I use a simple system of red, yellow, and green lights to get our transformation started. Red light is food you’ll want to take out and not let back into your kitchen. Yellow lights are food that you might have questions on or that you know are not quite great but not quite labeled junk food – yet. Green light foods are those that you have been proven healthy for you. Green light foods don’t cause your system aggravation and unwanted side effects. They are foods that your body loves to have on your plate for health reason. Can you say zucchini and broccoli?
As each door of the cupboard, pantry, fridge, and freezer opens, take each food item out to examine under the Red, Yellow, or Green light.
Step 1: Red light = junk foods. Terminate.
Let’s start with your list of the obvious “red lights” from your fridge and pantry. This could include things like:
But please make your own list.
Step 2: Yellow light = trick foods. Triage.
Trick foods are foods that seem healthy but aren't. They’ve gone from something good (whole, minimally processed food) to something that a machine has put out, full of sugar and chemicals, and/or something that’s had all its original nutrients stripped out. It could also be items that you have in your cupboard for other family members that seem to trip you up. Consider minimizing and/or eliminating these:
This is a list you are going to work through. Right now it is giving you something to think about.
Step 3: Check for stuff you might not have thought of yet.
This is even more challenging than the so-called “healthier” foods in the “trick food” list, because you don’t think about these things being a problem… or think about them at all. (How much time do you spend thinking about BBQ sauce, anyway?) Most of these just pass under our radar, until we read the labels and discover that they’re sugar and chemical bombs. Or just not “food” at all. This includes:
Again, you don’t have to throw out everything. It’s not an all-or-none process. Just make sure yellow-light foods know they’re on notice and have to earn their rent.
Your red/yellow/green light items could be as simple as putting foods in these categories. For instance:
Green light (just about anything good for you goes bad quickly)
Step 4: Green lighting the kitchen.
Let's work on forming the "green light/wanted foods" list to help you restock the kitchen.
Step 5: Now its time to get to work.
Option 1: Throw out (or give away) any and all red light foods.
Option 2: Take all the food that is not going to support your health and put it in ONE specific cupboard. Preferably out of the kitchen, maybe even in the basement. If you are looking in your refrigerator, move those red and yellow items into the produce drawer. Why not bring all those wonderful veggies to a fridge shelf where you can see them? Out of sight out of mind should be a slogan when you are dealing with family member’s food. Try to make it as difficult for you to see and eat.
Now you have it - a simple plan of addressing the food in your kitchen. Red lights you get rid of or make it difficult to see. Yellow lighted foods are put on stand by, maybe even taken out until you know which direction they really belong. Green light foods should be easy to see and easy to reach for. They are what stand out most when your kitchen is made over. By keeping food that will help your nutrition grow in plain sight, you are making it easier for yourself to eat in health supportive way.
To your best health,
The "Donut Diet" requires you to have donuts on hand - makes sense, right?
(P.S. Don't be on the Donut Diet)
I want to get down to brass tacks. Because diets don't work, period.
The very word itself lends itself to a temporary fix rather than a permanent change.
It’s one of the reasons I don’t just hand you a menu plan and say “eat that”. What happens when you reach the end of the plan, or the one we gave you doesn’t work for you?
You go back to your default eating, which is what got you where you were in the first place. And that just doesn’t make sense.
Short term thinking rarely leads to long term success. When we focus on the “outcome” rather than the behaviors, we set ourselves up for failure.
Let’s say you want to lose 10 pounds in the next 2 months. Your whole focus is on that 10 pounds, and at the end of the 8 weeks you weigh yourself and you lost 8½ pounds. Your mind immediately focuses on the 1½ pounds you didn’t lose. I have seen it over and over again. You were wildly successful, and yet somehow you still are disappointed.
So how do we stop that?
We create and track measurable behaviors (or habits) that are supportive of our long term goals. The habit is something I can control and measure. If the habit I am developing is to eat breakfast every day, I either did it or I didn’t. When I do it consistently I know it will positively affect my desired outcome
Many of you struggle the most with planning. It was by far the biggest factor to derail you the quickest from your goals.
So let's hear what you found planning does for you:
Scott said "Planning helps you to shop more efficiently and you don't end up buying stuff you don't need (or is unhealthy for you!)"
Rebecca said, "This has helped me budget and eat better!"
According to Stephanie, "This helps me stay more true to my nutritional (fat loss) goals when I plan."
