When a client walks into my office with a food record, what do you think the first thing I look for is?
- How many carbs or how much sugar my client is eating?
- How often he/she eats vegetables?
- Consumption of sugar sweetened beverages?
- How many times my client eats out at restaurants?
Nope. I do not care about any of the above until I look at one important thing: Timing.
When is my client eating? That is what I want to know before anything else.
The first step to eating well is prioritizing eating regularly during the day, and ensuring you are following your hunger cues. This makes sure you do not get to the point of starving (hanger). When you are that hungry it is hard not to gobble down anything in sight, which is likely a snack food and not an ideal option. It is also very challenging not to over eat in this situation. Calorie dense foods seem extra appealing. I have fallen into this trap too. Everybody does. But having a structured eating plan that you stick too most of the time should be your first priority to eating well.
This is why, at times, I do not care what my clients are eating. All I want to focus on initially is personalized strategies to ensure that when they are eating becomes regular and routine.
Follow a hunger scale from one (beyond starving) to ten (Thanksgiving dinner stuffed) and try to stay between three (strong desire to eat) and six (comfortably full) at all times. When you do this, you are likely to eat regularly, which for many people (but not everyone) is about every 3-4 hours.
Listening to your hunger cues is especially hard around the holidays when all the social events revolve around food, and over eating (and drinking) seems to be the cool thing to do. Cornell University recently published a study demonstrating that men are especially prone to over eating in social situation – essentially they like to “show off” by eating too much, while women can find this a bit embarrassing. Going a bit over board now and again is fine and totally normal, but don’t let it be an everyday occurrence.
When you are planning to attend an evening party, try not to “save calories” during the day just to splurge on a huge meal at night. You will be miserable all day and then just feel ill when you over eat later. Instead, wouldn’t you feel so great leaving a holiday party feeling comfortable and satisfied instead of feeling like someone should roll you out the door?
I know this is much harder that it seems. So, make sure you have some key strategies in mind. Keep healthy, grab-and-go snacks on hand for those busy days, like nuts, fresh fruit, and whole grain crackers with cheese or a bean-based dip. Make lunch easy, too. A nice quick option could be canned salmon mixed with capers, lemon juice, and plain Greek yogurt on sprouted grain toast with a side salad. I have many more easy, economical, and healthy recipes on my blog too. At parties, don’t stand by the food table (I know, I know…it’s the place to be!), make sure you bring a healthy dish so there is at least one good option, and after you are full, keep your hands occupied with something, like a sparkling water or your clutch. This keeps you from idly grabbing food.
If you are currently eating like many people do: not much during the day and then snacking all night. This may take some trial and error and a lot of practice to find something that works for you. If you are struggling to eat regularly, meet with a dietitian in your area who can help you work out some personalized strategies.
Once you have regular eating mastered, then that is when I care what you are eating. But until then, I’ll just pretend I don’t.