When I was around 14 I went to a palm reader. The woman, a grandmother-ish type, told me that I should eat better. If I did, she said. I’d live longer.
Though I’ve never forgotten her advice I have a lame record of putting it into practice.
I recall being—at the time of that palm reading—on a pretty strict gummy bear and veggie burger diet. It was the summer and parental supervision was not at a high ebb due to a bunch of reasons that no longer matter.
Point is this: Up to recently I’ve eaten erratically, and in an unbalanced way. Sucking on iced coffee until about 4 pm, then eating a bowl of spaghetti. Or like, two slices of greasy pizza and a big bubbly soda. Bad. Mmm. Just bad.
I’ve changed my ways, and in a here-to-stay way. If you, too, are an erratic or consistent under-eater, and wish to begin a path of reform, first tip is this: It takes more than a desire to eat differently. It takes, as they say, a strategy.
Here are a few guidelines that you may find helpful in your quest to begin eating well.
Just Eat More
I can count on two hands the number of times that, as an adult, I’ve eaten three meals a day. That just seemed like crazy talk to me. Who can eat that much food?
Nowadays, I eat around four. But they’re not meals in the sense of heaping plates of hot stuff that takes five years to finish off. They’re meals in the sense of a hard-boiled egg and a handful of almonds. Or a plate of fabulous garlicky Brussels sprouts and some brown rice.
Pizza? Yes. Only not so often.
Mind Your Ratios
You may be a person who doesn’t eat a lot, but isn’t necessary skinny. Me too. Weight management in the past was dealt with via exercise. As in: Want to lose weight? Okay: Jog more. Or do the stairs. Or buy another 10-pack of yoga classes. And so on.
If someone mentioned diet, I’d whine something along the lines of, “But I don’t eat a lot. That’s not really the problem.”
An informed friend told me about the food ratio concept about 10 times before I finally perked up and listened. In a nutshell it’s this: You might be eating good things, but you might be consuming a totally whacked-out proportion of fats, carbohydrates and protein.
In other words, you might be eating too much of one category, and not enough of the others.
When I started keeping tabs on the situation, I discovered that I was consuming an extreme amount of carbohydrates, but nearly nill in terms of protein. [To read more about this concept, and dial in your ratios, visit dotFIT.]
Adjusting ratios has been the golden ticket for me. I eat more and have trimmed up noticeably, without bumping up the exercise.
Market Your Food…To You
If you are a person who does not eat consistently, you may be a sort of unconscious eater. The type who doesn’t think about food until your starving. Then you scarf down whatever’s within grasp.
My advice: Get into (nice, nutritious) food. There’s never been a time where there’s more of it around. Even if you live in a one-horse town.
“Health food” has come a long, long way. My mother used to buy me carob bars from the health food store in lieu of the real, chocolate deal. Let’s just say that cardboard might have been an upgrade. I recently tried a modern carob bar and found it quite luscious.
- To put good food on your dining radar, it needs to be visible and desirable.
To do this: Grocery shop in a more conscious way, and with a list. Type one up, and print out a bunch of copies that you keep in a handy kitchen drawer.
Before shopping, check off the items you need, and off you go.
When you get home. Arrange your healthy, wonderful food items in a visually pleasing way that encourages you to eat it.
Example: Let’s say you want to eat more fruit. Find the refrigerator shelf that is eye-level to your height.
Clear the shelf and arrange fruits so they are the first things you see when you open the door.
Make sure the fruit is washed, sticker-free and stored it in appealing containers.
You know how there’s ready to wear fashion? Make your kitchen full of ready to eat food.
On a related note. When you dine at home, make a special effort to dress your food with nice seasonings. Serve it on nice plates and sit at the table to eat, even if you only have two minutes. Squeeze fresh lime or lemon in your water.
These things make dining more of a ritual. They make eating more conscious, which means you become more aware of what you are eating. Standing at the counter over a bag of cold cuts and a jug of iced tea? Not so much.
In other words, do little things to make eating more of a special ritual. Consider growing some fresh herbs. A pot of fresh basil or mint doesn’t take up a lot of room, and is low maintenance. Fresh herbs are transformative when it comes to cooking, serving and garnishing food.
Don’t Get Too Hangry, My Friend
When you get hungry, you probably get angry. Light headed. You make bad decisions. You want to beat someone’s head in for no good reason.
Hangry is when you find yourself screeching out of the Taco Bell drive-through with a pile of 7 Layer Burritos and a super-sized vat of Cherry Slushy.
If you’re stoned and 16, that might be fun. Not so much if you’re an adult in a suit. For starters, that wily packet of hot sauce will probably end up squirting all over that nice white shirt of yours. The shirt you have to bring to the dry cleaners every time you look at it.
Having those those little handfuls of almonds I spoke about earlier on hand means there’s less chance of such things happening. Not the hot sauce part—the part about getting hangry. “Hangry” being a not-desirable mix of being Hungry and Angry.
And the term hangry? Not mine. It’s Kaitlyn’s, a trainer for Venus Lasers who manages to eat incredibly healthy despite having to drive from one end of LA to another on a daily basis.
Tip: To not get hangry, she rolls up slices of turkey and eats them in her car. She also recommends slicing an apple laterally, heaping it with almond butter and stacking another apple slice on top. Pack a few of these and keep them with you if, when hangry, you become tempted to eat an entire chocolate cake while driving home from wherever.
You Can Take It With You
To create the habit of eating well, you may have to pencil in short food breaks at first. You are doing this to consciously embed better eating behaviors into your life.
Also: start toting nice edibles around with you. Before visions of a clunky Thermos or Starsky & Hutch lunch box start dancing in your head, realize that food containers have come a long, sexy way.
I use a skinny, padded wine bag, which is perfect for toting around assorted bags of cherries, almonds and other things, and slips right into my briefcase/purse. There are more high-performance options out there. Ice Mules are soft bags that come in totable sizes, and claim to keep ice intact for 24 hours.
I recently taught a 4-1/2 hour class. That is not so unusual for me, but instead of my usual dining habits—drinking a huge cup of coffee while lecturing, then stuffing my face with a Subway sandwich and chips when it’s over—I ate periodically during breaks.
Peeled a juice tangerine. Ate an apple. Drank water. The results were much better. I had more energy. The steady, clear-headed kind.
Healthy Eating as Gratitude
Your body is the most spectacular machine you will ever own.
It is extraordinary, and a good way to honor and show gratitude for it is by treating it nicely. At least as nicely as your car. Starving it, or making it pull out the stops to keep you going because you’re under-nourishing it or treating it erratically, is not a way to show how much you care.
In other words: Scratch your back nutritionally, and it will scratch yours for a good long time. Or: Don’t be a spoiled brat to your body.
Love it. Be nice to it and feed it steady stores of edible wonderfulness, which we are so insanely and incredibly lucky to have at our fingertips.
It’s never too late to change your eating habits. Once you start eating well—intaking nutritious food consistently and in balanced ratios of protein, fat and carbohydrates—you will feel better, look more beautiful, and, as that palm reader said, live longer.