weight

How to Move Out of a Dietary Rut

health, nutrition, weight, wellness

Why is it that despite so many interesting foods in the world, we sometimes fall into a dietary rut? My family recognized how busy we all are and our health was suffering.  We constantly passed each other coming and going, rarely joined together for a meal, and the grocery list was non existent. I found myself stopping at the grocery sporadically picking up what I could remember, and noticed I was buying the same things.  For busy working families, lapsing into a boring menu routine may be due to a lack of time, planning, or know-how. Unfortunately, a lack of variety and a reliance on convenience foods come with unappetizing pitfalls.

The risks of a dietary rut

Eating the same foods frequently deprives you of the flavors and textures that make meals adventures and help you be a  healthy eater. It also limits nutrient intake. “You need a wide variety of vitamins and minerals. In order to get them, you need to eat different types of fresh foods every day,” says Teresa Fung, adjunct professor in the nutrition department at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

Those nutrients should come from fresh vegetables and fruits, lean proteins, legumes (beans and lentils), nuts and seeds, healthy fats (avocados, olive oil), and low-fat dairy products.

Relying on prepackaged food or takeout meals can subject you to unhealthy ingredients like refined carbohydrates; saturated or trans fats; high amounts of salt; and lots of calories, preservatives, and additives. An unhealthy diet is associated with an increased risk for many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and cancer.

Easy ways to bust the dietary rut

Fortunately, breaking out of a dietary rut isn’t hard.

  1.   Get variety elsewhere. A lot of grocery stores have a good number of healthy, prepared foods, and you can pay by the ounce. Prepare the protein at home (like fish or chicken) and buying the side dishes — vegetables, whole grains, or salads — to bring home. Make it something you wouldn’t normally eat.
  2.  Be adventurous. Try something unusual at least every other week. Make it yourself or get it from a restaurant. Caution: focus on vegetables or protein, and avoid anything with a lot of butter or cream. Need ideas? Pick a country and look up traditional dishes and recipes on the Internet.
  3.  Try a subscription meal kit. You choose the menu on a website, and the premeasured, fresh ingredients arrive at your door. Go for something with lots of vegetables and whole grains, and a chunk of protein. There are many meal kit services. Two of the biggest are Hello Fresh and Blue Apron. Prices per person, per meal, range from $10 to $12.
  4.  Cook in batches. Cook once or twice a week and eat leftovers in between. Make a large entree (like white bean soup), broil several chicken breasts, or cook a few side dishes (like brown rice, quinoa, or cooked spinach) that can be eaten throughout the week. It’s easier to cook 14 carrots in one day than two carrots per day for seven days in a row.
  5.  Get your kids in on it. They’ll be more inclined to eat it if they helped prepare it.

A few more tips

We finally realized that the key to variety in our family meals was planning and shared responsibility.  Now, in about half an hour on the weekend, we come up with healthy, interesting menus and shopping lists for the week.

We take turns or work together making dinner, and we batch-cook a lot of meals.

We recognized our challenges and agreed to try making changes, together. I’m not the only one planning meals and grocery shopping, we agreed to eat together at least once per week and get back on the health track!

Nourish Yourself for a Lifetime of Weight Health.

health, nutrition, positive thinking, self care, weight, wellness

Eating is a natural part of digestive rhythms set in your genes, largely controlled by two hormones, leptin and ghrelin. When these hormones are in balance, the alternation between being hungry and being satisfied is also in balance. But these simple facts about the physiology are beside the point when weight becomes a problem.

A Wellness-System Approach to Weight Control

The real problem with weight issues is holistic, involving a person’s entire lifestyle. A better approach to weight control is a wellness-system approach, which looks at everything that goes into being overweight: eating habits, sleep, self-image, core beliefs, exercise, and more. These elements are rarely isolated. Instead, they organize themselves into feedback loops. Like a train running around a circular track, letting passengers off and on at each stop, a feedback loop has inputs and outputs.

If much of your daily input is positive, you are creating mostly positive experiences. If your daily input is negative, the reverse is true. For anyone who has struggled with weight gain, it’s almost certainly true that there is too much negative input on a daily basis. Even the simple pleasure of eating can become part of the negativity, because mentally and emotionally, food has become part of a larger problem.

These feedback loops exist so that you can cope with life and hopefully thrive. Take one element—good sleep. The most basic function of sleep is to revive you when you’re tired and supply mental alertness when you wake up in the morning. But sleep can be thrown out of balance by all kinds of things: anxiety, pain, excessive noise, mental restlessness, habitual insomnia, night shifts at work, and so on. Far from being a simple mechanism, sleep adapts itself to a person’s lifestyle, and even though there is negative input, such as being too anxious to fall asleep, the body-mind will find a way to cope. Even the worst insomnia is marked by periods of sleep during the night.

Positive Coping Mechanisms

If you look at the coping mechanisms that make life positive, they aren’t a mystery. Here are the main ones that need to be reinforced every day:

  • Good self-image
  • Sense of purpose and meaning
  • Contact with friends and family
  • Giving and receiving love
  • Good sleep
  • Physical activity
  • Alone time and quiet time
  • Play
  • Social support systems
  • Absence of pain and discomfort
  • Low stress levels
  • Absence of anxiety and depression.

