anymore.  I learned to like it that way after a few weeks, too.  I noticed how sugar was in SOOOO many things.  I love cereal but man, there's too much sugar in it for my liking.   So as I started to choose more natural foods (like paleo diet stuff) I realized sugar wasn't in them.  If I have a sugar craving I'll eat some fruit but even then, I get gassy and bloated feeling from certain fruits so I'm always mindful of what I choose.  Because I took the time to pay attention to what I was eating and then how I felt because of it, I realized what foods were worth eating for me and what foods weren't. Another great benefit of doing this, was that the less I had sugar, the less I craved it. 

UGH! Salt!!  Sodium is in so many processed foods especially lunch meats.  While we all need salt in our diet, there's an appropriate amount we need and most of us go well beyond that.   So I started looking at every label of everything I would buy and eat.  I noticed that if I was at a restaurant and ate something that left me feeling thirsty, it probably had a lot of salt in it.  I don't feel bloated and my skin doesn't seem so swollen all the time like it used to from eating so much salt and added sugars.

Processed Foods
I quickly learned that eating packaged and preserved processed foods was a recipe for disaster.  Most of it contains tons of sodium and too much sugar.  My excuse was always "But I'm too busy to eat anything better." So I stopped using that excuse.  I learned about fresh foods that could easily be whipped up for dinner. I make my own pizza instead of buying frozen pizza.  When I got a craving to eat something out of a bag or a box as a snack, I instead snacked on fresh veggies with hummus or guacamole.  They are still easy snacks but they aren't full of crap.   Am I perfect? Absolutely not.  Do I claim to be? HELL NAW!  For instance, the way I am in the morning I need to eat fast and do my routine.  So I eat Belvita Breakfast Bites.  I know, they're processed foods.  But it works for me.  And I try to keep that the extent of it.  For lunch I have guacamole, carrots, and some peanut butter on a whole wheat tortilla (I roll it up, it's something I ate as a kid and it's quick and easy to eat at my desk at work).   For dinner I eat fresh whole meals.

Shopping Habits
My entire set of shopping habits transformed within no time.  I BARELY visit the inner aisles at a grocery store.   When I worked in retail many years ago someone told me that grocery stores are set up with all of the healthy and fresh ingredients on the outside aisles.  You'll know you're doing it the right way if you barely even visit the inside aisles.  It's true!   Grocery shopping is so much more enjoyable now because I'm not weaving in and out of every single aisle.  Sweet potato fries in the frozen section are cool, but I like to make my own... so I don't even have to go to the frozen section that often unless I'm getting frozen veggies (onions, corn, etc).   

The other thing with my shopping habits is that I save a lot of money.  People think buying fresh and wholesome foods is expensive but actually, packaged foods are more money.  I have receipts to prove it.  So I have been saving money, and the food I buy keeps me full so I don't feel like snacking all evening. When you eat more nutritionally dense foods, you are satisfied for longer.  Think about it. Ever notice how you feel completely stuffed after you eat Chinese food, but then within 2 hours you're hungry again? That's because there's no nutritional value to it so it just goes right through you.  But if you eat protein and vegetables, it makes you feel satisfied for hours to come. 

And I now have a rule that if I shouldn't be eating it I don't buy it.  If I buy crappy food, I'm more likely to reach for it when I get a craving.   I still get cravings, trust me! But the most damage I can do is tearing into a bag of chocolate chips (for baking) and munching on those.   Still less damaging than eating a ton of oreos and chips!

Food As A Reward
I used to allow myself to eat bad food on a "special occassion".  The second I stopped that, it was easier to keep myself in check.   The more I justified eating crappy food, the easier it was to get into poor eating habits again.  So when there is a celebration at work, I don't eat.  I actually walked into the conference room one day and instead of seeing cookies, a flour/egg casserole, and fruit I literally saw it as - Added Sugars (wired then tired all day), Carbs (snoring by lunch time), and gas attack in the office (the fruit).  So it was easy for me to say no because I knew I didn't want to feel the way those foods make me feel.  

Food As A Habit
Whenever I was happy I ate. When I was sad I ate.  When I was bored I ate.  When I was busy I ate.  I had to stop that.  So I did.   I always log what I eat on my Fitbit because it makes me more mindful of when I'm eating.  I've actually stopped reaching for a snack because I didn't feel like logging it.

Now what happens when I'm on the go and I don't have time to eat right? Do I get fast food? NOPE, never.  Unless it's the only thing around and I'm in the middle of nowhere, I won't do it.  I won't even eat at Subway anymore because I know the bread and lunchmeat combo isn't best for me.  Instead I'll stop in at a grocery store and get a salad to go. 

I also plan my day around my meals.  If I need to run an errand, I do it either before or right after lunch so I can eat at home.  Or if I know I'll be out and about over lunch, I bring something healthy to munch on.

So I hope that my experience has given you some tips and maybe even some motivation to work on your own eating habits.   Remember, the first step is to educate yourself so get out there and do it!  

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