Breaking down this healthy life thing one baby step at a time

I know I've posted a lot about my new healthy lifestyle.  I've talked all about how I eat clean and am dropping weight as a result of it.  Let's be real.  When I joined the gym my idea of getting healthy was ordering two things at Taco Bell instead of four or five, portioning my nightly cup of ice cream rather then eating a large container, etc.  So lets talk about how you can start eating clean, and the baby steps you can take to eventually get to where I am.

Cut back on the junk food:

Like I said, when I started my initial response was just to cut down on how much fast food I ordered.  Not to stop eating it.  Then I cut back on how often I went.  THEN I cut it out entirely.  Here is the thing.  If you start really working out, lifting weights, hiking, and being fit at least four to five days a week, your body is going to start asking you for healthier foods and punishing you when you feed it junk food.   I realized really fast when I got serious about my exercise that junk food was not good fuel.  My body made sure I knew it the next day.  What do I consider junk food? Processed, refined, enriched, white sugar, preservative laden food.  If it can last months in your pantry, that's junk food. I still cook muffins, I just cook healthy muffins. I use coconut sugar rather then processed white sugar, I use whole wheat flour in place of that other white bleached flour.  I use coconut oil in place of vegetable oil.  I use chia seeds in place of eggs.   We still have dessert, only now instead of cookies and ice cream I serve vanilla coconut milk yogurt with apples roasted in cinnamon, or fresh peaches.  My kids think it's delicious and it hits the sweet spot.  I also keep a bag of vegan chocolate chips in the freezer.  If I'm really hurting for chocolate I pour out a small handful of those and eat them one at a time until the craving is gone.  Instead of Lays potato chips if I need a treat I have edamame chips.  They are super good and have better ingredients.

Fix your snacking

One of the best things I did was change how I snack and how often.  I eat all day long.  Seriously I eat every one to two hours.  I eat quality food though.  Most people have a tendency to think "healthy snack, I will grab a banana or an apple."  Later they still want to snack.  I don't know about you personally but this is what I learned about me.  I need the motion of snacking.  The movement of popping chip after chip into my mouth.  The action of continuous snacking.  Think of how many Cheetos you can put away in twenty minutes.  So I got creative with my snacks.  At the start of every week I prepackage the following; edamame, almonds, cashews, banana chips, barely roasted zucchini with spices, and sweet potatoes.  All of these things give me the feel of snacking.  A bag with a half a cup of edamame in it can last me twenty minutes of reaching in, popping in one or two edamame, typing a few pages, pop in a few edamame, I get the motion of snacking, without all of the calories, and processed preservative ingredients. Cashews and almonds give me crunch when I need that.  Banana chips give me the sweetness I sometimes crave.  I cut up sweet potatoes small and portion them out, that gives me a sweet flavor also and can be eaten cold also.  Packaging all of you snacks at the start of the week is going to be your biggest fail safe.  No matter how late I am, or how tired I am, I always have time to open the fridge and grab out a few snack bags.  It takes me 2-3 hours on Sunday to prep everything but it saves me every single week from making a bad choice because, "I don't have the time in the morning, I don't have time at work, etc."  I also keep the almonds and cashews at my desk at work.  This way I cannot forget them.  I cannot say, "well I didn't pack a snack today so I'll just have some junk food, or vending machine food."  I make it impossible for me to make an excuse.  I do not keep large quantities of stuff readily available.  This means I don't keep the whole jar of cashew butter at my desk at work.  I portion that out at the start of the week and bring one portion to work with my apple.  This way I don't have the excuse to reach up and have "just one more scoop."  Honestly a lot of this has been theoretically child proofing my food.  Only….I'm idiot proofing it.  If the snacks are there I have to eat those, nothing else.  If I don't have a large quantity of cashews available I cannot over eat them.  If the food is prepped the week before I have no excuse to purchase any other junk food option.  I eat 2-3 snacks a day. This keeps your metabolism going.  It keeps your body working to digest.  Again, I eat often, but it's good clean food.

Move past the 100 calorie mentality.

One of the biggest hurdles is getting over the 100 calorie mentality that food companies have us believing is a great way to live.  So many people trying to "diet" immediately think 100 calorie packs are a great idea.  The only time I advocate a 100 calorie pack is when it's a package of plain almonds.  Go to your pantry now, pick up the box of 100 calorie snacks and read the ingredients.  Read the fat content, the carb content, and the lack of protein in them.  Then, compare that to a clean snack. If you are hell bent on the 100 calorie mentality I've included a chart below that shows you some really good snack ideas that give you 100 calories, but also include good fat, protein, and fewer carbs.