Deb said, "It will definitely help me to stay on track the whole week."
Stacey found, "Now I'm much better prepared, feel less anxiety over 'what's for dinner' and have started making a larger variety of healthy dinner choices."
The list goes on to include Mary, "It will help me to stay on track, and I won't be inclined to 'just pick something up'."
Melissa said, "it will keep me from running to the store and just grabbing something that probably wouldn't be good for me."
I could go on and on. My point is that planning meals for the week will:
You will not have to think on the fly. Check out these tips to planning your first week of meals.
So saving time, saving money, saving your sanity, and making the whole family happy all with a little well spent time at the beginning of each week.
And you? Do you want any of these things to come to you?
To your best health,
If you’re like me, I often want to eat when I am tired, sad, stressed or bored. True hunger kind of grows on you. It creeps up and makes us a bit hollow feeling or empty. When we let hunger grow it can turn from just a quiet signal to a full-blown H-Anger attack. Hunger can be strong, then quieter. It feels kind of like waves on an ocean.
BUT cravings on the other hand come on strong. Cravings don’t want to be ignored and will take over our thoughts and actions. Cravings must be what it feels like if your body was taken over by an alien. It’s not pretty people.
This helpful chart came from our ProCoach program.
Here are some tips to help you deal with cravings:
What do I expect this food to do for me? How will it change my feelings?
What am I telling myself about this craving?
What else is going on for me right now?
Hunger or craving? Allow yourself time to figure out which one you are feeling. This “pause” is one way to stop weight gain from feeling like its spiraling out of control. A short break to check yourself can give you back the control you’re looking for.
To your best health,
Challenge #1: "I can't eat 3 times a day."
There is a pretty simple answer to that one. Just don’t. The magic isn’t necessarily in the number of times you eat. The point is to make sure you are eating, and that you are controlling your cravings and blood sugar so that when you do eat you are in control and making good choices. If 3 meals plus a recovery drink after training works for you, then experiment for 2 weeks and measure the results.
Challenge #2: "It's too hard to eat vegetables with every meal, especially breakfast".
My advice here is to keep it simple. I eat cherry tomatoes almost every day at breakfast because they are easy. It’s kind of fun to pop them in my mouth, and they complement all sorts of protein sources. I start off the day with some good fiber and carbohydrate, and they don’t spike my blood sugar like cereal or a bagel. Just do it for a couple weeks and it becomes a habit.
Challenge #3: "I have to have cream in my coffee".
I’ve been working diligently to cut down my coffee and caffeine consumption. I did some calculating just on the calories I was consuming in my coffee, and discovered I was going through a quart of Half & Half by myself every two weeks. For some of you out in coffee land that is probably actually on the low side, but here’s the rub: That’s 1200 calories every 2 weeks just from cream in coffee, which adds up to 31,200 calories a year! Drinking an extra 31,200 calories over your body’s energy requirements would result in a 9-pound weight gain over the course of a year – OUCH!
Before you tell me “I don’t use that much”, keep track over a week or two and check it out. And think about this – how much weight do you want to gain this year from drinking your calories? Is 4 or 5 pounds okay? Multiply that over the next (or last) 10 years and tell me how that works for you.
Don’t let one of these “I Can’ts" frustrate you, but don’t dismiss them or give up either. Make no mistake, you have dietary habits already. It’s a habit to grab a bagel and coffee, or cereal and toast, for breakfast. It’s just something you do, and have probably done for years. It’s a habit to have a sandwich for lunch, and a potato or rice with dinner
Habits are created, which means they can also be replaced.
Pick just one small change this week and work on it. Not all of them, just one. Make it the one that you think will be easiest, and build on that success.
To you best health,
"I just ate too much."
"Wow, that was fantastic, I just had to eat the whole plate."
"I really didn't need that."
It is so easy to eat more then we need. It’s not always about physical hunger. There's other stuff at work.
It's natural to avoid all of these discomforts. So we make choices that don't fit with our goals.
We eat because we’re bored, upset, stressed, or simply near tempting food. We eat more than we need because eating to satisfied is challenging.
Commit to the challenge:
Its not easy to change why you do what you do, BUT commit to the challenge.
To your best health,
There are things we do the same, every time we do them. We drive to work, put the toothpaste on the brush, and put the pillow under our head - the same way, every time.
