Strategic Eating: Finding the Balance
Because there’s got to be room for wine, coffee and chocolate!
You’ve got an important meeting coming up, so you spend whatever time is needed to research and prepare, in order to put your best foot forward and ensure you’ll nail that deal.
Or perhaps, it’s not a work situation you’ve got on the calendar today, but a busy day carting the kids around from school to soccer to piano, on top of fitting in your workout and getting the household errands taken care of.
In either case, you find at the end of the day that you’ve gotten an incredible amount of work done.
So why is it, then, with your proven ability to plan for anything, that you often find yourself in a circumstance in which you’re suddenly irritable, unfocused and feeling so hungry, anything and everything around you seems fair game to eat?
Why haven’t you taken the time to map out when, what and where you’re going to eat?
Not enough time in the day to actually plan, prep and pack?
You’re not alone; less than 3% of Americans according to a recent study are living a healthy lifestyle (1), and are doing exactly the same thing, day in and day out.
Let’s get real: we can find the time. We always do, for those activities we feel deserve to take precedence.
The key here is to find efficiency and go for quality over quantity.
The same principle applies in sport; train too much and run the risk of overdoing it an ending up with adrenal fatigue or a sports injury. Train less, but more intelligently and find yourself fitter, faster and leaner than ever!
Whether it’s due to:
- a misconception that we need far more time in the day to shop, prep, cook and pack than we actually do
- confusion of just what foods are really good choices and which to avoid
- the feeling that it’s got to be all or nothing and every last morsel of food that passes your lips must have been prepared at home
the end result is the same, finding yourself in the same situation over and over again: a sudden dip in energy due to blood sugar crashing, a feeling of desperation of not knowing what to eat or where to get it, followed by a far less than ideal food choice and consequentially paying the price for ingesting something that’s not really even food.
Here’s where strategy comes in.
I’ve found over the years in my work with clients, that taking a proactive and strategic approach to eating is significantly more effective than attempting to tie oneself to a rigid plan that doesn’t apply to practical life situations.
From an important business lunch to a weekend getaway with your significant other, being conscious of what you plan to put in your body is key in keeping you on the path to achieve, or maintain optimal health.
So how do you do this, exactly?
Let’s make it simple.
Below are my top five steps, in order, of how to begin to create the template of your own strategic eating plan independently.
- Record the Now Eating is not one size fits all. Thus, rather than suggest everyone reading this post do exactly the same thing, your first step to personalize your own plan is to keep tabs on what the current day to day looks like. What are you eating? When? How much? How hungry are you? How full? How much are you moving? Are you sleeping well? Do this as diligently as you can, and as honestly as you can for one single week. Stay in the now, reserve judgement and commit to doing this integral part of what will become the foundation of your customized plan.
- Observe Trends Now it’s time to circle back. Grab a red pen and start making observations. Perhaps you noticed that every day at 3pm, you’re looking for a vanilla latte and a muffin, and upon further investigation you notice that all you’d consumed in the morning was a fresh pressed juice (which you didn’t realize had 60 grams of sugar, no protein and no fat). Red flag to up the fat and overall calories earlier on in the day! You may be surprised at what you discover all on your own.
- Reduce Inflammation Now is the time for the fun to begin. For a mere 3 weeks, promise yourself to stick to a new way of eating. We’ve all heard the statistic about how it takes 21 days to develop a new habit, so let’s do this! Go full anti-inflammatory (call it Paleo if you wish, or plant – based (which an authentic Paleo approach is)) and nix the stuff that can be contributing to inflammation, gut dysfunction and every modern day sickness we’ve created as a result of the food industry. Beans, grains, dairy and white sugar: out the door. At the same time, be mindful to replace those potential triggers with superior, more nutrient dense foods, primarily in season, organic veggies in abundance, mindfully sourced proteins in moderation, ample natural fats and raw, sprouted nuts + seeds (so long as thee are not AI issues at bay) in moderation. Limitless possibilities and only a handful of foods to cut out temporarily. Keep tabs on your macros, too, in order to be sure you’re not accidentally creating a low-fat / low calorie version of an eating regime which might otherwise have been healthy. Remember – we need good fat, a lot more than we’ve been told we do, in order to promote optimal brain function, weight loss and a reduction in many modern day health concerns (2).
- Select What to Reintroduce After three weeks of eating in this manner, don’t be surprised if you’re feeling more focused during the day, pushing more weight at the gym and noticing your belt needs a new notch or two poked into it! But still, there’s that little devil on your shoulder reminding you it’s been almost a month since that piece of cake, that beer or the imported cheese you love so much. What to do? Go for it! With the exception of those who have a diagnosed illness precluding them from eating certain foods (ie – if you have Celiac, its never a good idea to reintroduce gluten), using your own body’s responses to help you decide what is or is not a good idea to include now and then is where the empowerment comes in. For example, if, after this three week period, you opt for a scoop of ice cream after dinner and you wake the next morning after a night of restless sleep, pimples on your chin and a bloated belly, that’s your body telling you loud and clear that for you, dairy isn’t a great idea. On the other hand, perhaps you reintroduce that neat mezcal you so love (or two) and experience no untoward sensations. Here’s where the positive mindset is crucial: this is not a doom and gloom about having a few things to avoid. Rather, it’s the knowledge that you can proactively select foods that you know will make you thrive and avoid the ones you know will make you feel ill. Why choose to make yourself feel anything less than vibrant?
- Factor in that 10% Finally, here is where the strategy comes in. You know which foods work best for you, and which ones you’ve got to be sure to steer clear of. Now, the last step is to get the wheels turning on your planning. Learning when to add more starch versus fat (such as on a Friday evening when you’ve got a long bike ride the next morning compared to a long day in the office) or how to gracefully order off the menu when you’re at dinner with colleagues are just two of many examples of how thinking ahead can mean the difference between continuing along the path you’ve forged to achieve your health goals and taking several steps back, ending up feeling irritated, puffy and more likely to throw caution to the wind in the form of an ice cream sundae.
Ultimately, in today’s world with a plethora of misinformation at our fingertips and confusing advice coming from sources with ulterior motives, it’s up to each and every one of us to do our homework and get back to basics.
Eat Food. And Move.