What’s your dietary downfall? Is it snacking? Need to plan better but never get around to it? Or maybe you can’t say “no” when someone brings treats to work.
There’s always something that will challenge our ability to make good choices about food. In this article, I’m going to give you some simple strategies that will help you get more control over your eating and deal with those challenging situations.
To make this advice as useful as possible, I’ve grouped the tips under areas that tend to cause the most problems for women.
If you want to get the most out of this article, choose the area that causes you the most challenge and pick one or two things you can change immediately. Then do something to get the ball rolling (ie. plan your food for the week, make a shopping list or find a new recipe).
For those of you who need it – I’ve shared some tough love at the end of the article.
You don’t have to snack but most women at least need a mid-afternoon snack to get them through the long period between lunch and the evening meal. If you aren’t sure what to have as a snack, here are some tips:
- Treat snacking like a mini-meal so you should always have some protein, carbs and fat. In the least make sure whatever you eat has some protein and then either carbs or fat.
- A coffee isn’t a snack even if it has milk in it. A coffee with some food like nuts or a protein bar is better.
- Buy a protein powder (or even better buy a couple of different protein powders for variety) and use it to make snacks like protein balls, muffins or shakes.
- I regularly post easy, quick protein recipes on this Pinterest board if you need inspiration:
- If you don’t have time to make your own snacks, there are so many great options popping up in stores everywhere. Read labels though! Snack bars/balls often have way more sugar than you need. Generally the less ingredients (and sugar) the better. If you can’t recognize stuff listed on the label as food, pick something else.
- When in doubt, a piece of fruit and some nuts or nut butter makes an easy satisfying snack.
After School Snacking
If you are a mother, you might find after school challenging. You’ll be tempted to pick at the food you are feeding your kids when they come home ravenous. Here’s how to deal with after school snacks:
- Feed your kids better so you won’t have all that junk food around to tempt you. If you’re not supposed to eat it, why is it ok to feed it to your kids? Why not start teaching them good habits early?
- Pick a snack that you have after school with the kids so you aren’t mindlessly grabbing anything and everything. Plan and prep it in advance so it’s ready for you.
- Have your snack and then that’s it. No nibbling on food as you prep dinner. Those extra bites will add up really quickly.
- Make a big batch of protein muffins or healthy cookies on the weekend and freeze them in individual serves. Then you can take them out each morning so they are ready for after school (these make great additions to lunch boxes as well!). See my Pinterest board (above) for easy ideas.
I always advise my clients not to panic about eating out – after all, you need to enjoy yourself otherwise you’ll never stick to eating healthy in the long run. It’s actually pretty easy to make better choices when you are eating out but still enjoy your meal:
- Go for protein. Just pick whatever looks like it has a lot of protein on the menu (ie. steak and veggies over pasta or risotto). You’ll still have an awesome meal but you won’t feel guilty about it.
- Try to choose something that doesn’t have a lot of sauce because it can be full of sugar, fat and unnecessary calories.
- Always, always, always ask for dressings and sauces on the side.
- Menus aren’t set in stone. Ask them to customize your meal. The other day I got a Fit Slam at Denny’s which normally comes with an egg muffin and bacon. I asked for the Fit Slam with extra egg whites and whole grain rice. No muffin or bacon. And they were fine with it.
- Ask for baked potatoes not-loaded – get the toppings on the side if you really want them.
- Don’t eat the free bread on the table. Unless it’s absolutely amazing fresh warm bread, it’s probably not that great anyway.
- If you end up with a huge meal, remember you don’t have to eat everything just because it’s on your plate. Take some of your meal away and have it for leftovers.
- Try to be the one to choose the restaurant so you know you’ll have something you can eat.
- Look at menus online before you go and figure out what you’ll eat. Then don’t get sidetracked when you get there.
- Relax and enjoy eating out. If you do it often, it’s more important that you implement ways to manage the extra calories you’ll get from eating out. If it’s only on a special occasion then enjoy it, share a dessert rather than having it all to yourself, only have one glass of wine and then get back on track the next meal/day!
Eating At Work
Don’t let your office environment be your downfall. It can be hard to go against what everyone else is doing, but if you want a better body (than most of them have!) you need to stand up for yourself and learn to start saying “no” more often:
- Just because someone brought cake to work doesn’t mean you need to eat it. Don’t be afraid to decline things politely.
