To finish off the ‘getting healthy’ theme of my posts the last couple of weeks, it’s time to talk about food!
Personally, I’ve never had a very healthy relationship with food. In the fourth grade, some little brat flicked my thighs and told me they jiggle. And I’ve been on a roller coaster of eating habits ever since. It’s weird when you become self-aware.
These days, when I’m anxious or stressed, I tend to gravitate to chips, cookies, french fries (especially poutine), and pasta covered in cheese to feel better about my situation.
When I get tired of letting food win, I tend to go too far and end up so hungry that all I can think about is food. R.I.P. concentration!
None of this is real pretty. Fortunately, for 5 years I was able to eat like a normal person using a few tricks I’ve picked up over my life. I would highly recommend any of these strategies to people who know that the struggle is real!
1. Food Prep, Don’t Meal Prep
You’ve all seen the pictures on Instagram, 14 neatly organized Tupperware boxes – lining a fridge – filled with grilled chicken and veggies for lunches and dinners all week. These people seem like organizational gods!
The problem is, meal prepping isn’t very realistic for most people, so don’t feel bad if your fridge doesn’t look like a commercial for Ziploc. What if you don’t want to eat the same thing every day? What if you don’t want a particular meal at a particular time? You deserve flexibility!
Instead of planning out your exact meals, take a couple hours on your weekend to cut up some raw veggies (e.g. celery, carrots, peppers) roast a few things that you wouldn’t eat raw (e.g. potatoes, squash, chicken), and sauté a whole bunch of kale in teaspoon of melted butter with salt, pepper, and half a lemon.
You don’t really have to do the last part, it’s just damn delicious and can be used for so much. You’re welcome!
Anyway, all of these pre-chopped and precooked veggies will allow you to mix and match meals at your discretion in 5 minutes or less. This has helped me immensely in getting back on track in the last couple weeks.
2. Sub Your Craving With Something You Love More
Lately I’ve been craving sugar non-stop. It doesn’t help that my fridge is currently filled with soda and ciders and my boyfriend is hoarding chocolate from Easter. To make matters worse, I work from home where I can hear those sugary delights mocking me constantly.
Rather than give into whatever evil foods are taunting you, substitute it with something healthy that you truly enjoy. This could be a food or an activity.
The trick is finding something you love enough to make you forget about whatever junk you really want. If you want a brownie and you eat a bag of carrots, you’ll probably end up eating both. Been there.
To satisfy my sweet cravings, I’ve been drinking Tetley Dream tea, which tastes sweet without adding sugar (#ObviouslyNotSponsered). Or I’ll have a big bowl of fruit with a little yogurt.
On the activity side, I’ll take my dog for a nice long walk if it’s a sunny day, or brainstorm ideas for the business I’m building.
Trust me, if you find a substitute you like enough, you start craving the healthy/productive thing instead of the crap.
3. (homemade) Freezer Meals
If you have some extra freezer space, you’re in a position to dominate healthy eating. Making my own freezer meals was my golden ticket to staying healthy for so long. Too bad I live in a tiny apartment with the world’s tiniest freezer these days.
But I digress, here’s how it works:
Every couple of weeks, dedicate an afternoon to making a few large batch recipes. Then, split them into individual serving sizes and freeze. To save space, you can use freezer bags to store your meals. But if you want to be environmentally friendly, buying some reusable containers is the way to go.
After a few months of doing this consistently, you’ll have so much variety in your freezer that you won’t feel like you have to eat out because you’re tired of what’s available. You’ll always have a healthy option on hand to suit your mood.
But heed my warning, never EVER freeze anything with rice in it. Reconstituted rice is a taste so foul it will haunt your dreams!
4. Don’t Let Yourself Reach a Hanger State
I get it, when you’re trying to stop yourself from overeating, sometimes you start testing your self-control by going a little too far the other way. But this is a rookie mistake.
I think back to all the days I would eat lunch at work around noon, then nothing else until I got home around six. Six hours of not eating a crumb. I would get home feeling so irritable and hungry that I would raid the cupboards for any garbage I could find to fill my stomach. And then order myself takeout as well. Not a good time.
If you let yourself get to this point of hunger, all bets are off. You’re bound to eat anything that comes your way.
Don’t let yourself feel like you need to swing from the extreme of overeating to the extreme of depriving yourself of basic nourishment. Completely screw the idea of being on a ‘diet’ unless you want to be miserable.
Listen to your body. If you tend to get hungry throughout the day, pack a few healthy snacks to keep you full, just avoid anything in bulk you know you’ll graze on.
5. Change How You Think About Junk Food
Even though it’s fittingly called ‘junk’ food, it has connotations of being a treat, a needed indulgence, self-care, a reward. If you’re putting a lot of work into other areas of your life, it’s pretty easy to consistently justify something you think about in these terms.
So I think about junk food as placebo food. It’s what I want when I’m ignoring a problem, when I feel stressed, when I feel too exhausted to put in any more effort. Eating crap feels like doing something, because it improves my mood, but it’s a non-solution.
When you acknowledge that there could be something behind the craving, it makes it a lot easier to overcome it.
Boom, Honors Psych degree put to use!
Let me know in the comments if you plan on trying any of these tips, or what you do to eat healthy.