How to Form Healthy Eating Habits for Weight Loss: Proactive vs. Reactive Thinking

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Guest Blog written by Peter Han, a personal trainer and club manager at Anytime Fitness in Santa Clarita, California.

How often do you think about your thoughts about eating?

Probably sounds like a weird question, huh?

So often we eat and drink mindlessly…until the scale creeps up or our pants stop slipping on so easily. It is then that our body reminds us of what we consumed when we weren’t thinking about it.

After 12 years of consistently working out, I still have to adjust and readjust my thought process when it comes to nutrition.

Let me explain what I mean…

Reactive Thinking

The way we eat is habitual, shaped by necessity, routine, schedule, and values. We all have tendencies – good and bad – like skipping breakfast, snacking at work all day, or Friday martinis after work.Then we wonder how we gained weight, or why we can’t lose it, or assume our bodies “just weren’t meant” to look the way we truly wish they would.

Without an intentional approach to food, we are left reacting with guilt, regret, or painful hours of cardio for those calories we didn’t need or intend on. This is what I mean by “reactive thinking”. man staring at donut

Does This Sound Familiar?

Let’s say your food choices weren’t so great on Monday. You ate more than you should have and scarfed a few cookies that spiked your calorie count. Feeling badly about it on Tuesday, you skip breakfast, eat a small lunch, and have yogurt for dinner. Now your food choices have become a reactive measure rather than a predetermined choice made with intent. It’s as if food has the control over you, leaving you with shame (and a growling stomach), rather than you feeling empowered through choices.

If you eat less one day because your calorie intake was too high the day prior, when the weekend hits you’ll believe it’s okay to overeat because you “ate clean” during the week. But this disables any healthy habit from forming. Your thought process with food will not change, and consequently, neither will your weight.

When this happens with my clients, I tell them to go right back to their normal eating before the “splurge” – continuing to practice good eating habits and food choices with intent, being fully aware. Don’t allow the previous day’s calories to determine your calorie intake for the current day. This will not help change your behavior with food – and that is what must take place in order for lasting results to occur.

Proactive Thinking

If getting or staying fit is important to you, you must start thinking about what you eat, when you eat, and why you eat. This proactive awareness will reveal your habits and foods that you gravitate towards. Then you can begin making wise choices that put you in control and set you up for success.

fitness couple

For instance, maybe you find that you end up eating takeout multiple nights a week because you’re too hungry to cook after work; or you down a bag of chips late at night when you’re watching TV to unwind from a stressful day.

Once you can clearly see your tendencies, it becomes easier to prevent poor choices and change your patterns. And as they say, “Knowing is half the battle.”

So How Do You Apply This?

Here is what I do with my clients that I recommend for you:

1. Write it Down. Track what you’re eating – the time, type, and amount of food consumed. (You can also use an app like MyFitnessPal to take the hard calculating work out of it for you.) This will document exactly what your habits are for you to see and learn from.

2. Set a Goal. Start the process of eating “proactively”. The analogy I typically use with my clients is this: When we drive, we put on our seatbelts, check the rearview mirrors before changing lanes, and stay within a certain speed limit – we drive with intent. There is an end destination in mind, so we choose to act accordingly with the result we desire; in this case arriving safely at the determined destination.

Once a goal is set, whether it’s losing weight, gaining muscle, or running a faster mile, everything you do is going to either help or hurt that goal. So eat with intent just like you drive with the intent of being safe. healthy breakfast food prep

3. Plan Your Meals. Preparation is your biggest ally when it comes to changing your food habits. It’s much easier to say no to pizza in the office if you have your lunch next to you, packed and ready to go. I’m not saying it makes it easy, but it does make it easier.

When you wake up (or the night before), plan your entire day’s worth of calories. This doesn’t mean you have to cook everything you eat. It means you plan ahead, with full awareness of what you will consume that day, and what you should avoid. Pack some meals and keep snacks on hand so you’re never stuck eating whatever is around out of desperation.

Renew Your Habits

The act of replacing a habit is not easy to do. You’ll hit some road blocks, and some days will be great and some days won’t be so great. These steps are not concrete and definitely not a one-size-fits-all method.

But increasing awareness, intentionally planning your food, and practicing those habits will help renew your mindset and change your relationship with food.

However tough it may be at times, if you plant the right seeds of hard work and consistency, you’ll reap the fruits of your labor.

Check out the video below for more discussion on this topic

photo credit: DOUGHNUT via photopin (license)

Motivation That Works

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What’s motivating you?

