Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Getting started with changing eating habits permanently

With so much information out there on losing weight and so many sources that point to different diets it might often be confusing for a person to begin changing their eating habits because its information overload. Totally. Dieting is what I consider the beginning of a healthy life style and it is more about restricting your calories and choosing better nutrition foods. Living a healthy life style is more about adopting this diet forever and this diet is unique to every individual even though there are some basic points common to everyone. During the “Dieting phase” we choose to eat better with aim of lsing weight, and in process learn to find foods that work for us and in what quantity. It’s relatively easy even though it needs tremendous determination and effort in the beginning. What is harder is living with it for entire life without feeling deprived. Yes, this “feeling deprived” is what makes people want to get back to bad eating habits.
We have so many questions when we are new to all this - Should I eliminate carbs or fats? Should I just limit my overall calories and eat whatever I like as long as calorie limit is not exceeded? Should I go on this crash diet so I lose 10 pounds in 10 days and then I will maintain my loss? Should I add nut butters to my diet? Will eating negative calorie foods really reduce my weight? What we don’t anticipate is gaining all this weight back if we don’t make this diet permanent. So it is important we don’t rush to lose weight, and gradually slip into a life where this new diet is a part of our life permanently just like brushing our teeth or taking shower is. We need to understand this is the way you should be eating by default, and any other food groups are occasional treats.

Today I would like to share what I changed in my diet that has made a positive impact on my health and life as well. You may have a different opinion and choose a different alternative and you should do what works for you and what makes this journey easy and enjoyable for you. If you feel that something you are doing is not working out for you and you have to work extremely hard for it, the chances are you will give up doing it eventually. I have tried numerous diets over past few years and I could stick to none for more than the duration of dropping the weight, only to put it back again. I could not accept that what I do, to lose weight, has to be permanent and what worked for me is “Eating Clean” rather than doing diets though I did start with counting calories in the beginning. I have learnt to choose better sources of food with superior nutritional content in my calorie limit. For example instead of having a donut or frozen yogurt for 250 calories I would opt for fruit bowl and Greek yogurt topped with few nuts for same amount of calories. I will try to consolidate my eating habits here and how I work on incorporating them in my daily life below.

1. Negative calorie foods:
Many resources say “Negative calorie food” helps with weight loss like incorporating half a grape fruit in breakfast for example. Per my experience they dint really make a significant change in my weight. The only advantage was I was eating healthier. I do not believe eating anything can help you lose weight if you continue to eat the way you do now and losing weight is your goal. So if you eat “not so good” food and add negative calorie food to your diet, don’t expect anything to change. I incorporate a lot of negative calorie food in my diet frequently like incorporating more salads (minus sugary dressings), snacking on vegetables (cucumber celery sticks with peanut butter), consuming Citrus fruits like oranges , grape fruit etc more than tropical fruits like mangos and bananas, adding sides of non-starchy vegetables in meals like Broccoli, Beans, Zucchini. This makes me feel full, though total calories from these are not as much as I can get from bread or rice.
2. Being Gluten free:
Being an Indian by birth, “Wheat” has been a major source of my diet growing up and I could not imagine any meal that did not contain wheat. But somewhere inside I wanted to try not eating wheat after reading about being “Gluten Free”. I have switched my carbohydrate sources to grains like Quinoa and brown rice and vegetables like winter squashes and sweet potatoes instead of consuming wheat. For me this experiment has given me an opportunity to explore other things I can eat today. Result is I have no regrets about not consuming wheat every single day, I feel lighter. Thanks for specialty stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joes where I can get things like buck wheat, brown rice, quinoa, and noodles & pastas made from these. I have felt the best that I had ever in my entire life not eating wheat, that I grew up on. It is definitely not right for me even though it is whole grain. This includes foods like semolina (rava) & cracked wheat (daliya). May be they work for you, you will need to experiment. So may be try being “Wheat free” for a month and see how you feel and decide. May be read up on being gluten free and probably you will have a list of foods to avoid.
3. Being processed sugar free
Another hardest thing to leave was sugar (anything that contained White, Brown, Raw, Cane, Agave, Honey etc. including my favorite cocktails). I was totally under impression that I could eat brown sugar or raw sugar and Agave/ Honey was not even sugar source for me. But on researching more I found out all of these are sources of sugar. I started giving up on sweets (no matter what the occasion was) & tea/coffee which had flavored syrups. Over time, I think being disciplined about it has made me independent of cravings from sugar but I do indulge in a couple of bites if I feel like it. A banana with peanut butter has been my favorite pre workout snack which satisfies my sweet tooth. Or any fruit for that matter. Avoiding sugar made a huge impact in how I felt and the scale finally moved to the left after a couple of months just by eliminating sugar. It is challenging to lead a low sugar life. It takes effort in researching brands that serve your purpose and reading labels before you put it in your basket. I do occasionally indulge in deserts and enjoy sipping red wine & nibbling on favorite chocolates but only if I feel like it, not because of any event or proximity of food. I buy products that do not have any added sugar (at least try to) mostly salad dressings, even if it means paying a little more.

