4 Common Concerns About Starting a Healthy Lifestyle
I’m in the fitness business and I’ve seen a lot of wacky things that people do to cut corners and lose weight without changing their habits. They will spend hundreds of dollars to get B12 shots and prepackaged foods that include a pseudo “chocolate brownie” that tastes like death before they will just go back to the basics and eat protein, a small serving of complex carbs and vegetables.
Why is it so damn hard for all of us to just eat healthy foods without all the drama? I think it mostly stems from fear. These are the four most common fears/concerns/complaints I hear from my clients before they start the meal plan:
4 Common Concerns About A Healthy Lifestyle
- I’ll be hungry.
- Vegetables suck. I want to eat tacos and chocolate chip cookies and rum and pasta and still fit into size 3. Vegetables taste awful.
- I will become a social misfit. The world will frown upon me if I don’t eat chips and salsa with them.
- At some point I will travel and not have access to my healthy foods. I will eat McDonald’s and it will snowball from there until I wake up three days later in an ice cream truck. I can’t be trusted.
Let me start by saying I hear you and feel your pain because I was exactly where you were five years ago. Let’s deal with each of these issues, but first a quick word about diet vs. healthy lifestyle.
Diet vs. Healthy Lifestyle
A lot of these fears are based on bad experiences we had with “dieting.” A diet, in my estimation, is a temporary restriction on the food types or amounts that you eat in order to lose weight. The problem with diets is that once you achieve your goal weight you think, “Whoo hoo! I’m done! Let’s eat brownies to celebrate!” That’s when you gain back all the weight plus five more pounds because life is unfair. It also makes you want to destroy your scale with a hammer.
A lot of fad diets that completely cut out one food group, like carbs, will also make you go kind of bonkers when you get off the diet. Your body (designed to handle caveman type problems) thinks you were going through a famine, so it’s best to store all the fat for the next famine.
A healthy lifestyle, on the other hand, is choosing the foods that best serve your body and allow for the occasional high-calorie splurge for date night or your birthday or drinking margaritas on the beach in Mexico because you’re on vacation.
In the bodybuilding world there are two phases: competition prep (you’re on a diet) and the off season (you’re living a healthy lifestyle). Living a healthy lifestyle is way more fun than being on a competition prep diet for 12 or 15 weeks before your competition. The weight difference between competition and off season is about 15 lbs.
I know I’m being a little old school here, but it’s my personal belief that there’s a time and place for a diet sometimes. If you are trying to lose 100 lbs. to get off a bunch of diabetes and blood pressure medications, then yeah, you do need to restrict your food until you get your weight in a healthy range for your body. But once you get there you’ll want to maintain it and that’s when the healthy lifestyle living kicks in.
But back to tackling those fears, let’s talk about hunger.
If you are on a fad diet, you will probably be hungry because you’ll only be eating 600 calories a day or drinking nothing but protein shakes. A) That’s cray and B) once you go off that fad diet you will gain the weight back.
When you are on a healthy lifestyle meal plan or a nutritious diet, you won’t be hungry. Most of my clients eat between 1,400-1,800 calories per day. They eat a mix of proteins, complex carbohydrates, vegetables, some fruit and healthy fats. Their food is timed throughout the day to keep their blood sugar balanced. The biggest comment I get from my clients the first week is, “It’s so much food! I can’t eat it all!”
When you aim for a healthy lifestyle, you will be satiated. Cutting out empty calories from sugary processed foods and replacing them with more protein and complex carbs like old fashioned oatmeal and brown rice will make your stomach feel fuller. Drinking a minimum eight glasses of water per day will hydrate you, reduce your appetite and help you drop water weight. (Ironic, no?)
Bottom line, eating whole, unprocessed foods fills you up with nutrients whereas junk food leaves you wanting ever more. (It’s designed that way to make profits for the big food industry.)
Vegetables may suck the way your mom cooked them (if she used the canned veggies like my mom did) but there are lots of different ways to serve them up so they taste better. I discovered that green beans bought fresh and steamed taste a hella lot better than mushy ones from a can. Zucchini, squash, peppers, asparagus, spinach – all of these can be prepared in a variety of ways. You can eat them raw, baked, dry fried or steamed. Play with textures and temperatures and seasonings. Move beyond salt and pepper and try fresh herbs to mix things up. Bonus points: vegetables are great because the calorie count for most of them are so low that you can eat big servings and fill up that way.
