Tag Archives: healthy eating

3 Powerful Strategies to Resist Cravings

Posted on 03. Apr, 2009 by .

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One morning as I woke up to get ready for work, I realized that I forgot to prepare my breakfast which is usually my Wake Me Up Pancakes that I wrote on this post. Another breakfast favorite is Ezekiel bread and one, whole Omega-3 egg but I would eat these whenever I only have one pancake left and I’m not used to eating them without one. So, I had a dilemma about whether to eat my husband’s cereal or not to eat breakfast at all. As I stated in the post for my TT transformation results, I kicked the cereal habit for about 6 months now and, quite frankly, I don’t want to go back to eating it again — I don’t even crave it one bit.

#1 Keeping a Safe Home Base

So, I decided to cook some Oatmeal instead (not the quick cooking ones but the regular kind that you can find in the bulk bins at health food stores) and I ate it with a piece of Ezekiel bread slathered with some Peanut Butter (Yum!). I always keep Oatmeal and other healthy stuff at home for times like these. You’ll just never know when hunger or cravings will strike and I like to be prepared when they happen. The strategy is basically to keep a safe home/kitchen base that is free from processed foods, baked goods, or anything that might impede your fat loss goals and your healthy eating habits. While I try not to label some foods as “evil,” I’d rather not have them in my kitchen so that it won’t be easy for me to grab them when I want to eat them.

I originally got this idea of having a safe home base from Precision Nutrition. If you think about it, it really seems intuitive but, some people, like me, would probably think that they can resist the temptation when it comes so it’s ok for them to keep “unhealthy” foods in the kitchen cupboards. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. Your will power can only go so far. When hunger pangs start, guess what, your stomach probably doesn’t send signals of eating fruits and vegetables in your brain. I find that when I’m hungry or having a strong craving, it’s really difficult to resist eating that chocolate bar or that sugary cereal that seems to be calling my name and waiting to sabotage my healthy eating efforts.

#2 Develop the Habits

Writing about cravings just now reminded me about the Kashi commercial that I saw on T.V. the other day. The girl in the commercial said that her mission is to turn healthy eating from “have to” to “want to” (or something along those lines). I believe that this can happen because I’ve actually been experiencing some healthy cravings lately. I never would have thought that this was possible but it is. The healthier I eat, the more I don’t want sweets anymore. I actually surprised myself one day when I walked into the grocery store during winter and I was so excited to have found peaches from Chile. I mean who gets excited about fruit? I do!

I also realized that since I’ve been eating fruits and vegetables on a daily basis, it has become a habit that I don’t even think about it anymore. This is a very powerful strategy! You know how they say that habits are hard to break? Well, why not develop a healthy habit so you don’t have to worry about breaking it? Again, this is one of those things that would seem very apparent to some people and yet we’d rather eat fast food or have dessert after dinner etc. Sure, it was difficult for me to develop these habits at first but, the more I practiced it, the easier it went. So, if this something you want to experiment with, try adding just one healthy habit and keep doing it for 3 weeks straight, you’ll find that you’ll have a different take on things compared to when you first started.

#3 Keep them Out of Sight

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

For some people, completely getting rid of junk food may be difficult especially if you live with a big family who doesn’t want to join you in the healthy band wagon. If you’re forgetful like me, you’ll find that the simple act of keeping foods out of sight can be really powerful. Even if you’re not forgetful, you’re less likely to snack on these foods if it’s not lying around on the kitchen counter or the coffee table. On the other hand, if your kitchen is cluttered with visual cues of brownies, potato chips, cookies, etc. then you may just find yourself mindlessly snacking on those foods even though you’re not hungry. Of course, keeping a safe home base would be the ideal strategy but if this situation applies to you, you’re better off not getting those visual cues to keep yourself out of the danger zone.

I find that there’s always a time and place for indulgences especially when it comes to food. Finding the right balance in living a healthier lifestyle can mean the difference between obsessing about macronutrient ratios (which might lead to eating disorders) and just simply being satisfied with the fact that you’re nourishing your body each time you eat a healthy meal.