When it comes to the way we eat, we have built habits as well. We like certain foods in certain ways. We like to eat at certain times. We plan and prepare our food or we don't. We have a set point at which we are full. We salt our food without tasting it first (guilty!). We may grab a glass of wine after dinner. We may eat dessert. These things are all habits.
Food has so much power over our lives. We have to eat to survive. But eating is also enjoyable. There are so many wonderful tastes, textures, colors and smells. The problem is when we let food overpower us and control us to the point our health suffers.
The good news is that habits can be built, and habits can be broken. The Grateful Plate is all about building habits that support good health. It is these habits that we turn into powerful skills.
There are replacements, however.
We replace poor habits with better ones. We control our food, we don't let it control us. We take one day at a time, doing specific things that will help us replace our poor nutrition habits with ones that will support our goals of losing fat, getting lean, and looking and feeling great.
Over the years we have been consistent with these habits. There is nothing magical here. We are making a conscious decision every meal to do what it takes to build good health habits.
Let's get started!
Here's a handy dandy chart to help you get pointed in the right direction in meal planning and preparation.
Quality Protein with Fantastic Carbohydrate Compliments
The possibilities are endless, so get out of the drive through, put on that chef's hat and Make It Happen!
To Your Best Health,
I own my food choice. Really. Own them.
Do you ever barter with yourself? Make deals, trades or swaps related to food?
“Okay, self, I’ll turn down dessert today… but I’m gonna collect on the weekend.”
With this mindset, one “good deed” gives you license to “go all out” elsewhere. But these trades don’t pay off — they usually just amount to a lot of mental energy that zaps your ability to making tough decisions. In fact they often create a self - sabotaging environment. In the end you end up overeating with a large dose of guilt to follow.
Look, we all do this at times. Trading off “good” and “bad”, thinking there is “good” and “bad” foods. All while you imagine a little angel and devil on your shoulder convicting or congratulating you.
Mind games like this undermine your health goals — and your authority over your decisions.
My solution: I started owning my choices, and letting my deeper values and core principles guide me when I sit down to eat.
I started making food decisions by acknowledging the outcome I would expect, based on my experience. For example:
“I’m choosing to eat this tub of ice cream on Saturday night. I’ll probably feel nauseated and anxious afterwards. In this instance, I’m fine with it.”
Or at another time, "I am going to avoid hanging out with ‘so and so’ because when I do, I tend to eat way too much as we gab the night away. I know this might offend ‘so and so’ but I will do my best to explain my choices to them and be fine with the outcome.”
In the end, own your choices: Don’t assign them a good or a bad. You’re free to eat and drink anything you want. You choose your behavior.
Just remember that different choices produce different outcomes.
What's your call today?
Wouldn’t it be nice to learn how to listen to our body's needs so we can fulfill them?
If our body is saying 'hunger' we eat until we are satisfied.
If our body is saying "I'm good" we stop eating.
Both allow for life to happen.
How can we best do that? Learn to eat mostly whole foods.
What do I mean by that? Foods that are closest to their natural state for the bulk of food on our plate.
Two ways we can help ourselves to eat whole foods:
1. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Just think about where all the fresh foods are located. They are all around the edges of the store. Foods in the produce section don’t usually carry a label on them. When we pick up an apple or a cucumber, they don’t need labeling to let us know what is inside the peel. The meat section caries labels but these labels let us know what cut of meat we are buying. A chicken is a chicken all the way around. By doing this we can avoid foods that have stuff added to them.
2. Avoid the middle of the store. Remember - the stuff on the inside of the grocery store is there for a long time. It can be, because it is preserved or has preservatives in it. While there are reasons to travel to the innards of the store - oatmeal, canned tomatoes, frozen veggies, lentils, and nuts.
Do your best to avoid items in the foil bag, cardboard boxes, or plastic trays. Highly processed foods, sugary sweets, otherwise known as junk food can trick your body. They don't trigger the same response as whole foods. In other words, you can eat enough highly processed foods but your body doesn't tell you it’s full so you eat more. By eating more unprocessed, whole foods, you’ll avoid short-circuiting the body’s energy-balance system and keep you healthier.
Georgie Fear puts it this way, "Our bodies are designed to not only survive, but thrive, on real, unprocessed foods. Whole foods are simply foods that are closest to their natural state. Like high-octane fuel in a premium sports car, whole foods nourish your body and keep you running at peak performance."