These 3 categories of food have been hindering my “feel good” phase forever. I am actually surprised at how much of these 3 foods are consumed by so many people who are trying to lose weight and probably don’t know how much a difference leaving these can make. Many times we consume a lot of products thinking they are good because they are advertised so. So learn to read labels and don’t trust the advertisement so much.
The idea here is taking baby steps and experimenting in finding out what works for you, not just in terms of food, but also activity wise, lifestyle wise and determining a schedule that you can stick to for your whole life. Some people have issues with raw food, some with wheat or may be dairy or nuts and some don’t with any of these. Some like to go to gym and some may prefer swimming. Find out what you like to eat and what you enjoy so it is easier to accept this change as a part of your life, and not a burden.

Learn to not associate “Enjoyment” with food 100%. Food is a thing to be enjoyed for sure, but learn to not let go off 100% and gulp down the food loaded with oil & sugar. Take a smaller serving size and enjoy each bite, feel the taste and eat slowly. This way, you will be satisfied with smaller portion than just gulping down big portions. When I go for parties and social events, I love to meet people, talk and socialize. That’s my source of enjoyment for most part and food may be some part. I may not enjoy the samosas n fritters necessarily. But if I do feel like eating a piece of desert, I will have some, typically a smaller portion than what I did few years back. Often others feel I am “sacrificing good food”, but I am not. I just don’t crave these kinds of food anymore because I am addicted to feeling good. Oily, sweet food in excess portions makes me feel like sick, so why would I do that to myself, I ask. If you begin to eat clean, you may have lesser cravings over time because your body is getting nutrition it needs. It is just the initial phase when you stop eating these, is hard and challenging. But it’s worth a try to accept this challenge because if you win, the quality of your life will be so much superior to now.

If you are starting to live better life I would highly encourage you to start following simple things like:
1. Reducing sugar intake to as minimal as you can. (All kinds of syrups, honey, and high fructose corn syrup etc.)
2. Give up food made of white flour or Maida and deep fried food for most part. Not buying these foods at all, because if you don’t have them in your kitchen, you won’t eat them.
3. Aiming to consuming at least 5 cups of veg / fruit every day. The more, the better. Each meal that you eat should have a fruit or veg in it.
4. Investing in quality produce & supplements because it’s an investment in health.
5. Being moderately active 30 min / day and choosing an activity you will enjoy.
6. Understanding and accepting that what you are giving up is not really “Good food”, but the new substitutions you are making is what is good for your body.
7. Telling yourself it takes effort to do it, and that you are willing to take the effort to make your life better. Join a support group if you want.
8. Knowing that eating better doesn’t mean “Boring tasteless” food and starving. It just means substituting ingredients to those which provide nutrition to your body.
9. Trying to do better today than yesterday and loving it. Knowing that when you reach your goal you will be able to enjoy all kinds of food in moderation, but when you are on a mission you can’t afford that. So have patience and be sincere. You are on right path, and each day you are getting closer to your goal.

Be Happy, Eat healthy, Feel better, Live good. You are making a right choice.