Tip: I read an article from the Washington Post that said you will be more likely to eat vegetables if you describe them in a way that makes them seem unhealthy. The study prepared green beans exactly the same way but labeled it differently, from basic “green beans” to healthy positive (“Healthy energy-boosting green beans and shallots”), or indulgent (“Sweet sizzlin’ green beans and crispy shallots”). According to the study people chose the indulgent description 41% more than the healthy description. So don’t just tell your family you’re having chicken and green beans, tell them you’re having sweet sizzlin’ green beans!
I will become a social misfit.
This is a giant can of worms. I could write a book about this. The first step is to tell your friends and family that you are interested in becoming healthy. Tell them exactly why it’s important to you. “I’m eating healthy now because X” Get really psyched up when you tell them. They will react one of two ways: 1) They will be supportive and turn into your biggest cheerleaders or 2) They will try to sabotage your efforts. Many of my clients have dealt with both scenarios. Kids might be happy until they realize their trips to Pizza Hut are now cut, husbands may feel threated by this change (“Will you cheat on me if you suddenly lose weight?”), friends may feel jealous (“If she’s getting healthy, now I’ll feel guilty for not getting fit too.”)
If they are supportive, great! Cheerleaders are the bomb. If they aren’t supportive…wait for it…that’s their deal and don’t waste your time talking to them about your new healthy lifestyle. Find some new friends at the gym who can relate to what you’re going through. With your old friends, make food one of those “agree to disagree” topics like politics or the guilt/innocence of OJ Simpson. Meet up with them at places other than a restaurant. And by all means, don’t waste your energy trying to persuade them to be supportive of your efforts. Do it on your own. Do it for you. And 9 times out of 10 when your friends and family realize that you are committed to this new healthy lifestyle they will accept it and love you for you.
I Can’t Be Trusted.
This is a very real concern for many of my clients. A vacation or a big family picnic can put them in a real pickle. The way I see it you have several options.
- Face your fears. At some point you will have to travel or attend an event that has every food temptation known to womankind. Most of us have ample time to prepare for the situation, so really, truly prepare.
- Plan Your Cheat Meal. For example, if you are going to a wedding, figure out your own reasonable limits. Enjoy the chicken dinner, keep your carbs and cream sauces to a rational level, drink a glass or two of wine with glasses of water in between, enjoy the champagne toast and one (1) slice of wedding cake. Knowing that you will be eating a lot of calories for dinner, be sure to get your cardio in that morning and eat more protein/fewer carbs during your other meals to adjust for the calorie swing.
- Cook Your Own Food. If you are going on vacation, chances are that your hotel room will have a refrigerator and a microwave. Cook at least some of your meals and take them with you, along with a fork. If you have a unit with a kitchen, buy your basics (chicken, brown rice, eggs, oatmeal, salad ingredients) and bring some protein bars or shakes with you for a quick snack. Not only will you feel more in control of your food intake, you will also save some money by only eating out one meal per day versus three.
“But Lisa,” you say, “I know I’m going to go and just eat everything in sight and I can’t plan ahead and I’ll just keep eating even when I get back.”
Okay, here’s some tough love: I call bullshit. You have no control over yourself? Come on. You’re now using this as an excuse to eat crap. If your kid piled his plate with six brownies and a handful of Doritos would you let him eat that for dinner for the next six days? Of course not. You’d let him eat one brownie, after he ate real food including some green beans. When you hear yourself want to go overboard, visualize that voice as a child and tell her (yourself) that food is for fuel and she can have dessert only after dinner.
And if you do mess up, go overboard and eat junk food non-stop for three days here’s what you say: “That was yesterday. This is today.” Get back on track. Beating yourself up isn’t going to help, so move on and make healthier decisions today. Figure out what triggered you going overboard and make a better plan for the next time.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean you never eat cake. It just means you don’t eat it every day. The real key is to embrace your new healthier self. Identify with her. Get psyched about her! Say aloud, “I love taking care of my body! I love eating fresh, whole foods because they taste better than crap from a box. I respect myself enough to make good choices for myself.”
Don’t let fear hold you back. Start eating clean today.
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Lisa Traugott is a Mom’s Choice Award winning writer, fitness blogger, wife and mom of two….and Original Cast Member of AMERICAN GRIT, starring John Cena, on FOX!!!
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