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The 90% Rule

Posted on 04. Mar, 2009 by .

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Lately, I have been reading in other blogs and forum threads about nutrition mishaps – meaning that they either binged or just made some bad food choices. Just like them, I also have a bit of trouble in this deparment (don’t we all?) and so as one of my strategies in approaching this issue is to closely monitor my “cheat meals” by following the 90% rule.

What is the 90% rule?

I originally heard of the 90% rule from Dr. John Berardi, creator of Precision Nutrition. The rule states that you can still have amazing results if you follow a good nutrition plan 90% of the time. To be more specific, I’ll give you my example.

On the nutrition stand point

I routinely eat 5 meals a day (on the days that I’m not fasting – that is) which give me a total of 35 (5 meals/day x 7 days) meals per week. I just use this number even on the days that I fast. So, this means that I can eat 3.5 (35 x .1 or 10%) cheat meals and still get great results! The idea is the 10% leeway will not affect your results heavily because you are in 90% compliance anyway. Isn’t that great news? I mean even the most disciplined person in the world needs a little wiggle room every once in awhile right? So, why do it 100% when you can still get the same results at 90%? The one problem with this though is that some people will take this 10% and make it into 20% or even 50%. This is one reason why I want to track my meals in some way (more on this later).

From the workouts stand point

The 90% rule applies to your workouts as well. Since I go to the gym 3x a week and follow a specific program for 4 weeks, I can miss one workout and still see some nice changes. Now, working out and eating are two totally different creatures for me. I love working out – I like the high that I get from it. I see it as a way for me to keep the stress levels down as well. Even on some days when I’m just feeling blah and not really motivated to get my butt to the gym – I still end up going because I look forward to that feeling after a great workout. Now, if you talk to me about the nutrition side of things – that’s totally different story, my friend.

So why did I bring up the 90% rule?

Partly because, I really want to start actually marking off my meal chart with my cheat meals so that I’ll know that I’m really in 90% compliance and not 85% or 75%. I got a chart from my Precision Nutrition purchase but if you want a poor man’s (or woman’s) version, Maggie Wang, created one here. You’d have scroll to the bottom of the post to download the pdf file. I need a chart like this because I have a hard time remembering what I eat/ate unless I write it down or track it in some way (can’t imagine how sharp I would be several years down the road…lol). It may sound tedious but it really isn’t. Think of it as a way to see your progress just as you would your % body fat or other measurements.

Before I conclude, I’d like to add that the 90% rule is helpful in terms of eating healthy and not thinking of fat loss in terms of “dieting.” Incorporate the 90% rule all the time and not just when you’re trying to lose weight. This way of thinking makes it a longer term plan instead of having the “yo-yo dieting” mindset. Remember that losing the weight is just as difficult as maintaining it so keep the rewards forever – you already worked hard for it, you might as well keep it.

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Where to Go for Nutrition Advice

Posted on 12. Feb, 2009 by .

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“Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.”

As I was scanning through the T.V. guide this past rainy, Sunday afternoon, I saw a show dubbed as “I Can’t Stay Thin.” To my surprise, this is actually a part of the MTV series documentary, “True Life.” In this particular episode, they were following the lives of two teenagers. One girl claims to be a yo-yo dieter who has to resort to various diet pills and who can’t seem to keep her weight off after she resumes her normal eating habits. The other person in this episode is a guy eats 300 calories a day and does not exercise at all so that he can go from 340 lbs to 215 lbs.

I can see why these two teenagers and many others resort to drastic measures when it comes to losing weight/fat. Everyone wants the fast and easy way to lose fat (especially belly fat for that matter) that we’ll try just about anything that promises these kind of results. At the same time, there is so much misleading information from the diet industry that we lose sight of the basics of nutrition and exercise which actually deliver results because it requires a lot of hard work, motivation, will power and time, among other things.

