Mud season is upon us. New Year’s resolutions behind us. And just about now, we start to muddy our thoughts with a light (or heavy) drizzle of guilt for not clinging to our diet resolutions with dear life. Why do we do this to ourselves? You know the answer, don’t you? Unless you are truly desperate and ready for a major change on your plate, dieting is simply not in line with how we’re wired.
We propose, instead, a new and amicable strategy we’re calling, “Spring Clean Your Plate.” It all starts with 5 simple and dare we say even playful rules. But first, bare this in mind: do not skip breakfast on work days. That is a certain setup to justify those snack attacks every moment you become annoyed by the stress, difficulty or boredom of the task at hand.
Combined, the following strategies can truly make a surprising difference in your overall well-being and sense of personal mastery. Enjoy.
50 to 1 – That is not the ratio of vegetables to meat on your plate; it’s a brain teaser game that literally stops that sudden and repetitive focus on the next snack in its tracks. There is proven science behind this strategy. Here’s how it goes: Whenever an in-between-meals craving kicks in, especially a not so healthy one, stop what you’re doing for a moment and mentally count BACK from 50, but skipping every 3 or 7 digits. This adds just enough difficulty to refocus your mind on a puzzle that does not have the emotional charge of the activity that triggered the craving. Try it. Play with it. Count back alternating jumps of 3 and 7 digits; start at 100! Then, get back to work.
Don’t Fast, Three-One It – We heard about this strategy in an interview and it made a lot of sense. Unfortunately, this is not an article about the relationship between food and memory, and we cannot remember who was the genius who proposed it. This is a no-brainer. 3 days of diligent, sensible eating; 1 everything-goes day. And what of that fast? For the person who is prone to cravings, a day of fasting can feel like a grand victory intellectually, and it is. But it can also trigger a sense of deprivation. What usually follows is a domino effect of entitlement: I did not eat yesterday so I can have more of this today. And “this,” as you know, is usually hardly nutritious. The 3 day/1 day scheme keeps your body in balance, while at the same time giving you permission to bring down your guard once in a while. And you’ll be surprised at what happens, often over a short time. One day, you’ll be smack in the middle of your “anything goes” day and realize you don’t even really feel like cheating at all.
Juice the Right Way – There is strong evidence that a good boost of fruits can provide substantial benefits and even strengthen the immune system. No doubt about it. The only problem is that conventional juicing methods extract all the fiber from the fruit, leaving the person indulging in the beverage with a monster concentration of sugar in each gulp. Sugar is sugar. The body is not designed for this much sweetness. The alternative is just as efficient and satisfying. It is also far more affordable as it requires fewer fruits. Here’s a simple recipe to inspire you: In a blender (not a juicer), place 1 chopped apple (with skin), 1 chopped banana and 2 chopped slices of cantaloupe. Top with filtered (or boiled and cooled) water, to the 40-ounce line. Mix well. Enjoy, slowly, without the inevitable sugar roller coaster. This occasional juice diet is much friendlier to your body. And this juice is also as great alternative when sweet cravings surprise you throughout the day.
The Scale is a Tool, Not a Goal – Dieting is all about psychology and personality. There is strong evidence that unless you have a personal trainer, or strong support system of some sort, making a desired weight the focus of your dieting goals is a very challenging target to honor. Most people lose water weight first and then plateau. Thus, after the initial reduction on the scale, the numbers level off too or even fluctuate up and down. The number on the scale becomes a mood gauge; evidence of your perceived success or failure. The most powerful goal is to adopt behaviors rooted in self-respect. If you can observe your progress and honestly say that you are staying on track with choices that honor you, then eventually, and inevitably, the scale will reflect this with little worry about the numbers. Choices are the measure of self-respect, not the scale.
Work, Break, Move, Work – The key word here is “move.” A friend shared a clever strategy recently. She exercises first thing in the morning almost every day. That, of course, is good advice. On top of this, she’s developed an activity strategy she applies throughout the day. This is especially interesting for those of you who work sitting down most of the time. She acquired a couple of hand weights, a compact stepper and a twist board. The rule: for every time she completes a portion of a project, returns from getting the mail, breaks to prepare lunch and so on, she does 100 reps of twist board and stepper (weights in hand) before returning to work. It takes hardly any time at all, gets her blood flowing, prevents stiffness from sitting all day and even elevates her mood on challenging days. And it replaces snacking. The choice of equipment is personal. Any combination that will work several core areas of the body will do. And the pace is entirely up to one’s ability and mood.
Eat Well… To Your Health!