I BEGAN by telling him all the DON'Ts! DON'T eat this and DON'T drink that. He smiled and laughed and said in a sarcastic tone, "Wow...so I can pretty much just drink water... That sounds great." We both laughed and I went on to tell him what you CAN have, but really it was too late. The focus began and ended with a focus on what NOT to do. As I've thought about reeling my own diet back in a little tighter again since my 30 Day Challenge ended...I've focused a lot on the DON'Ts and that can be pretty depressing and leave you feeling deprived. Some of the ladies in the STRONG LOLA 30 DAY CHALLENGE group on Facebook talked about doing another 30 Day Challenge because they felt like they had slipped back in to old habits.
DO choose the highest quality of food and meat that you can afford! I recognize that buying grass fed beef and organic veggies costs more than if you buy the regular stuff, but if you can work it in to your budget...it makes a difference in the way you feel, the taste of your food, and the way your body digests it. The food you buy that is not organic and is in the grocery story has chemicals that your body has to process and remove in order to keep from poisoning your system. I have also read that organic veggies, grass fed beef, range free chicken, and cage free grain fed eggs also have a higher concentration of nutrients. Pay attention to the QUALITY of the food you purchase and do the best you can. If you can't get the highest quality, don't beat yourself up or feel like you cannot participate in a healthy lifestyle. Make the best choices that you can and remind yourself that whether you are eating organic veggies or not, prepared properly that's still a better choice than throwing a bag of frozen corn in the microwave.
DO eat balanced meals! While I understand bacon is delicious and so is fruit...only eating those things or eating too much is not good either. Make sure that you have balance on your plate. Eat protein and healthy fat and good carbs at every meal. People think that the word carb is evil. It's not. We need carbs, but it's best to get them from healthy sources like vegetables and fruits and sweet potatoes. Choose good, healthy carbs rather than eliminating them from your diet. Make sure you are getting enough healthy fat so that you feel full and stay satisfied longer. There are lots of sources of good fats in olive oil, raw nuts, avocados, and olives.
DO prepare ahead to avoid snap decisions choices made out of desperation! Many people cook meals ahead of time. I think this is a great idea and is very helpful to many people! I have never been big on this as I tend to fly by the seat of my pants, but I prepare by ALWAYS having some type of veggies on hand and some kind of meat thawed out in the fridge. As long as I have food that I can prepare on the spot, I will make good choices. Another option is to cook bigger portions when you cook and put the leftover away for later so they are easy to grab and reheat when you need them! Remember that you always have a choice. Panicking never leads to anything good. Many times, if I stop for a moment and think I can come up with a meal that is delicious and quick.
DO eat food that you like! I am a picky eater so I preach eating what you like. I have a very narrow range of meat that I like so it can be a challenge at times, but I never want to feel like I'm forcing myself to eat things I don't like. If you don't like broccoli, don't eat it! Find another green that you DO like and find different ways to cook the foods you enjoy. I LOVE zucchini but if I ALWAYS eat it prepared the same way, I get sick of it. I grill it, saute it, and sometimes I add canned tomatoes. Using different spices and ways to cook things is fun and keeps you from getting bored. Be creative! I've surprised myself (in a good way) many times throughout the course of the past 2 months.
DO eat when you are hungry! This is not about starvation and deprivation. REMEMBER THAT! It's about nourishing your body and fueling it well, so that it runs more efficiently. If you are hungry, EAT! This is another example of why it's good to prepare and always have food available. If you have snacks prepackaged or you have fresh fruit and veggies in your fridge, you can easily prepare a snack that is healthy. If you are consistently feeling like you are hungry or never satisfied, look at what you are eating and make sure you are eating enough protein and healthy fats. This doesn't mean you have a free pass to eat all day just because you are bored. Don't confuse stress or boredom with hunger, but if you really ARE hungry then you should listen to your body and eat!
DO make your food look appetizing! I never used to arrange my food in any certain way on my plate or care about the colors. I certainly didn't garnish my food or make my plate look photo ready. Now, I do. It does not take me hardly any extra time to throw a little garnish or place my food carefully on my plate. When I sit down to eat and I have a plate that looks beautiful, I am excited to eat what I have prepared and there's also a sense of pride in what I have created. It sounds silly, but this has been something that I and my family have really enjoyed. It makes our meals more of an experience and that is a good thing.
DO keep track of what you eat! Since the day I started the Strong Lola 30 Day Challenge, and even in the month since it's ended...I take a picture of every meal I eat on my phone. This does a few things for me. It keeps me honest. If there's bad stuff on my plate, it's gonna be in the picture. It's easier for me than having to write everything down. I don't need a pen and paper and my phone is always with me so it works well and I've accumulated quite the library of "food porn" as we like to call it! It also goes hand in hand with making my food look appetizing. I want to create meals that are photo worthy! Try it for a week. And if you want even more accountability, start a blog and post your daily meals! It's also fun to send your pics to friends that are also watching what they eat to share ideas and get that reaffirmation that you are doing a good job!
DO be flexible and forgiving with yourself and others that are not making the same choice as you! Sometimes you will HAVE to eat out or you may find yourself unprepared. DO THE BEST YOU CAN. Most restaurants will cook food to order. Just be sure to ask lots of questions. If you are at a Mexican food restaurant, order chicken or beef and ask for grilled veggies and/or guacamole INSTEAD of rice and beans. Don't freak out or become a food "Nazi". Having grilled veggies that were grilled in regular butter or vegetable oil is better than eating a cheese enchilada. And if you make a mistake or choose to have a cheat, do it and then get back on track the next meal without beating yourself up! I find when I beat myself up, it almost gives me a license to really go crazy because I feel like all is lost anyway. That is not the case. You are human. Move on and do better next meal.
DO workout! They say you can't outrun a bad diet. Well, you can't just eat healthy and get fit either. You need the two parts working hand in hand to be truly strong and fit! It was hard for me at first, because my body was not accustomed to functioning on good, real, healthy food. I was tired and felt bad. I was weak in the gym and I wanted to just forget going most days, but I hung in there and eventually I felt MUCH better and I could see real changes both in my appearance AND in my performance in the gym.