 

Coping with Weight Is Not About Diet

Although the list could also include “a nourishing whole foods diet,” let’s leave food out for the moment, because instead of attending to all of these positive reinforcements, people who struggle with weight are asking food to do too much of the work. For example, it becomes a surrogate for a good self-image or a quick fix for anxiety.

To cope with weight doesn’t come down to anything about diet; if it did, dieting would work. But only about 2 percent of dieters manage to lose at least five lbs. and keep it off for two years. Naturally, weight is much harder to control if a person indulges in a fatty, sugary diet with lots of snacking and fast food. None of that counts as healthy eating. But asking someone to give up the foods they feel compelled to eat is the same as saying, “Stop being compulsive.” If we could obey such an instruction, we’d all be at our ideal weight.

Looking from a wellness-system perspective, coping with weight means coping with how your entire life is going. Weight will come off and stay off when the other input in your daily life is so satisfying that food no longer looms as the first and foremost coping mechanism you rely upon. Overeating is a habit, no doubt, and habits stick around when they serve a purpose, however misguided. If you fulfill the purpose in a better way, the need for the habit decreases and in time goes away.

I advise taking a wellness-system look at yourself, with the intention of fulfilling your real needs in life:

  • purpose
  • meaning
  • creativity
  • renewal
  • love
  • self-worth
  • other positive elements on the list above 

When you build a self that is life-enhancing rather than self-defeating, all kinds of problems decrease and vanish.

How to Add Positivity into Your Life

So, to go back to the image of a train circling the track, picking up and letting off passengers, you can start today by adding a little positive input and letting go of a little negative input. Your motivation must be positive on both sides. Whatever you choose to add or subtract, the choice must feel good. Willpower, self-discipline, being down on yourself, guilt-tripping, and denial don’t feel good, which is why the best laid plans of dieters always go astray. They are trying to force a change when the change doesn’t feel good. The inevitable result is a return to old, comforting habits, even when those habits have very little positivity left in them.

  • Copy the list of positive inputs and put it up in a prominent place.
  • Buy a weekly calendar with big spaces to write in.
  • When you begin your day, consult the list and write on the calendar three specific things you intend to do that will add fulfillment to your day.
  • At the end of the day, check off the ones you accomplished.

Positive input is easy to create. For example, under “Play” you can play a game with a child or a friend or by yourself, whatever brings you pleasure. Or under “contact with friends and family” there are endless choices, beginning with a friendly phone call.

The point is to choose something and follow through. Don’t give a thought to changing your dietary habits unless you feel good about the change, such as having frozen yogurt instead of ice cream or sharing one dessert instead of ordering two. Even fast-food chains now have healthier choices. When you become creative and at the same time maintain your positive input program, you are taking a wellness-system approach to coping with life, and that’s always beneficial.

 

What a PLU number can teach you about fruit and vegetable safety.

health, mental health, nutrition, weight, wellness

You know those annoying stickers you have to peel off before eating your fruit and veggies. They actually educate you how the food was grown, safely or not. If you’ve ever bought produce from a grocery chain, you’ll recognize the ones I’m talking about. They usually have a a bar code on them for scanning and a PLU code, which helps your friendly neighborhood cashier identify what type of produce you’re buying.

The PLU is the “price lookup” number and identifies the fruit or veggie, it also helps to identify something else: how the produce was cultivated. By correctly reading this code, you can tell if the fruit was genetically modified, organically grown or produced with chemical fertilizers, fungicides, or herbicides

The story behind where your fruits and vegetables actually came from has been right under your nose all along! You just have to know how to analyze the labels and the PLU number. It’s actually a lot easier than you’d imagine

Here’s the basics of what you need to know about the truth behind PLU codes.

  1. If there are only four numbers in the PLU, this means that the produce was grown conventionally or “traditionally” with the use of pesticides. The last four letters (or only four, in this case) of the PLU code are simply what kind of vegetable or fruit you’re buying. An example is that all bananas are labeled with the code of 4011.
  2. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “8”, this tells you that the item is a genetically modified fruit or vegetable. Genetically modified fruits and vegetables have been tampered with in an unnatural way; essentially, produce that has been genetically modified was created in a lab or over decades of artificial selection, and cannot be found in nature. A genetically engineered (GE or GMO) banana would be: 84011
  3. If there are five numbers in the PLU code, and the number starts with “9”, this tells you that the produce was grown organically and is not genetically modified. An organic banana would be: 94011

 

If you’re looking to be hyper aware of what fruits and vegetables have been treated with pesticides and other chemicals and which have not, you’ll want to check out the homepage for the Environmental Working Groups. The EWG has compiled two lists to help consumers identify which produce is generally cleaner and which produce is generally tampered with; the Clean Fifteen and the Dirty Dozen.

 

The Top 5 for the “Clean Fifteen” produce are:

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet Corn
  3. Pineapple
  4. Cabbage
  5. Sweet Peas (Frozen)

The Top 5 for the “Dirty Dozen” produce are:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Apples
  3. Nectarines
  4. Peaches
  5. Celery