Retrain Your Brain
When I chose the title for my first blog, “Getting the Best of Food”, I envisioned a mental warfare. In a struggle, the person who overcomes their enemy is said to have “gotten the best of them.” Of course the double meaning is also to get the best qualities food has to offer.
Back to warfare. I work five days a week from morning until 5:00 pm. My breakfast, lunch and daytime snacks are perfectly healthy and I stick to the plan but dinner and post-dinner decisions often take a turn for the worse and I think I know why.
At the end of the workday, we’re run down, worn out and hungry. One of my strategies is always to have healthy food on hand and to eat something before you are famished. But there is also a little bit of brainwashing necessary to keep yourself from caving into cravings for junk food and comfort classics.
Here’s a normal weeknight example (after I’ve eaten fruits and veggies all day): 5:05 pm driving home, thinking about dinner options and my brain starts to recite all of the foods that make me joyful – chicken wings, pizza, potato skins, tacos… As I continue to drive home, the list is on a mental merry-go-round and it just keeps repeating incessantly in my head.
So what happens when you tell your brain “I can’t have that brownie, I can’t have that brownie, I can’t have that brownie?” There is only one thing on your mind for food and guess what it is – the brownie!
In the same way that you set up a plan to have easily accessible healthy food around, we all need to also retrain our brains to consider better choices before the disaster hits. Before the drive home and before hunger pains set in, start to recall how amazing fresh strawberries taste, or how flavorful grilled asparagus is with a touch of Parmesan cheese. Whenever possible, have your dinner prepared or at least planned the night before. One trick I have learned is start dinner for the next night as I’m clearing the table and washing dishes. This way I come home and finish cooking dinner that was started the previous night, eat and then start the first half of tomorrow’s dinner. It works really well.
To keep things simple, you can also come up with a short list of standard dinners that you know how to make simply, that fit your daily caloric goals. For me, this is usually fish every other night, alternated with chicken. One night is vegetarian and one night is lean beef or pork. Skip the starches unless it’s whole grain and double up on the vegetables. Salads compliment dinner very well too. Save calories with homemade dressing from blended berries, pears or apples, vinegar, mustard and a small bit of olive oil. Shake it with your lettuce so that a little goes a long way.
Don’t forget that this is a battle, truly. And that you can and will win it, and you’ll feel amazing for overcoming the challenge.