But don’t stress over traveling to the nearest indoor CSA or Farmer's Market in the winter with a storm coming in to buy farm fresh tomatoes instead of buying canned tomatoes – that’s counterproductive to weight loss. Likewise, if you’re worrying how you’ll learn to raise your own beef, build a green house, or find time to make all your own meals, relax. Please remember I said mostly whole foods. Thinking that you have to eat only whole foods won’t earn you extra credit; in fact, I strongly discourage you from making that your aim!
If you are like me, at times I make too many exceptions to this rule. Now I am working back to where I want to be. Yes, I will still enjoy an occasional treat but that is where my 'mostly' rule will come into play.
Don't stress yourself. Our goal is to help you become healthier. Learning to eat mostly whole foods is a skill. Add in more things to your grocery cart from the outside edges of the store and fewer and fewer from the inside shelves.
You’ll make it easier and easier to satisfy your body and learn how to keep you running healthy.
To Your Best Health,
Remember when you were in elementary school? Each fall you came back and it seemed like the courses hadn’t changed much. You would spend the first several months reviewing or, in some cases, relearning the subject until your teacher added anything new.
Hmmm…. Improving nutrition is a lot like going to school. The basics of a healthy eating style need to be first learned in small chunks, put into practice, reviewed, add maybe a small morsel more, put it into practice and review. It’s like getting better at writing English papers. You learn some of the basics, then put that into practice. You read it over and see where you could improve, then add a bit to it.
Think of nutrition like you would a subject in school - it’s a constant state of learning, practicing, seeing how it works, and then adding a bit to your knowledge base.
You wouldn't expect the same type of work from a 1st grader as you would from a 4th grader. And you see a big difference from a 4th grader’s paper to a college paper 10 years later. It doesn't stop there though. We constantly are writing for different scenarios, for different reasons, for different purposes. So we keep working at it by applying what we already know to a new situation. We keep using the basics.
With healthier nutrition, we keep getting better slowly. We work at applying our knowledge to different situations at different times and find out what works.
If you were on a 'summer break', now it is time to review a bit, apply a bit, learn a bit more, then apply it and so on and so on.
School and healthy eating follow the same steps. Let’s keep learning and applying as you go through different situations in life to make a healthier version of you.
To Your Best Health,
The Grand Canyon was formed by water rushing over the ground surface. It didn’t happen in a day, but over time. Probably no one noticed at first (probably because no one was around but if they were, they wouldn’t put much thought into it).
This scenario happens every day, and will keep repeating time and time again. No one will notice until suddenly everyone is noticing. It’s the small continual changes that seem to slip right by everyone.
On the other hand, a hurricane or a flood captures everyone's attention and causes us to leap into action.
The thing is, small incremental daily progress (negative or positive) is what actually causes transformation. A figurative drip, drip, drip. Showing up every single day, gaining in strength, planning meals, building new kitchen skills, preparing lunch the night before—this subtle but difficult work is how you create change. It takes a length of time (sometimes a very long time) to change your physical being or to increase your health.
It is all about that drip drip effect. Be consistent, do what you can do today to move forward and keep the movement going even when you don't 'feel' like it.
Three things to increase the power of your drip:
1. Go simple this week. Very simple. While there are days when I spend a long time fixing just the perfect dinner, more often than not, I’m making things happen, double time. I don’t have to miss out on good food, I just have to make that good food as quickly as I can. Keeping things simple has helped cut down my time in the kitchen. If you have time, spend it on cooking and let your kids help. Otherwise, let them help while you keep on smiling.
2. Branch out, eat the rainbow. The different colors in fruits and vegetables indicate the different types of antioxidants. There are many types of helpful antioxidants, so you want to make sure you are exposing yourself to a variety by including different colors on your plate. You don’t want to consume only orange and red fruits and veggies while ignoring the greens and yellows. You want a wide variety.
3. Talk to yourself like a kindergarten teacher talks to her students. Teachers are really good at encouraging a growth mindset in the children around them. They urge them to practice more, be patient, to try and to try again. They find the good in the process while giving guidance on the challenges. For example: “So I ate the whole bag of M&M’s again. But I did eat lots of veggies during the day and it was a smaller bag than last time. Next time, I ‘m going to first think if I am in need of those candies or if I am just in need of something else?”
To Your Best Health,