While it’s common knowledge that fruits and vegetables should be a part of a healthy diet especially if you’re looking to lose weight, many people are confused as to which diet (by the way, I don’t do “diets.” I believe in eating healthier as a lifestyle.) to follow, how many calories to eat, what food groups to eat more of, or how to eat so many servings a day etc. To minimize this confusion, I basically follow the nutritional priciples outlined by 3 different books or e-books. These are:

While the principles in these books vary and sometimes conflicts with each other, they do agree on the fact that you must feed and treat your body in a way that you’re nourishing it to move you towards a leaner, healthier you. They also agree that every diet has to have some leniency. In other words, you can have cheat meals as long as it’s in moderation.

So, here is an overview of what you can get from these books:

    • Eat Stop Eat – This is a book about intermittent fasting. Brad Pilon, the author, goes into depth about the scientific reasons behind how and why fasting works and why it’s a beneficial practice. He also disputes the common assertions about the “starvation mode” and losing muscle mass while fasting. I’ve also learned a few things about which hormones go up and down which eventually result to fat loss. For me, knowing the science behind what Brad claims is important because it helps me understand that there is a purpose for the fast, that I’m actually doing my body good and I’m not doing it just because I wanted to lose fat. I also find the information in ESE helpful during those times when I just want to break my fast earlier than Brad recommends.

      From my experience, ESE really does work and it’s the easiest, most hassle-free way to lose fat especially from the lower ab area. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, you’ve probably read about and seen my results from ESE. But, if you haven’t, you can read it here.

      Who is it for: For fairly, healthy people who are having trouble losing weight even with a daily caloric deficit. If you’ve been thinking of fasting as a way to weight loss but haven’t decided if it’s for you, check out this article by Rusty Moore and another one from Life Spotlight.

    • Eat Stop Eat

      Eat Stop Eat

    • Precision Nutrition – this is a comprehensive resource for nutrition advice and gourmet recipes by Dr. John Berardi. The major part of this package is the Gourmet Nutrition (version 1) cookbook but it comes with many other helpful resources such as: the body fat measurement guide, nutrition individualization/personalization, cooking tips and techniques, food history and background, 5-minute meals, Supershakes recipes, and many more. This also includes a membership access to the online articles, resources, and forums.

      Precision Nutrition

      Precision Nutrition

      Take note that this is an actual book that gets physically delivered in the mail (not an e-book).

      Who is it for: This is for people who want a personalized approach to nutrition and, of course, who love to cook. I personally use the cook book a lot because I like to know what goes into my food (i.e. whole some ingredients without the bad fats and not much sugar). While I got PN after learning how to cook and eat healthy for awhile, I love the gourmet recipes and liked reading all the additional nutritional stuff. There’s something in there for quick meals or a full-blown gourmet meal to impress your friends or your date. The body measurement guide also talks about other assessments that can give you feedback on whether you’re going in the right direction. If you want another person’s take on the Precision Nutrition System, here is Maggie Wang’s review of it.

    • Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle – this is an e-book that talks about nutrition from a bodybuilder’s perspective, Tom Venuto. Don’t let the term body builder fool you either because Tom V. is not one of those bulky, freaky looking body builders – he is lean and HOT! Oh yah, and he also has some great stuff to say about nutrition, nutrition strategies, macronutrient ratios, types of exercise, different body types in terms of genetics, etc.

      Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle

      Burn the Fat Feed the Muscle


      Who is it for: This is for everyone who wants to have a good understanding of nutrition basics and exercise basics (he mainly talks about cardio so don’t expect workout programs here). Tom explains all the priciples in detail, in a manner that is funny and easy to undestand. He also added some sample meal plans that is meant give you an idea of how and when you should be eating. Overall, this is a book that is highly recommended. If you only have money for one e-book, this is the book to buy! And yes, I’m putting my name on this recommendation because it is one of the best fitness and nutrition books that I have ever read.

