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 Western diet of fast food, pour from a can or out of a box, heat and serve, grab and go is slowly killing us. All of those choices are of little value to your body’s health. They come at a high price in calories but in exchange for low nutritional value.
The term “Fast Food” is commonly associated with hamburgers, greasy French fries, and cola. However, popular family restaurant menu items can be ordered “to go” without waiting for their preparation or standing in a long line. You can even pay with a credit card over the phone if you’re in a real hurry. But, fast food does not have to be high-calorie and a low nutritional food choice.
Tips to help you choose well:
When Dining Out...
Tempting menus, extra-large portions and festive atmospheres make it easy to overlook supportive eating. You'll begin to pack on pounds if you make poor choices a habit. It is possible to enjoy yourself and still make supportive choices. Following a few simple rules when eating out can make it possible to maintain your nutrition plan.
You can dine out while remaining true to your goals. The key is always to plan ahead, choose wisely and you'll find foods that fit into your meal plan.
To your best health,
Here’s an experiment I want you to do. Write a letter to you, the old you, the you that is sabotaging your efforts to become better. The new you is struggling. Old habits and behaviors die hard, but it is time for them to go. Take some time to visualize what you’re going to say and why you’ll say it. It may be "go away". It may be "thank you". It may be "I love you and I'm sorry".
Remember that Old You probably had some reason to be there. Be gentle and loving, but firm and say goodbye.
I challenged a dear friend to do just that. See if you recognize yourself in her letter. Then take time to write your own good bye letter.
"Dear New Self,
I want my old self back, or at least a majority of her. I want the glass half-full outlook back. I miss looking upon any challenge and knowing I could figure it out if given time. I am not sure why this outlook slowly changed, but over the past few years it has. I know this approach to challenges may require more effort and time, and that it may seem better to walk away and give up without really trying. I don't want to waste time and energy. In the end, it is exactly the time and energy spent on tackling problems or questions and working until a solution is found that makes life interesting and meaningful. With less time working and thinking, life has become dull and at times pointless. Maybe if I had replaced that "free" time with other challenging tasks it may be different right now, but I didn't.
I want the fearless old me back as well. When did we become so afraid of going out and doing new things? Or even familiar activities? I never used to back away from trying something because I was afraid of getting injured or not being good at it. The fact that I probably would not be great at it was always the reason to try it and then practice it until I was great at it. And for as long as I can remember, there was very little I could not do well if I was willing to work at it. This included any sport, musical instrument, foreign language, even academic endeavors. When did doubt show up and ruin this way of thinking? I am not sure but I want doubt and fear of failure gone.
My old self was not perfect though, far from it actually. She was very demanding and did not accept anything less than perfection. So there has to be a blend of her demanding pushy style, with a hint of compassion mixed in for when things don't work out well. Dwelling on the numerous times I was not perfect, may have helped me work harder It is no longer helpful to me. In fact, the idea of reaching perfection can go too. I have always believed striving for perfection should be the goal, as long as I understood that getting there would not happen. Setting standards that high would help get me as close as I could possible get, but somewhere I started to believe I could get there and became disappointed with anything less.
I want my new/old self to have very high standards but reasonable goals. I can be ok with not achieving perfection, as long as my goals are still demanding and not easy. As long as I know I have worked my hardest at reaching them.
So this is the start, maybe other things will be added to the list but these are what came to mind first.
No regrets gong forward,
Why not write your own letter? Why not say goodbye to the old you and all the things that no longer help you. Keep those wonderful traits that will keep you moving forward. Those outdated habits, let’s send them away. Notice them, name them and pack them away.
To your best health,
I was challenged by my nutrition coach to make a food time line.
Yes, I have a coach to help me. Would you want it any other way?
But back to my assignment, I created a visual time line. It took me from my earliest memories to the present time. As I traveled this path, I noticed a few things but I’ll let you look at my time line and then I’ll tell you my discoveries.
As you traveled down my food path with me from earliest memories to present time, what did you notice? You see, I can remember all the wonderful memories of family and of the foods I ate while growing up. From fighting over maple and brown sugar oatmeal with my brothers, to enjoying making potatoes from a box for my mom. Through my teen years of Little Debbies to working at Dominos Pizza. I started to really learn to cook after getting married. Once Dean decided to change his health by changing his nutrition, you can see how real foods and loads of color were added to our meals.