- Bring your own snacks in for coffee time so you aren’t watching everyone else eat and feeling left out.
- Stop nibbling at work and have a set time for eating. Every time you eat it should be a meal, not just a nibble here and there.
- If you feel like something between meals, sip on a green or herbal tea. Good quality green teas can actually suppress your appetite and sometimes it is more about having something while working and less about what it is – so see if drinking tea works for you rather than mindlessly eating.
- Sandwiches are easy but salads, Buddha bowls, and leftovers are so much more satisfying, nutritious and figure friendly.
- If you regularly go out for lunch, see my tips above for eating out.
Eating With Family
Eating with your own family (ie. hubby and kids) is more controllable than eating with extended family, but there’s still plenty you can do:
- Some women worry about having to prepare two meals – one for themselves and one for their family. If your nutrition coach/plan requires you to do this, get a new coach/plan.
- If it’s not good enough for you, why is it okay to feed it to your kids? Portion sizes may need to be different and you may need to change the way you cook a little bit, but you should be able to eat with your family.
- Got a family or partner that likes dishes like lasagna and curry? You can still eat these foods just find some healthier recipes. Even fish and chips can work – just have the fish only and make yourself a big salad on the side.
- Your kids (and hubby) might complain at first, but always remember if it’s good for you, it’s good for them too. Stick to your guns.
- Eating with extended family can be more challenging but always remember to go for the protein and veggies (ie. roast and veggies is a perfect option!) and it will be fine.
- When eating at someone else’s place, you can always offer to bring a salad and even pack it with some protein like boiled eggs and nuts. This will especially go over well at BBQs.
More Useful Tips To Help You Control Your Eating
- Have a go-to after dinner treat if you are craving something. Two squares of dark chocolate and a cup of tea is perfect. If you don’t have a “go-to treat” you’ll risk overeating whatever food happens to be in the house.
- Why do you have to buy cookies, ice cream and candies? When a client tells me she binge ate a box of cookies I always wonder why they were in the house in the first place. Come on. You bought them – who did you think would eat them? Keep them out of the house and you won’t eat them (for more on this see my tough love in the final section of the article).
- Buy serving size packages if you have trouble controlling yourself. They might seem more expensive but they aren’t really if you would end up eating the entire bigger package anyway.
- Weigh your nut butter. A serving size of peanut or other nut butter is a lot smaller than you think and it’s very easy to overeat.
- Omelets make a good, quick and cheap meal anytime of the day. I often hear from women who don’t know what to eat or who don’t feel like making food in the evening, especially when they are on their own and don’t have to make food for anyone else. Omelets are the perfect option!
- Track your food using MyFitnessPal or another calorie counter. You’ll learn a lot about what you eat. Try it for at least 2 weeks.
Now for some tough love
This piece of advice isn’t for the woman who occasionally has a piece of cake for a treat. Rather it’s for those of you who regularly demolish a box of cookies in one sitting and then follow it up with two more days of guilt-ridden binge eating crappy food because “oh well you blew your diet anyway.”
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard someone say they couldn’t help but binge on that box of cookies (ice cream, etc).
Why did you buy the food in the first place?
Obviously, at some point, you intended to eat it.
Control your environment by not buying the food in the first place so you don’t have to choose whether or not to eat it.
What if someone gave it to you?
Well you didn’t have to eat it. You could have put it aside for “later” to be polite and then not eaten it, or at least only had a bite or two of it.
I find it frustrating. If you really want to change, stop buying the junk food in the first place and stand up for yourself and your goals when someone offers you food.
Reality is you are making bad choices because it’s easy and immediately gratifying. Or you are trying to make up for something else that’s missing in your life. I know depression, loneliness, and stress can be triggers for eating and I’m not making light of that at all. But at some point you need to step up and break the cycle.
You say things that make it seem like you can’t help it – but let’s be honest. You just want that box of cookies more than you want a healthy, fit body.
If you’re serious about changing your body, you don’t have to be obsessive about things but you do have to be stronger than that. And I know you are, so get a bit tougher with yourself and stop making excuses. Food can’t control you unless you let it.