With Halloween almost here I thought it would be a good time to examine what a treat is and what it should be. By definition a treat is something that is given by way of compliment; it’s an extra thing, or a bonus, that people derive pleasure or enjoyment from. For me, a treat should be special, not an all the time everyday occurrence. I think that’s what makes it special. Where we get into trouble is when we use a treat as a coping mechanism for an emotional state we are in: happy, sad, nervous, excited, stressed out, bored, and tired, to name a few. “I’m stressed out, so I’m going to have a margarita, because I deserve it,” may be a familiar inner dialogue to you. Maybe you’re sad so you have ice cream to cheer you up, or excited about something and feel the need to celebrate by having a Mexican fiesta. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good margarita and a Mexican fiesta, although I prefer chocolate cake to ice cream, but the point is that it should truly be a special occasion. For many weight management is a constant battle. Those waging this battle seem to be always looking for the magic diet or exercise program to help them. Unfortunately, it is not that simple, but it’s not that complicated either. We all get the body we deserve. If you think you deserve more than what you currently have then the first step is to be honest about your efforts. Below are 6 common sense tips that require some effort and some discipline but are very realistic and manageable. Nothing of any value comes without some sacrifice.
- Eat home more: control ingredients and portions. Eating out should be a treat. Eat the things you like but with better ingredients (avoid processed, chemical laden products) and eat less of it (smaller portions).
- Eating out is not an excuse to binge. Get the menu ahead of time. Make your choices ahead of time. Plan your other two meals around what you plan to eat when you’re out at the restaurant.
- Walk more ride less. There’s nothing new here. Take the stairs instead of escalators and elevators. Walk whenever possible instead of taking the car or cabs. When you do have to ride, park further or get off a stop or two earlier than your destination. An increase in activity, even small ones will pay off over time.
- If you are not an athlete, do not participate in an intense training regimen, or you’re not trying to gain weight avoid snacking in between meals. Eating 5 or 6 small meals is great on paper, but the truth is not many people can do this effectively. Stick with 3 appropriately portioned meals (1/2 plate green, 1/4 lean protein, 1/4 complex carbohydrate/whole grain and finish with a small plate of fruit. If you are an athlete or participate in an intense training program, then fueling up before and after training/workouts is very important. Choose low calorie healthy snacks like fruit, yogurt, milk, peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread to help you power up either before or after. Plan around meals. If you’re working out right after breakfast then you probably don’t need an extra pre-workout meal. The same is true if you’re having dinner right after a workout, you can skip the post workout snack.
- Skip the treats. A state of deprivation leads to binging but that doesn’t mean you need treats. Treats should be special and rare. The road to healthy eating and exercise requires some self-sacrifice and re-education. Save the treats for a real special occasion and make sure it’s not just anything, but something you really enjoy.
- Start a training program today. Choose activities you enjoy, but make sure they include strength and aerobic conditioning along with flexibility/ range of motion training.