As a trainer, clients are always asking me if there are little adjustments they can make to their food to make a significant difference. My answer is absolutely. Sometimes the little changes are what lead to the long-term sustainable changes, which in turn keep you on the direct path to a healthier life. Here are 4 favourite, easy changes that you can implement TODAY!
1. Food prep
I know you’ve heard this 4929048 times, but there is a VERY valid reason as to why – it works. Preparation is key. Think about it. How many times have you pulled into a fast food drive thru not because you want the food, but because it’s convenient? Surprisingly, most of the time, it is a choice we make based on convenience not taste (sometimes it’s extreme hunger, but I’ll touch on that a little later on). Convenience in itself is a desirable option.
The best way to avoid making bad choices is to ensure that the better choices are more desirable. Not only will food prep allow you to achieve your fitness goals but it will contrary to popular opinion, save you a ton of money.
Now, if you were to google ‘How do I food prep?’ right now, you would find a plethora of information, much of which would be very specific instructions. If this is your first time food prepping, don’t worry about weighing foods per say, just prepare your ingredients for each meal so they are there. Baby steps are key and food prepping for the first time can be incredibly overwhelming.
So, have your ingredients ready and set aside for every meal for the next 5-6 days. That food is there and needs to be consumed, don’t you dare think about wasting that! Beautiful and organic produce is almost a commodity in today’s day and age, so find meals that you enjoy creating and consuming.
2. Eat on a smaller plate
Cue everyone rolling their eyes. Ok! Give me a second. Who’s heard the phrase ‘Your eyes are bigger than your stomach’? Raises both hands. More often than not, food consumption becomes a bit of a challenge for me. Give me 4 plates full of food, tell me to eat it all and I’ll do my best. I love challenges; I crave challenges, I LIVE for challenges. Subconsciously, the majority of us are like this when it comes to plated food. We feel this responsibility to finish every last piece of food on our plate. Guess what? You don’t have to. Sometimes eating everything on the plate can do more harm than good, particularly when you’re rolling around on the bathroom floor 4 hours later.
This phenomenon is called ‘The Large Plate Mistake’, no I’m not joking and yes I’m well versed in this. Let’s talk about the most obvious strategy to combat overeating; you make your portion smaller. Yes, this definitely works, but to a hungry human eye, just seeing a smaller portion on a bigger plate makes you go for 2nd, 3rd and 4th servings. By simply putting your smaller portion on a smaller plate, subconsciously you don’t feel cheated.
If you’re interested in the science behind this theory (there is a lot!) I implore you to research the studies conducted by Professors Brian Wansink and Koert van Ittersum. They argue that changing our environments by replacing dinnerware is a better solution. We can take advantage of this visual "trick" by manipulating the dinnerware we use to serve various foods. Healthy foods such as fresh vegetables should be served in larger plates to encourage consumption, while less healthy foods should be served from smaller plates to trick our sweet tooth into feeling satisfied with less. (Giblin, 2012)
3. Eat when you’re hungry
For some this may sound like common sense, for others this may sound completely crazy. I’m a big believer in listening to your body. Our bodies give us signals for reasons; if your body is signaling hunger, PLEASE listen. This is when this theory becomes a bit of a misconception and what I want to clarify. Fueling your body with food doesn’t always mean you need to rush to the kitchen and prepare an extravagant dinner, this could just simply mean grabbing a piece of fruit. This is some kind of macronutrient-balanced snack to temporarily satisfy your hunger until your next bigger meal.
Some people will argue that you need to stick to consistent and regimented eating schedules in order to regulate your metabolism - but know that just like our lives, our body’s schedule spontaneously changes everyday. Many things need to be taken into consideration, changes inside our bodies, but changes within our daily lives that don’t allow this consistency and that is perfectly ok. The main reason that I encourage people to eat when they’re hungry is that it avoids overeating.
Overeating predominately occurs when we are hungry! Science indicates that we will overeat by 25% in a meal we consume when we’re already in a hungry state. Don’t forget that weight loss is energy in and energy out, overeating more calories than you burn is what inevitably leads to weight gain. (Quality of food is also important, but I’ll get to that soon).
Think of a time when for whatever reason, you haven’t been able to eat until the very end of the day. You rush home and the only thing within reach is a big handful of grapes, you grab them and eat them, realizing that it is the most majestic tasting food you have ever eaten. This is when your body has slipped into a state of deprivation and extreme hunger, at that stage, anything will taste glorious.
When our brains are glycogen depleted, you will crave sugar more than anything else, which is why we reach for the naughty foods. Set yourself up for success. Ensure you have fuel on hand to keep yourself running at optimum energy.
4. Don’t eat in front of your TV or computer
As tempting as it is to grab your dinner and put on a new episode of Real Housewives, do everything you can to avoid this. Have you noticed how easy it is to make it to the end of a Tim Tam packet or bag of chips in a season finale? Me too. Funnily enough, our emotions are more correlated with our appetite than you may think. How many times have you been eating your roast chicken for dinner and a Dominos pizza ad pops up on the TV advertising cheap happy hour pizzas? TV has a funny, intelligent way of emotionally altering our taste buds. Furthermore, technology blocks our satisfaction so we are more focused on what is playing out on our screens, rather than the taste of the food and worse, how much we’re consuming.
This rule also goes for eating in front of your computer on a work break. Did you know your workstation has 400 times more bacteria than a bathroom? There are countless more reasons for not eating your food in front of a TV or computer screen.
These are small but very feasible changes that will allow you to make better decisions. If you need to, take small steps and incorporate one at a time. If you have any questions, send me a message. Always here to help!