We have all experienced committing to a diet program or eating regiment, then suddenly we find ourselves off track with regrettable eating experiences. Having good intentions to eat healthier is a great start but how do we maintain this in the real world? With summer being the season for eating out, weekend getaways and vacations, it can be challenging to stay on track. Let’s face it, we all fall short sometimes but there are tools we can put in place to lesson our chances of compromising diet plans. When dieting, most people only focus on what they are eating, and not what they are thinking. It’s not all about the food. Having a positive mindset is essential when dodging pitfalls. The way we think about food has a lot to do with how we behave around food. If we are constantly stressed about making “bad” food decisions, then we are more likely to think negatively about food, leading to poor choices and stress eating. It is possible to enjoy yourself while maintaining your healthy eating and thinking habits and here are some easy options to help you maintain your food goals.
“Understanding how to eat outside of your everyday routine will help you stay on track and give you the awareness you need to succeed”
People enjoy eating out on their lunch break or having a bite with friends for happy hour but often stray from their regular eating habits during this time. Many restaurants have an online menu which takes the pressure off deciding at the table. Lower calorie options are typically available and can help with overwhelming menu choices. Often stress eating is tied to unhealthy fast food options. Try to avoid fast food restaurants and when possible, stick to lean proteins like chicken, beans, eggs, seafood, and vegetables like steamed broccoli or mixed green salad.
Hanging out with friends and family on the weekends often involves “comfort” food and favorite food choices you may not necessarily have during the week. Planning your food choices will help reduce the urge to splurge and go overboard with eating. Eating can quickly spin out of control, especially if you’ve had a stressful week and are looking forward to indulging. If you’re visiting friends or family, offer to bring low calorie version of a favorite recipe. Make sure when you shop that you stock up on things you enjoy that are healthy options. Frozen yogurt, for instance, is a great alternative to ice-cream and won’t make you feel like you’re deprived or compromising taste.
Summer is the time most people take vacations and the time when many people slack on their healthy eating habits. Fresh grilled fish is an excellent choice for the outdoorsy vacationer along with plenty of fruit as a sweet alternative to sugary desserts. As for the destination vacationer, find out what options are available ahead of time and write down food options to choose from. Planning will reduce stress of the unknown and help you decide on a meal. If you plan to head south of the boarder to Mexico, try the chicken Verde tacos. If you’re looking for island vibes in Hawaii, try the lomi lomi salmon. Both dishes are tasty and can be prepared as a low-calorie option.
“Building pathways to healthy eating is a learned skill, not a basic instinct”
Although eating out, weekends and vacations are times when we can relax and enjoy ourselves, this can be a difficult time for people who tend to stress eat. For those of us that deal with unmanageable stress, eating during these occasions can be an opportunity to find relief in food, which leads to worsening symptoms and an unpleasant experience. To avoid pitfalls and stay on track with healthy eating and thinking habits, we must always take time to plan. Planning food choices when eating out, planning a weekend with friends, or vacationing with family, will reduce stress and decrease regrettable eating experiences. Having a few go-to options will help you stay focused and help you maintain your food goals.
“You are winning when you are in control of food”
Virginia N Gaskins MS, LMHC
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