It's more important to put quality food in your mouth then quantity food.  My edamame is 120 calories for a serving. Lets compare this to a 100 calorie pack of Keebler fudge cookies:

                   Edamame      100 calorie pack

Calories     120                  100

Carbs         9g                 16 grams

Fat             5g                  3 grams

Sugar         0g                 7 grams

Protein       10g               1 gram

Sodium       10mg           70 mg

Now lets look at the ingredients:

Edamame: Whole shelled edamame

100 Calorie pack: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamin Mononitrate [Vitamin B1], Riboflavin [Vitamin B2], Folic Acid), Cocoa (Processed With Alkali), Sugar, Vegetable Oil (Soybean, Palm, Palm Kernel, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and/or Cottonseed, Hydrogenated Cottonseed, Palm Kernel, Coconut and/or Palm Oil With Tbhq For Freshness [less than 0.5 G Trans Fat Per Serving]), High Fructose Corn Syrup, Whey, Contains Two Percent or less of Leavening (Baking Soda, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Monocalcium Phosphate), Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 60, Sorbitan Monostearate, Sorbitan Tristearate), Salt, Blue No. 2 Lake, Red No. 40 Lake, Yellow No. 6 Lake, Molasses, Artificial Vanilla Flavor, Peppermint Oil.

What?  What is that? That isn't food.  The edamame has a few more calories, and more fat, but it's a good fat, those are good calories, and look at the protein content.  The edamame will keep you fuller longer and it's a whole clean product.  Red 40 is so awful for you.  Cut this out of your life.  Research it some day, it has horrible effects on children, but mostly it's a straight up chemical. 

If you are going to live healthy, start reading labels.  A small serving of French fries at McDonalds might be lower in calories then a baked sweet potato, but read the ingredients.  What is in those calories?  My baked sweet potato contains just that.  Fast food fries look like this

Ingredients: Potatoes, Vegetable Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Natural Beef Flavor [Wheat and Milk Derivatives]*, Citric Acid [Preservative]), Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate (Maintain Color), Salt.
Prepared in Vegetable Oil: Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean Oil, Hydrogenated Soybean Oil with TBHQ and Citric Acid added to preserve freshness. Dimethylpolysiloxane added as an antifoaming agent.


*Natural beef flavor contains hydrolyzed wheat and hydrolyzed milk as starting ingredients.

This isn't real food.  You shouldn't need a preservative in your snacks.  If you make them weakly they won't go bad.  The point is, your food shouldn't have 10 ingredients unless it's home made food and those ingredients are spices and herbs.  If you start packing clean food, with few ingredients, and no preservatives you will start to see results.  Get out of the mentality that if you buy a bunch of prepackaged low calorie foods that you will see long term lasting results.  You might see results for a little while but it's not maintainable or healthy.  Eventually your body will rebel.  It won't want to digest all of the chemicals, and enriched bleached processed nonsense.  Cleaning up my eating gave me the ability to exercise longer, lift heavier, recover faster, and run farther.  I wake up feeling so much better every single day.  I have more energy.  Life is just plain better 

The final baby step is:

Stop rewarding progress with food

We have got to stop this idea that if you lose ten pounds you can have some ice cream.  If you eat good all week you should be rewarded with a splurge meal.  NO. If you eat good all week and then eat badly on the weekend realize you are eating bad 104 days of the year. How can you expect results?  If you start rewarding yourself with food you are just re-enforcing the bad habits you already had.  Reward a weight loss with new shoes, a massage, a day at the beach.  Anything but food.  Reward a week of healthy eating with a new book, or a new fitness toy.  I've rewarded myself with a Polar watch, new running shoes, new training shoes, ankle straps for kick backs, new workout clothes, etc.  Rewarding with food is a slippery slope.  One bad reward turns into a day of rewards, which turns into a weekend of rewards, which turns into weight gained.  The next thing you know you will be gaining and losing the same five pounds and rewarding yourself for the same thing and it becomes a vicious cycle.  I rewarded a specific weight goals.  For example, when I hit 150 pounds I bought new workout clothes and a pair of trail shoes.  However, when I gained a couple pounds back and then lost them (normal water weight fluctuation) I did not reward hitting 150 again. Most people would, and if you are rewarding with food that adds up.

Hopefully this helps you get on track with a new healthy life.  I realize it often seems like I just woke up and changed my life but I did not.  It took time. Trial and error.  I had to find what worked for me.  I had to figure out how bad I wanted to achieve my goals.  I had to learn that spending three hours on a Sunday cooking and meal prepping was more important then spending "me" time reading, or being lazy.  Give me some feed back.  What other questions do you have?

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