    Once I have the principles down from these three books, I just tune out whatever ridiculous advice I hear in the news or read in the newspapers and magazines. This is one of those cases wherein the saying, “less is more (or better)” really applies. As for those two teenagers in the documentary, MTV showed them to have developed better eating habits and exercise routines. I just hope the story will be the same for everyone because, for me, this is the only way to go. There may be times when I fall off the wagon but I have acquired the mind set that this is the only way to go – eating healthier and regular exercise. So that after falling off the wagon, I know where to get support and which strategies to implement to help me get back on track.

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Prepare Your Way to a Leaner You

Posted on 09. Feb, 2009 by .

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“If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.”

I can’t remember how many times I have heard this quote before but I remember how powerful it was the very first time I read it. It really is true in many aspects of our lives and it is especially true when it comes to losing weight or body fat or blubber or whatever you want to call it.

When I’m not fasting, I plan to eat 5 meals a day – not snacks but meals. Do you know how daunting of a task that is for a person who spends 2.5 hours in commuting time, work a full time job; take care of the husband, the dog, and myself; go to the gym three times a week; put in some kind of “light” workout (I put in the quotations because sometimes my light activities are not so light anymore) on the days I don’t go to the gym; etc. etc. So, when I was first learning more about losing the ever elusive belly fat and learned that I had to eat 5-6 (six meals is mostly for the men who have higher calorie requirements – lucky them!) meals a day, I knew I had to make some adjustments and cough up some self-discipline.

This discipline required me to plan a whole week’s worth of meals ahead of time and set a time during the weekend to cut up all the ingredients that I will be cooking throughout the week. So, this is how I do it:

  • Thursday: start looking for recipes for 3 different entrees, 1 breakfast, and 2 handy snacks to cook for next week.
  • Friday: start a grocery list of my ingredients and check the fridge and pantry for stuff that I already have. Go grocery shopping
  • Saturday afternoon: cut up all the vegetables and cook one entree for dinner.
  • Sunday afternoon: cook two more snacks that I can take to work besides leftovers
  • Monday and Wednesdays (non-gym days): Cook the other two entrees.

I realize that it looks like I do a lot of cooking which I do but it doesn’t take much of my time because I already cut up all my vegetables on Saturday night. At the same time, my snacks need very little cooking time or no cooking at all.

After buying Precision Nutrition recently, I actually had to take out my food processor because I had to cut up a LOT of vegetables. I remember not having any success with this kitchen equipment because I thought that I can put whole vegetables in there — wrong! While I still have to cut my vegetables into small enough pieces so that they can get cut up into even smaller pieces, I do save a fair amount of time IF I’m cutting all my vegetables at the same time. But, if I only need to cut one or two vegetables then, a knife and a cutting board will be sufficient. To give you an idea of how much vegetables I prepare during the weekend, see the picture on the left side.

Prepared Vegetables

Prepared Vegetables

Also, take note that I own an inexpensive food processor like this one from Black and Decker (it was actually free from mom…lol).

After preparing all my ingredients for the rest of the week, I don’t have to spend a lot of time in the kitchen during the week. All I need is to throw in all the ingredients in the pan or skillet and I have a meal in less than 20 minutes. Here is an example of my menu from Gourmet Nutrition:

  • Saturday, Entree 1: Asian Chicken Veggie Stir Fry
  • Monday, Entree 2: Braised Beef in a Red Wine Sauce
  • Wednesday, Entree 3: Peruvian Chicken
  • Snack 1: 1 apple with 1 cup plain yogurt and half a scoop protein powder (no cooking time)
  • Snack 2: Mixed Nut Bar from Gourmet Nutrition (only takes 20 minutes to prepare and bake)
  • Breakfast: Oatmeal Pancakes or Spinach and Mushroom Omelet

This menu would be enough for me and my husband to eat 5-6 meals a day because I would also double the amount of ingredients required in the recipes. This way, I can take left overs to work for lunch or a snack.

