Rules of the Road

Practical Rules of the Road for the Chronic Dieter and for Those Who Eat on the Run

  1. Think premium fuels first! It amazes and amuses me that many people will put premium unleaded fuels in their car engine, but when it comes to our bodies, we put very little forethought into our choices of fuel. The food groups represented in the body of the Food Guide Pyramid represent what I refer to as the premium fuel choices. In other words, use fresh fruit if you have a taste for something sweet, especially if you have not fulfilled your fruit intake requirement for the day. The fibers in fruit may just satisfy your craving entirely. Then see if you still want the other sweet item you were craving. Even if you end up eating the sweet, you may eat less of it. Also check to see if you left out any of your other premium fuel servings for the day and eat those items first.
  2. Plan Ahead. It’s a lot easier to follow a healthy meal plan if the foods are within reach. Make a shopping list for the week to accommodate your daily servings from each food group. If getting yourself to the store is difficult, look into shopping services in your neighborhood or on the Internet. Think about your schedule for the day in advance and bring your next meal or snack with you, especially if your schedule will not allow you to get away to eat.
  3. Apply the Rule of One! If a food item taunts you and it is an item you may tend to overeat, you may need to implement the rule of one serving. So check the food label. If you can honestly say, “I will not be able to have just one serving,” then leave it alone. The day will hopefully come when you really would be happy with just a taste of a food you enjoy, but have historically over-consumed. This is when you know you have arrived at a compromise with yourself. Tell yourself one serving is better than none. Keep in mind that No Food is a Bad Food! Basically, all you have to do is adjust your meal plan to allow for it.
  4. Have a one-to-one ratio of vegetables with rice and pasta dishes. In other words, eat an equal amount of vegetables with pasta or rice dishes. If you struggle with over-consumption of pasta or rice, take advantage of the appetite curbing power of fiber from vegetables. In other words, if you have one cup of rice, have at least one cup of vegetable; or if you have 1 1/2 cups of pasta or noodles, have at least 1 1/2 cups of vegetables with it. You can always have more vegetables. Remember, it is the one food group in my eyes that has no limit, because of the fiber content, it fills you up and limits itself.
  5. Three natural appetite suppressants are already available to you at no additional cost! This trio includes an adequate intake of daily fluids, fiber and protein. Adequate fluids may help you differentiate between the hunger and thirst sensations more distinctly, since hunger and thirst can sometimes be difficult to differentiate as you get older. Get into a routine with your fluid intake; have 1-2 cups (8-16 fl.oz.) in the morning to jump start your engine and get the body’s fluids flowing, 2-3 cups with each meal and 1-2 cups with snacks. Usually, overnight is the longest period of time you may go without drinking any fluids, so part of the fatigue in the morning may be attributed to baseline dehydration. For those who profess to need caffeine in the morning, experiment by drinking a few cups of water and see if you can wake up without your coffee. Foods high in dietary fiber release food fuel more slowly into your system, similar to a fuel injection engine. If you strategically use fiber-containing foods, such as fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as an essential part of your meals and snacks, this should allow for improved blood glucose regulation and therefore a more consistent energy level throughout the day. Last but not least, protein should be a component of your meals and snacks. Similar to fiber, protein is digested more slowly and contributes to a sense of fullness or satiety.
  6. Make sure you are eating balanced meals. A balanced meal should contain protein contributors from milk and/or meat servings; fiber contributors, preferably from vegetables and/or fruit; and carbohydrate contributors, primarily from whole grain breads, cereal, rice, pasta and/or starchy vegetables (i.e. potato, corn, peas, squash, and dry beans).
  7. When eating out or ordering in, use the menu as an ingredient list. Pick and choose the items that will fulfill the components of a balanced meal. Make sure you have a protein contributor (from milk and/or meat serving), a fiber contributor (preferably from steamed vegetables and/or a large salad) and a carbohydrate contributor (such as, bread, pasta, rice, etc.). Ask for foods to be prepared to your liking, for example, with less fat. Remember, most restaurants aim to please and will accommodate your special requests. You may also want to ask the wait staff or chef about portions served. Measuring the amount of foods eaten in a home cooked meal may help you to better estimate appropriate portions of foods when eating out.
  8. If you eat high fat foods at one meal, compensate by choosing low fat items for your next meal and snack. Let’s say you have a cheeseburger and large fries at lunch, which used most of your fat allowance for the day. You can compensate by having baked chicken or fish or legumes for your dinner meal accompanied by steamed vegetables and rice. Do not skip meals to compensate, since this may only lead to overeating later.
  9. Remember, there is always a thought before an action. Positive self talk can go a long way. Take a couple of minutes and think about what you will prepare or purchase for your next meal or snack. That little bit of forethought can help keep you on track. Learn to negotiate with yourself and reward yourself for completing your least favorite tasks. Realize lapsing into old behaviors is normal. Assess what may have precipitated the lapse and correct it. When you get discouraged, ask yourself, “What are my options at this point or at this fork in the road?” Turning back is not a favorable option. You’ve come this far, so stay on track. Just reroute your course back in line with your goals. Be your own best friend through this awareness process.
  10. Use the same rules for yourself as you would use for a child. Would you let your child eat dessert before dinner? Would you let your child go to school without eating breakfast and not knowing where they would get lunch? Treat yourself with the same rules and respect used for children and you may find your eating behaviors are more in line with your goals. Also, if one rule you set for yourself does not work, be flexible, revise your plan to get the desired behavior or result.
  11. Keep in mind that regular aerobic activity should be part of your commitment to a healthy lifestyle and your weight management program. Your body will not only thank you, but your nerves will too. If you have a stressful lifestyle, aerobic activity is the perfect stress reducer. Many use food as an outlet for stress which, more often than not, adds to their stress and can make managing weight difficult. Increase your awareness of the mind/body connection through regular physical activity, and committing to a healthier lifestyle will follow. So take your engine out for a workout. Start by participating in 2 hours of aerobic activity per week, i.e., 4 sessions at 30 minutes each or 3 sessions at 40 minutes each.