4 Eating Habits that Sound Healthier than They Are

24 Jun
Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training
Veggies with hummus make a healthy snack.

Most of my clients know the healthy eating drill pretty well: keep your fats down, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, make most of your grains “whole” and focus on low-fat protein. But many of them have adopted some eating habits that they truly believe are healthy. And I have to spend some time trying to convince them otherwise. These eating habits sound like they’re healthy, but they really end up being less so when they’re put into practice. Are your eating habits as healthy as you think they are?

Question Your Eating Habits

Do you skip breakfast thinking it will save you calories? I’m always surprised at how many people believe that skipping breakfast is a healthy habit—and think it’s a sure thing when it comes to calorie control. There are so many good reasons to eat something in the morning. For one thing, studies have shown that those who practice the breakfast habit are more likely to keep their weight under control. A well planned breakfast highlights foods we don’t often get the rest of the day—like high fiber cereals and calcium-rich dairy products. If you can’t face a full meal in the morning, at least aim for a shot of protein from a smoothie or a carton of yogurt.

Do you avoid keeping food in the house because you’re afraid you’ll eat it? Not keeping food around only makes sense if you normally stash stuff you shouldn’t be eating. But a well stocked freezer, refrigerator and pantry can actually be your best ally when it comes to eating well. When you’ve got foods like shrimp and veggies in the freezer, beans and whole grains in the pantry, and fruits, salad greens and low-fat dairy foods in the fridge, you’re never at a loss for a healthy meal or snack. Not keeping foods around the house can backfire. When hunger strikes, you may wind up grabbing the first thing you can get your hands on from your corner quick market or the drive-thru.

Do you only shop at the health food store? It’s a common trap. Many people figure that anything they buy at the health food store is good for them, but it just isn’t so. There are plenty of high sugar, high fat items lurking on the shelves and plenty of ‘healthy’ snack foods that can take a big bite out of your calorie budget. Are organic potato chips or sodas made with ‘all natural’ sweeteners really any better for you than the regular stuff? Don’t let the health halo fool you. Sticking with minimally processed foods is the best way to go, no matter where you shop.

Do you avoid snacking? Plenty of my clients believe that snacking is a bad habit. And for many of them it probably is, because their snacking habits usually revolve around chips, soda, cookies and ice cream. But healthy, well planned snacks serve a couple of purposes. When you eat frequently during the day, you’ll avoid getting overly hungry at mealtimes and reduce the risk of overeating when you do finally sit down. When you eat more often, it’s easier to work more healthy foods into your day. When you think snacks, think fruit, a handful of nuts, a protein bar, some low-fat cheese and whole grain crackers or some raw veggies dipped in hummus.

Lost Your Diet Mojo? Get Your Motivation Back!

06 Jun
Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Senior Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training

Pack a healthy lunch.

When you’re having trouble sticking to your diet, it helps to remember what motivated you in the first place. Here’s how to get back on track.

One of the hardest parts of a weight loss journey is staying motivated. When you first start out, you’re all in – your intentions are great, you aim high, and you’re ready for the challenge. But then something happens. Maybe your weight isn’t coming off as quickly as it did when you started. Maybe your regimen is just too intense and you can’t stick to it. Maybe the “newness” and excitement of the first few weeks has worn off, and you’ve simply lost interest.

What Motivates You to Lose Weight?

When your motivation takes a nosedive, it sometimes helps to revisit your reasons for wanting to lose weight in the first place. Most people focus on the positive – “I want to have the energy to keep up with my kids” or “I want to look better in (or out of) my clothes.” Others take the opposite approach and focus on moving toward the negative – “I don’t want to avoid the mirror any more” or “I don’t want to feel so tired all the time.” Everybody is different; there’s no right or wrong reason. So take a minute to remind yourself why you embarked on this weight loss journey in the first place.

How to Get Your Diet Motivation Back

Let’s face it. Change is hard, and it can be tough to stay motivated. You’re probably trying to give up one or more bad habits – and you may not be ready to do so. Or, if you’ve suffered some inevitable setbacks, you may have lost confidence or feel like a failure. Maybe the rewards just aren’t outweighing all the sacrifices you’ve had to make, or the results aren’t happening fast enough. Here are some ways to help you get your motivation back.

  • Learn from your mistakes: Roadblocks and setbacks happen to everyone, don’t let them derail your plans. Many of the behaviors you’re trying to change have been with you for a long time. Try to figure out what causes you to fail and make a plan for how you can deal with the next slip-up.
  • Get back to keeping track: Did you stop keeping track of what you’re doing? Many people are good for the first few weeks – keeping track of what they eat, how much activity they’re getting, how they feel, changes in weight, measurements, mood, etc. And the feedback is really helpful. But after a time they figure, “I’ve got this” – when, clearly, they don’t. Have portion sizes gotten bigger? Are you eating more when you’re stressed or tired? Are you consuming too many liquid calories? It takes time to replace old habits with new ones, and keeping track is a great way to know that you’re making progress.
  • Be flexible: When you started on your weight loss journey, it’s likely you set some goals for yourself – like taking a brisk walk for an hour a day, or packing a healthy lunch three times a week. But just because you set that goal, doesn’t mean that it’s carved in stone. Sometimes we get overly ambitious, and we believe we can take on more than we actually can. If you set the bar too high, it’s better to lower it a little bit, rather than giving up altogether. What’s important is that you still make progress, even if you do it a bit more slowly.
  • Focus on behavior change, not just your weight: When you’re thinking about your ultimate goal, you may be too focused on achieving a particular weight on the scale. Instead, think about the behaviors that are going to help you reach your goal – more home-cooked meals or fewer cocktails, for instance – and give yourself credit for every time you practice this new behavior. After all, the positive changes you make in your diet and lifestyle are really what drive you toward your goal. The fact that you also get healthier and fit is just “icing on the cake.”

Reward small achievements: Many people make plans to reward themselves in some way once they’ve reached their goals, which is great – but you don’t have to wait until you’ve reached your ultimate goal in order to reward yourself. Think about ways to reward yourself when you’re a quarter of the way to your goal or halfway there. And find ways to reward mini-accomplishments too – drinking eight glasses of water, or exercising every day this week, or cooking three dinners at home. There’s no reason not to reward progress!