For me, I see the color in my meals in my early twenties came from the packaging my meal was wrapped in while now it comes from the actual food.
I want to challenge you to do this experiment. It brings up loads of great memories and some not so wonderful ones. But the visual impact this exercise had for me shows me I am on the right path, but that path is still changing.
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,
"Q: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life; is this true?
A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that’s it… don’t waste them on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up your heart will not make you live longer; that’s like saying you can extend the life of your car by driving it faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap.
Q: Should I cut down on meat and eat more fruits and vegetables?
A: You must grasp logistical efficiencies. What does a cow eat? Hay and corn. And what are these? Vegetables. So a steak is nothing more than an efficient mechanism of delivering vegetables to your system. Need grain? Eat chicken. Beef is also a good source of field grass (green leafy vegetable). And a pork chop can give you 100% of your recommended daily allowance of vegetable products.
Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?
A: No, not at all. Wine is made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that means they take the water out of the fruity bit so you get even more of the goodness that way. Beer is also made out of grain. Bottoms up!
Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio is one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio is two to one, etc.
Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can’t think of a single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No Pain…Good!
Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU’RE NOT LISTENING!!! …. Foods are fried these days in vegetable oil. In fact, they’re permeated in it. How could getting more vegetables be bad for you?
Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want a bigger stomach.
Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy? HELLO – Cocoa beans! Another vegetable!!! It’s the best feel-good food around!
Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming is good for your figure, explain whales to me.
Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
Q: Is getting in-shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! ‘Round’ is a shape!
Well, I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.
For those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.
1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans
5. The Germans drink a lot of beers and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.
Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you. Well, there you go - I didn't say it was good advice! Laugh a little; no, actually, laugh a lot - it's great for you!"
This wasn’t original to me, I just couldn’t keep it to myself knowing that humor and smiling isn’t shared enough in our world today. If we can turn humor and smiling into all our laughter we can benefit and so can others. Laughter is sweet medicine for the soul.
Physical benefits of laughter:
Mental benefits of laughter:
Social benefits of laugher:
Your soul and everyone around you benefits from laughing. There just isn’t enough humor, giggles and laughter going on. We need to seek it out.
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,
Yes, you are, and no, I am not insulting you.
Your brain is comprised of approximately 60% lipids (aka fat), and our cell membranes are fat based as well. According to Dr. Ryan Andrews the fat we eat literally becomes part of our cells, and has a huge impact on if our nervous system communicates properly. I was amazed to learn that a properly balanced fat intake can affect how my entire body functions, from our brain power all the way through. You really are what you eat!
What are healthy fats so important?
When it comes to healthy fat, intake amount is important. People are often concerned about eating too much fat, but not getting enough fat may also be the underlying cause of health problems.
We need adequate fat to support metabolism, cell signaling, healthy body tissues, immunity, hormone production, and the absorption of many nutrients (such as vitamins A and D). Having enough fat will also help keep you feeling full between meals. So what the good doctor is saying is that we need healthy fats – to be healthy!
You can read more about Super Omega-3 in this article: 5 Fast Facts for Fish Oil.
You have been lied to.
Low fat diets stink. You aren’t getting the health benefits outlined above, but that is not all. Healthy fats cause satiety, or the feeling of being full longer, more than protein and certainly more than carbohydrates. You know it’s true. You can blast through 2 or 3 donuts and be hungry an hour later. Try eating a couple eggs and an avocado and see what happens – I can guarantee you will be fuller longer. Part of the reason is that it takes fat a lot longer to digest than carbohydrate, so it doesn’t empty from your stomach and travel through the digestive system as fast.
But won't all that fat go right to my waistline?
Au’ contraire, mon ami!
Eating fat does not “make you fat”. Eating excess of anything will cause it to be stored as excess energy (fat). And an argument can (and is) being made because it is easier to overeat carbohydrate than it is fat or protein, increasing your fat intake is a good nutrition strategy when looking for overall calorie reduction. It helps keep you full longer and also avoid the huge blood sugar crashes that can accompany carbohydrate intake, particularly from simple carbs.
Here’s a partial list of healthy fats that you should add to your eating plan:
Healthy fats. Every day. No excuses.
To your best health,