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A solid set up for diet success

Posted 11:00 a.m. Tuesday

It turns out, that all you ever needed to know about a solid diet you already learned during preschool in the English nursery tale, "The Three Little Pigs."

In the tale, each pig builds a home, one of hay, one of sticks and one of bricks. A wiley wolf tests the fortitude of each new abode with a hearty blow. The two of hay and sticks fall, and the one of bricks stands the test.

When trying to eat healthy, some build a house of hay or sticks that quickly surrenders to the gales of life.

Here is how to build a solid set up.

1. Ditch dieting

Dieting refers to programs that dictate eating foods much different than our typical fare, that restrict food groups or drastically reduce calories.

Dieting pros

Dieting can lead to temporary weight loss and can expose people to new foods and cooking methods, expanding their repertoire in the kitchen.

Dieting cons

Going on a diet can be compared to building a house of sticks because dieting does not adapt to or accommodate real life. What happens to your house of sticks when the wolf of life comes blowing in summer vacations, broken legs, holiday parties or a kitchen renovation?

A set of rigid dieting rules, by definition, is inflexible to the ever changing tides of life.

Dieting leaves you dependent and a slave to the system

My wonderful husband once requested I prepare every morsel of food for him and make all his food decisions so he could eat well. This is no small request. Research from Brian Wansink says that we make about 200 food decisions daily. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all robotically eat delicious food in the exact portions we needed and enjoyed with someone else slaving in the kitchen?

It sounds dreamy. As in, dream on. A programmed diet cannot anticipate all of the choices we’ll need to make or teach us how to eat well in varying moods and food environments.

Dieting focuses our attention on weight and body image and neglects the other benefits of good nutrition

When we eat just to lose weight, we get hyperfocused on appearance and get hung up on numbers that don’t reflect health. We can forget whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are full of phytonutrients and antioxidants that prevent oxidative damage and inflammation that can lead to chronic diseases like heart disease and cancer.

2. Eat smarter

The building bricks of a strong diet that can withstand the winds of life include: A variety of real whole foods that are easy and that you enjoy, and the practice of eating mindfully.

Real whole foods that are easy and you enjoy

Research has shown that Americans value convenience and taste above all other food choice factors. So, if you want to eat well for life make easy, tasty real foods your priority. Examine your environment; is it set up to help you succeed?

What is the food environment like in your home? At work?

What foods are available to eat when you only have five minutes to grab something?

Are there certain activities that influence eating in the home?For instance, breakfast habits or late night T.V. watching and snacking?

What things in your environment influence how much you eat? Do you have large plates and bowls that you fill and then finish? If they were smaller, would you eat less? Do you finish full packages (beverages, chips, or other things in wrappers), or stop when you’re full/satisfied?

Some ideas to help:

Stock your kitchen with real whole foods. Do an inventory. What is available? What is not?

Make a list of tasty, easy meal ideas that all in your household could enjoy. Post it and use it so you don’t have to rethink food every time you’re hungry.

Eat more mindfully

When we are fully present most of the time while eating mostly real whole foods, we have wiggle room for our favorite extras. We are also able to self-regulate and come to a healthier weight because we’re not overeating on average. Evaluate your mindfulness:

When do you eat, when you are hungry? When food is available? For other reasons?

When do you stop eating?

Do you savor the flavor, textures, and aromas of food? Have you ever gotten to the bottom of an ice cream bowl or bag of chips just to wonder where it went?

Are you present during the eating experience to acknowledge when you’re done, even if you’re not full?

While eating smarter, you don’t have to change everything all at once. Just like professional athletes you should plan to practice and focus your energy on the things that will bring the highest yield and continue to tweak. Invest in yourself for the long run, and persist, there is power in it.

Erica Hansen, a dietitian-nutritionist, advocates getting back to the basics in the kitchen with real food for real life is the first step to improving vitality and longevity. Find her online at realfoodfixes.com or @realfoodfixes on Instagram/Facebo

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