It may be the difference between success and failure.

In the book of Matthew, we are told, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” changed priorities

Meaning, if we put the most important things first, the rest will fall into place. We don’t have to give up one for the other, but in the pursuit of the main goal, all of the other little goals will be achieved as well.

The same can be said of our fitness goals. Just hang with me for a minute, I’ll tie it all together….

Sidetracked by the Small Goals

In the pursuit of righteousness, it’s easy to get sidetracked with paying bills, doing good works, performing well at work, loving people well, being involved at church, etc. These very good things can distract us from seeking first the Kingdom – yet if we seek God alone, the rest of these concerns will take care of themselves as we live from a place of trust and peace, and not worry.

Rather than try to become more like God, as we spend more time focusing on Him and being in His presence, we naturally start to be more like him without trying.

I think we can look at our health, fitness, and body image the same way. Most of us (at least women) are fairly consumed with the way we look. It distracts us and often brings frustration and distress. The more we focus on getting skinny, losing fat, and avoiding certain foods, the more discouraging it can feel.

Most of my life, my workouts and eating habits have been motivated by being thin and looking good. Which is fine, it’s not bad to want that. But it shouldn’t always be the main thing, and it’s exhausting to always be fighting to achieve outward perfection.

A More Powerful Motivation

You know what has created the biggest, most lasting change for me – not only physically, but mentally? Pursuing strength and setting goals to improve my level of fitness. dana linn bailey

About a year and a half ago I started watching Dana Linn Bailey videos on YouTube. Her ability to lift crazy amounts of weight, her physique, and her fun attitude with the sport helped to reignite a passion. The combination of her appearance and motivation to  work hard and accomplish amazing things inspired me. It showed me how little I was really doing at the gym at that point in my life, and I began approaching it with a “DLB mindset.”

When I went into the gym, I started to focus on new machines, how much I could lift, how I could push my body to new levels. That became my focus – the strength, the overall improvement – and the rest started to fall into place. Muscles and veins started to appear where I’d never had them before!

Instead of obsessing about food I could and couldn’t have, I desired more healthy foods and the unhealthy ones lost appeal. I had a physical goal in mind and wanted to eat in a way that would increase my muscle mass and give me energy. Sugar, alcohol, and processed junk were not the way to do that.

Lasting Change

The better I ate, the better I felt. So much so that feeling great became almost more of an “addiction” than yummy food. It stopped feeling like a battle to overcome the temptations of food – a freedom I never thought I’d experience.

My body changed so much in this season that I began getting compliments and questions on a regular basis. Yet my primary focus was, for once, not on how skinny I could get. As I pursued the “first things” –  strength, athleticism, and accomplishment – the rest fell into place.

Focus Strong not Skinny

Maybe it’s being energetic for your kids, maybe it’s living a long, healthy life, maybe it’s increasing your endurance to run a marathon, or maybe it’s simply proving to yourself that you are capable of more than you think.These are the main goals that put us on a road to lasting change.

Whether it’s physical or spiritual growth or  you’re pursuing, remember to seek first what is most important, and all of the other things will be added to you.

 

 

Fasting for Lasting Change

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Is food your source of comfort?

Many of us struggle to lose weight or achieve the muscle tone we’re looking for due to using food as a coping mechanism. Until you get that figured out, it’s always going to be an up-and-down battle.

I strongly suggest “fasting” for a week or two, only eating natural, healthy foods. Not only is it good for your body and teach you how you actually should be eating, but when you restrict your allowance for more indulgent foods, it can be very revealing about how much we either depend on food, or simply eat mindlessly.

What does fasting do?

When tempted to give in to something unhealthy, we must learn how to find what we’re REALLY looking for that’s going to solve the problem. Food never solves the problem, and only makes things worse. Maybe these are times you should be praying instead, taking your worry or fear to the Lord; maybe you need to call up a friend to talk or work out a problem; maybe it’s going to the gym or maybe it’s journaling.

Be brave enough to dig deep and look and what’s really going on inside of you, feeling unfulfilled or needy.

Try sticking to this list of foods for 1-2 weeks as a way to renew your mind and body. Let it be a sacrifice of worship and a place to learn to trust God, not his gifts….and begin to make changes that will last a lifetime.

You are worth it. 

*If you need help, please contact me. I create very customized meal plans with foods you enjoy that will still allow you to lose weight and/or gain muscle. $80 for a 6-week plan.