August 03, 2015
Have you ever stopped to think about how much time and effort you spend thinking, planning and actually preparing what you eat?
Perhaps you fall into the same trap as many of the women I work with in the sense that you end up spending more time worrying about what you are going to eat rather than actually planning and preparing your meals.
Today we are going to talk about some of my favourite tools to combat this challenge of wasting precious time worrying about what to eat. We can all agree that making healthy choices, lean choices and choices that support our goals is our main focus when it comes to food, yes? Well I’d like to take that one step further. I want you to find simple work-arounds so that you do not need to squander valuable mental energy on worrying about if your food choices are good or not. Our goal is to shift our main focus toward stress-free strategies for lean, healthy eating.
We need to understand that our mental energy is one of our most valuable possessions. When it runs out like it tends to at the end of the week, or after stressful work deadlines or a crazy day with the kids, our decision making capacity is extremely unreliable. It’s no wonder that many of us report making our worst food decisions at the end of the day or on a Friday afternoon when our mental energy is often at its’ lowest point. Rather than spending our valuable mental energy worrying about our food choices, we need to understand that worry costs us energy. We want to conserve our mental energy so we have better decision making power around food no matter which day of the week.
Here’s one thing for you to consider: Does worrying about what you eat actually help you make better choices? Or is it mental aerobics that we engage in because we think it will help us to stay more accountable?
I’d say it’s the latter. For you, my educated readers, you know what to eat. If I put three different meals in front of you, I am confident that you could pick out the leanest, healthiest option. So why do we spend so much of our time and energy doing this mental dance?
Should I have the burger, what about the bun? How about sodium in that stirfry? Well I’m not so sure about red meat, I heard it’s bad for you. And a boiled egg in a chopped salad, that’s bad too isn’t it? Maybe I’ll have a salad, but that dressing seems really creamy. Maybe the lettuce wraps then. Ugh. I don’t know. I’ll just go for the pizza.
Let’s jump in with some concrete tools you can start using today. I’d like you to get honest with yourself about how much mental energy you are currently spending on your food choices. We’ve got to cut that down and streamline our decision making process. This helps us to worry less and make better decisions more often.
1. Recognize your worrying patterns.
If you’re anything like me then this is how worrying tends to work out in my world: Worry leads to stress. Stress leads to overwhelm. Overwhelm leads to giving up. When I worry about every little detail in my eating strategy, I do not make better decisions around food. I stress more. I get overwhelmed a heck of a lot faster and I throw in the towel and make impulsive decisions.
The first step to breaking this pattern is to admit that worry is not helping us eat leaner. It is a waste of time, and a distraction from actually making a decision. But worrying is a habit and just like any other repetitive action, we get better at what we practice. You may be an awesome worrier from all the practice you’ve had, and in order to give this up, you’ll need a better strategy to make decisions around food.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Remember what happens when we get overwhelmed? Our knowledge and willpower go out the window, so we need a way to cut through the crap and figure out what really matters.
This is why I focus on simple, nutritional strategies each day and eat mostly real, whole food. These are things that now take less that one minute of my time. I know I’m getting protein at every meal. I know that two litres of water is my hydration plan through the day and that at least one meal will have loads of veggies. This is literally where I place the majority of my focus around food.
Yes, I have practiced this simple strategy for a few years now, and remember, we get better at what we practice. So worrying about sodium intake, calories and sugar is not part of my practice.
Without a doubt there will be a few readers questioning how we can make strides with our nutrition when we focus on so little. But I think it’s actually the only way. Calorie counting and tracking macronutrients is a massive drain on our mental energy. These strategies work well in the short term and extremely terribly in the long term.
3. A simple strategy is one that lasts.
We know that consistency is the most important aspect of any nutrition plan. If we’ve got the most stellar program that is uber healthy, super lean and nutritionally stacked and we can’t stick with it, then it’s not a good plan for us.
I will pick a simple eating strategy that works in my life over a complicated one that takes all my mental energy every time.
The biggest challenge we will face with adopting the simplicity mindset is distraction. But what about organic food? But what about preservatives? But what about saturated fat? Listen, these things matter. But they don’t matter if you consistently find yourself overwhelmed and heading back to the same old peanut butter on toast because it’s all your brain can handle.
4. Spend less time considering all your options.
Getting stuck in the consideration trap was a common theme for me for a number of years. I would spend time and effort considering all my food options, assessing which choice was best, which menu item had more sodium or calories or grams of fat.
The sneaky part here is that this process is encouraged by many nutrition professionals. Tips including 'search the menu and consider all the options in front of you' are a recipe for disaster. Bringing in multiple choices only leads to more decision fatigue. My strategy these days is that I know I'll be ordering something with a lean source of protein and veggies. This gives me a few options to choose from without having to consider the whole menu.
Sure I'll minimize calories by putting dressing on the side or skipping the croutons on a salad, but this is monkey level decision making for me now. Not because I am better than anyone else or because I know more than I used to, but because I have actively practiced considering less.
Not choosing a strategy is a choice. Not standing for something when it comes to the way you eat is also a choice. My experience has been that when I began to take all the options out of my food decision making process, it became much easier. I made the choice that I would stick to a few easy principles and voila, less worry and so much more energy for good decisions.
5. Draw some lines in the sand.
This is the part when we get serious. What really matters to you when it comes to eating, physical results and your lifestyle? Drawing lines in the sand will help us to make more consistent decisions.
For my girlfriend Vanessa of Organic Please, what really matters to her is getting organic food at every meal. This is her passion, and helps direct every decision she makes.
For me it’s balancing my blood sugar with fibre and protein at every meal. This helps me stay fuller for longer, burn fat more effectively and battle cravings for starch or sugar.
I want you to start to draw lines in the sand. Just a couple lines that you can focus on and consistently execute. This can be tough to do as it is easy to want to draw 100 lines in the sand. I’ll just jump in here again and say our goal is to create stress-free healthy, lean eating strategies, not overwhelming ones.
Start by tapping into your beliefs. Do you believe that eating real food over packaged stuff is where its at? Then get busy doing that.
Do you want to jump onto the protein + veggies at most meals train with me? Get down to the store and into the head space that this is how you eat. Limit distractions and say no to that tempting worry habit.
Alright team, time for you to head on out and get busy making your simple, daily decisions about food. Your health and energy will sky rocket when you quit worrying and start making more simple decisions with less mental aerobics.