Three Ways To Make Any Nutrition Plan Easier To Follow
The Temptations are more than an incredible Motown band. Temptations are also something that can derail your best intentions when starting a nutrition plan. How can we avoid this?
I once heard someone say "if you don't want to cheat on your wife, don't spend your weekends at the Playboy Mansion."
A bit crass? Perhaps. But it's still practical advice. Why purposely put yourself into a situation where you might have to fight temptation?
In a similar vein, I can tell you this: if your pantry looks like a candy store, you'll probably never succeed with healthy eating. Sure, there's always an exception - someone with no taste buds who's also a level 12 Shaolin Monk. Generally though, this doesn't work for most people, especially if they've had trouble being consistent before.
You'll be able to control yourself sometimes, but many times you won't. This turns into a slippery slope. Worse still, you may feel guilty and out of control, which usually leads to more bad decisions.
THE TROUBLE WITH PROCESSED AND CONVENIENCE FOODS
That's because processed foods are designed in their taste and convenience to draw you in. Imagine if every time you wanted some chips you had to slice the potatoes and stand over a pot of hot oil while they cook to make sure they don't burn. I'm pretty sure 99% of you would never eat chips again. That's just too much effort.
The problem with many unhealthy treats is that they're so amazingly tasty, they make us feel happy, and they're incredibly convenient. This is a dangerous combination! If I forget my lunch at home, how easy is it to grab a protein bar (which is usually filled with sugar and low quality ingredients) and a bag of chips? It takes no time, is pretty cheap, and tastes decent.
THE TROUBLE WITH WILL POWER
Don't make life so hard. Realise that your will power (along with everyone else's) isn't the most reliable - it kind of sucks actually - and that counting on it to keep you away from the deliciously unhealthy convenience foods that ultimately leave you sapped of energy and overweight isn't much of a game plan. Then find ways to make it easier to eat healthy meals than unhealthy ones on a day to day basis.
Here're some practical steps to help make any nutrition plan easier to follow:
Step 1: Keep Junk Out Of Your House
If certain foods don't fit with your goals, don't set up a daily (hourly?) clash with your will power. That never works.
When you want to prevent a kid from eating all the cookies, you put them on the tallest shelf in the house where it's physically impossible for the trouble maker to get to - until they get smart and learn to climb. When you don't want your dog to get into the treat bag, you lock it up in a room that it can't break into - otherwise it'll go on a rampage and eat until it barfs.
But for some reason, when you can't help eating Doritos, you buy a bag and tell yourself that you'll just have a few.
After the bag is empty and you're licking the Doritos dust off your fingers, it's time to recognise that the strategy of "I'll just have one and save the rest for another time" clearly doesn't work.
so... If you don't want to eat it, don’t bring it into your home or office.
If you think you’re going to resist those Magnum Ice Cream Bars - the ones with the caramel - in the freezer after a tough day at work, you can’t. Let's be honest, no one can. Plus your boss yelled at you today even though you did a great job on the big project, so you totally deserve a little pick-me-up.
You've got to know that these treats are specifically engineered to be insanely delicious. They light up the reward centers in our brain just like sex, drugs and all the fun stuff people can get addicted to.
When you're sitting on your couch and get a craving for a cupcake, having to actually go out, drive to a store and pay money for one is a pretty significant barrier to action. Compare that to walking 10 steps to the fridge and shoving it directly into your pie hole. The second one is a whole lot easier. Use that to your advantage. Insulate yourself from unhealthy foods in your day-to-day life by keeping them out of your home, office, etc. That way you won't have to use your will power to resist all the bon-bons you keep at home every second of every day.
STEP 2. Get Rid Of The Junk You Have Hanging Around Now
Throw it out or give it away. And no, don’t hold onto those 2 boxes of cookies because you don’t want to waste food, or because your Mom baked them and gave them to you for your birthday, or because they were on sale and you love a deal. None of that matters. You control what you put in your mouth and if you know that you don't want to to eat something, take action.
If you really want to make change, call yourself out on this craziness. Get rid of the unhealthy foods today. No lame-ass excuses. No guilt.
Step 3. Learn How To Treat Yo-Self Mindfully
It's a beautiful summer day. The sun's out. The birds are chirping. You're going on a sweet date with your boo and you're going to treat her to an ice cream. OK. No problem. I feel you. Got to keep it sexy.
[By the way, if you live in Toronto, I recommend Ed's Real Scoop. Those guys make incredible ice cream and you can have unlimited samples to test all the flavours before deciding!]
There’s nothing wrong with going buck wild on a delicious food experience once in while. My advice is this: just make sure that what you're eating isn't an accident. Take responsibility, know the trade-off(s) involved, and make a decision. I'm not here to take away your doughnuts, chocolate or caramel-mocha-frappuccinos if you really want them. It's your life, and there's no right or wrong. This isn't an ethical dilemma. It's just food.
But just take a step back for a second to be honest about what you want, why, and if it fits with the trajectory you want in your life.
How often you opt for a treat will depend on how you want to balance your health and fitness against the enjoyment you get from having delicious, unhealthy foods. Want to be ripped or a great athlete? Eating a 10 stack of pancakes every day probably isn't going to get you there. Are you OK with being slightly overweight but still able to eat what ever you want? Great, go for it.
Before You Enter Treat-Town, Have a Plan to Keep Yourself Under Control
My rule of thumb is this: pick up a single serving of your bon-bon of choice and enjoy the hell out of it. Don’t bring any home with you. Keep your environment safe from temptation.
Listening to the Temptations is totally OK though. Encouraged, actually.
Now It's Time To Put This Advice Into Practice
Here's the task: don't bring food into your house that you know isn't on your diet or that you know you can't be trusted around.
In the next instalment, I'll cover three more strategies that make it easier to eat healthy foods than it is to eat unhealthy foods - even on the go.
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