My Food Rules

Discovering the path the health by creating my own rules

Archive for the category “Ask Yourself”

Ask Yourself: What Are Your Trigger Foods?

There are decadent foods that I can eat, enjoy, and then move on without wanting more.  Cheese falls into this category.  I buy small quantities of great cheese at the market, savor it in tastes, and rarely overeat.

And then there are foods where one taste is like opening the flood gates.  Eating a single slice of banana bread with fruit or an egg for breakfast would be reasonable.  But put a loaf of banana bread in front of me and it will be nearly impossible for me to stop at just one piece.

These triggers food can put a serious damper on weight loss efforts.  No matter how well we eat 95% of the time, if that other 5% is spent binging on hoards of food it’s going to be hard to meet weight loss goals.  Here are a few questions to ask yourself to identify and manage your trigger foods:

1.  What foods do you consistently overeat?

My trigger foods are white and fruit breads (wholegrain is fine), milk chocolate, homemade cookies, sweet cereals, ice cream, and corn chips (particularly the lime chips – my god, they are good).   For you they might be Doritos, gummy worms, pretzels, or peanut butter.  They don’t necessarily have to be foods that are bad for you in reasonable quantities.  The goal is to identify the foods that cause you to lose control over your portions, eat more than you planned, and derail your goals.

2. What are your gateway foods?

I love wine.  To me, a great meal is not complete without a glass of red wine.   Turkey and stuffing without Beaujolais Nouveau and it wouldn’t really be Thanksgiving.  While I don’t usually over consume the wine itself, I know that when I’ve had a glass or two of wine, I am more likely to munch on other foods I don’t need.  I’ll find myself eating the leftover slice of bread while cleaning up after the dinner party is finished or running down the street to buy ice cream for dessert.  This is one of several reasons that I no longer consume a glass of wine with dinner every night.  I absolutely still drink wine, just not daily.  Does this happen to you when you consume any foods or beverages?

3.  How can you enjoy your trigger foods without overeating?

This is the third time in this single blog post that I have written about bread.  That gives you an idea of how much I love it.  Particularly toasted in the oven and dipped in olive oil.  My mouth is watering just typing that sentence!  But having an entire loaf of crusty, gushy, fresh bread in the house is a recipe for disaster.  I’m definitely not ready to give up bread, though, so I have learned that I need purchase it in small quantities – one dinner roll from the bakery or a demi-baguette from the grocery store.  When the dinner roll is gone there isn’t an option to eat more – perfect portion control and I still get to enjoy!

Identifying and learning to manage my trigger foods has helped me immensely in becoming healthier and moving towards my weigh loss goals.  I hope it helps you, too!


Ask Yourself: When you do feel bad?

I usually like to focus on the positive, but when it comes to food, I think it’s equally important to examine what makes you feel bad in addition to when you feel your best.  Thinking back on the last month of eating, when have you felt low-energy after a meal?  When has your sleep been interrupted?  When have you just felt blah? My trends are pretty easy to pinpoint – overconsumption of sugar and refined flour are the biggest culprits.  Alcohol is another, particularly wine.  If I don’t consume any alcohol, I nearly always sleep through the night.  With even one glass of wine at night that percentage plummets.   More than a glass and I wake up dehydrated and with acid reflux.  It’s awesome.  I love wine and sometimes decide it is worth the side effects, but I have stopped drinking a glass of wine with dinner on a nightly basis.

Now back to the sugar and flour.  Hot cross buns are a traditional Easter treat in Australia.  Being American, this was a new food to me (if you would have asked me two months ago, I would have told you that Hot Cross Buns was the first song I learned to play on my recorder in fifth grade!) and I wanted to taste – and taste I did.  Hot cross buns are sweet cinnamon and raisin doughy goodness that only improves when toasted and covered in butter.   Hot chocolate chip buns with Nutella aren’t bad either.  This wasn’t just a one-day affair – hot cross buns showed up at work every day the week preceding Easter.  Oh’ and there were chocolate eggs daily as well.  By the end of the week I felt like I needed to go on a vegetable juice fast to rid my bod of the hot cross buns and Cadbury chocolate toxins.

When do you feel this way?  Choose to eat these foods sparingly and try to remember the motivation to feel your best when saying no.  It’s not easy and I am still working on making the right choices, but I’m always rewarded when I do!

Ask Yourself: When do you feel your best?

I originally created My List of meals and snacks to have a quick reference of healthy meals so that when I didn’t have time to think about what I was cooking for dinner I had a menu full of healthy choices.  Deciding what made it on The List and what might be better saved for a meal of indulgence was somewhat about fat, fiber, and protein, but it was even more about what foods make me feel good and what I find satisfying – and delicious!

I know that I need some protein at every meal otherwise I will go off the deep end with carbs.  But I also know that a high-protein diet, particularly one high in meat, leaves me feeling blah.  Legumes are a wonderful thing for me – high in protein and fiber, but not so much roughage to mess with the digestive system.  Fruits or veggies are a must at every meal.  I often modify my recipes to include more vegetables – for example, soup might call for onions, carrots and celery and I will add swiss chard, zucchini, and red peppers to the mix.  I also know that I need to feel full from each meal so that I’m not reaching for a snack 30 minutes after I’m finished eating.

Keeping this in mind, I started to create My List.  Breakfast is often oatmeal with cinnamon, blueberries, banana, and walnuts or scrambled eggs with fruit.  Some of my favorites for dinner are Moroccan spiced tomato stew with chickpeas and lamb meatballs, chicken stuffed with spinach and feta, roasted vegetables with chicken koftas (bought from my local market), and chana masala.  These take a fair amount of time and work, so I also have salad with grilled chicken, soup, and veggie burgers on my dinner list.  Lunch is usually leftovers from dinner the previous night.  Snacks include plain yogurt with fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and veggies with hummus.  Eating these foods keeps me going, makes me feel good, and most importantly, I look forward to eating them!

What are you eating when you feel your best?  When do you have the most energy?  Feel the most satisfied?   Use your answers to create your own list of meals or perhaps to start discovering your food rules.

Ask Yourself: What is your motivation?

I’m a firm believer that before embarking on any purposeful life change, we should take a moment (or more) to think about the driver behind the change.  For weight loss, the initial motivator is often an event.  Are you in an upcoming wedding?  Do you have a class reunion this summer?  Sometimes the motivator is an immediate reaction to unpleasant news, like getting your cholesterol levels back from the doctor.  While these are good initial motivators to lose weight, I urge you to dig deeper.  What do you really want?  From this perspective you may be able to define how your eating positively impacts your life, creating long-term motivation for change.

A few years ago I went to the North Shore of Lake Superior with a few friends for a weekend of outdoors, relaxation, and socializing.  One afternoon we decided to hike to a nearby vista overlooking Lake Superior.  It was 3 miles round trip with a gradual incline the entire way to the overlook.  Most of us were healthy and regular exercisers and had no problems with the hike.  One of my friends, however, was significantly overweight and did not exercise.  He made it to the top, but it wasn’t easy.   That evening at dinner we were talking about our highlights of the weekend.  My friend stated that his highlight was completing the hike because he really wasn’t sure if he was going to make it.  I was simultaneously floored with feelings of pride in him for overcoming the challenge and the fearful thought “I never want that to be me”.  This is my motivation for getting and staying healthy.  I want to be able to hike to the peaks of mountains on vacation, take long bike rides on the weekends, and keep up with my nephew when he visits.  This is a motivation that doesn’t come and go with seasons or events.  It is life-long.

What is your motivation?

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