Monday, January 26, 2009

Tricks of the Tradeoffs

Here’s my tip for a healthier 2009: Avoid perfectionism, refined sugar, and dairy.

Although I've not experienced the yo-yo weight issue, I've had my ups and downs, especially reaching a truce with my sweet tooth. Who knows? Perhaps 2009 will be the year we actually become friends.

Here are my tried-and-true tricks of the tradeoffs:

If you can walk only 10 minutes a day, don’t worry about the fact that you’re not walking 30 to 60 minutes a day. Try to walk more, but whatever you do, do not abandon your 10 minutes because it’s not the ideal. Same goes if you can work out only one session a month instead of three a week, or swim two laps instead of ten. Bravo! You're doing a wonderful thing for your health!

Buy some honey and stevia and use them. Don’t use refined sugar if you can help it. Experiment. Laugh at your experiments. Experiment again. Your triumphs will shine in your recipe repertoire.

If trying to avoid desserts, end your dinner with a loaded (chopped carrots, zucchini, pecans, tomato, dried cranberries) green salad topped with a high-quality poppy seed (or other sweet) dressing. Ending the meal with filling fiber in your stomach and a sweet taste in your mouth will squelch your desire for a high-calorie dessert. (One tablespoon of my faves, Brianna's Honey Mustard and Poppy Seed dressings, contain 75 and 80 calories, respectively. That's about 15 minutes on the treadmill. Compare this with one ~ just one ~ Oreo cookie: 160 calories, or 30 minutes on the treadmill.)

Besides sweet salad dressing, another low-cal “cheater dessert” is a fruit-juice-only frozen pop, fresh fruit, or a piece of candied ginger, which has the added benefit of aiding digestion. Once you’ve been off refined sugar for awhile, you won’t crave desserts at all.

If you suspect that emotional eating is the issue, there are no shortcuts. Get a book like Love Hunger (by Minirth, Meier, et al); join a support group; do whatever homework it takes to free yourself.

Unless your doctor tells you to absolutely avoid sweets, allow yourself some. Figure out a system. For example, buy a small bag of your favorite cookie and make that bag last a month. Or don’t eat desserts at home, but let yourself look forward to ordering dessert when you go out to eat every few months. Or read package labels until you’re cross-eyed to find the least caloric packaged desserts. Or learn to make fun desserts sweetened with only honey, stevia, or fruit. Whatever your system, ask: Does it make a significant difference from my old habit? Be honest.

It’s easier to think of vegetables as part of lunch or dinner. To add another veggie to your day, toss a few baby spinach leaves (or broccoli floret left over from last night’s dinner) into the pan with your breakfast egg.

Dairy is the number one food allergen, but even if you tolerate it okay, I’d limit dairy foods if you’re trying to lose weight. (You may need to include other sources of calcium in your diet.) This is my completely unscientific opinion, based on personal anecdotal evidence, but I think dairy gunks up the walls of your intestines with mucus and who knows what else. If nutrients can’t get through the gunk into your bloodstream, you feel hungrier and will eat more. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

Here’s to a healthier new year for all of us!

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