I pretty much stock up on Spinach in my fridge because I can alway use them in my omelet or in a salad. Because of that, I have to find ways to keep it fresh. So, I remember learning this technique from my roommate in college who grew up in a farm. Basically, I wash the Spinach all at once then, drain the water from it as much as I can. After that, I lay 2-3 pieces of paper towel on the kitchen counter and wrap the spinach in the napkin. Then, it goes in a big Ziploc bag. If you prepare your Spinach this way, it stays fresh in the fridge for about 2 weeks (possibly longer).

Spinach

Spinach

So now that I have taken you through my food preparation strategies, you might be feeling overwhelmed – don’t be. I didn’t start out doing all these meal preparations right away. I started with small, baby steps which eventually became a habit. I can come up with many excuses not to prepare my meals but those excuses won’t do me any good. They would just prevent me from reaching my goals and living a healthier lifestyle. As for you, you can doing one habit today or this weekend such as preparing a healthy snack, stick to it for a few weeks.

If you want to jumpstart your way to weight loss by cooking and eating healthier meals, here are two free downloadable e-books from Precision Nutrition:


Gourmet Nutrition Desserts


Precision Nutrition Strategies

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How I Jumpstarted My Weight Loss by Eating Healthy

Posted on 11. Jan, 2009 by .

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When I decided to start eating healthy, my first move was to start cooking more in the kitchen. While there can be a lot of healthy recipes available on the internet, it can be hard to find something you really like or something that is easy to make. So, I have made a list of my favorite healthy foods and some easy, healthy recipes that are part of my everyday diet.

Before I go into all my lists, there is one rule that I want to share with you: stay away from boxed or packaged foods that are designed to have a long shelf life. Some examples of these foods are: frozen pizza, sugary cereals, pre-packaged donuts/desserts, microwave dinners etc. In other words, if you mainly buy foods from the grocery perimeter aisles (not middle aisles) of your grocery stores and go for whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, and lean meats, you will be fine. This is one simple rule that I’ve learned from Craig Ballantyne, creator of Turbulence Training, and it has helped me a lot in creating healthy recipes.

To start, I’d like to give you a list of healthy foods that I always keep in my fridge and/or pantry:

  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Omega-3 eggs (I use Eggland’s Best, cage-free eggs)
  • Apples (any kind you like)
  • Clementines
  • All Bran Cereal
  • Low Fat Cottage Cheese
  • Oat Meal
  • Low Fat Ricotta Cheese
  • Chicken Breast
  • Lean Beef, preferably 96% lean or 4% fat
  • Sprouted Grain Bread (I use Ezekiel)
  • Natural Nut Butters such as peanut butter or almond butter
  • Raw Nuts such as pecans, almonds, walnuts, etc.
  • Non-fat Plain Yogurt
  • Salsa
  • Spices
  • Sea Salt
  • Canned or fresh Tuna
  • Any type of fresh fish

If you look at my list, you will find that there are very few things that are from the middle aisle of the grocery store. If you are in doubt, always look at the sugar content in the nutrition facts and also look at the ingredients on the label when buying pre-packaged food. Here are some of the things you watch out for in food labels:

  • Trans-fats – you don’t want them because as little as 0.5 grams can cause health/heart problems in the long run
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup – this is just another name for simple sugar which can cause fluctuations in your blood sugar and also does not give your body any nutrients and nourishment.

There are many other things to look for but these two are the big players that can wreak havoc to your health and fat loss goals.

Now, it’s time for my favorite part: my easy, healthy recipes, recipe sources, and meals!

I want to begin with drawing a picture of how my whole day’s meal looks like. My breakfast can either be Oatmeal Pancakes or what I call my Fiber One Breakfast which consists of a half a cup of Fiber One Honey Clusters with a quarter cup of non-fat, organic, milk with Ezekiel Bread toast topped with 1 tablespoon Cashew Butter.

Next, my lunch/dinner can be baked Salmon with half a cup of brown rice and one cup steamed Brocolli. I also usually eat something different for my post-workout meal such as the Pear/Peach-Cobbler dessert recipe that I got from the desserts section of Gourmet Nutrition. If you’re like me and you like dessert, there are a lot of great recipe ideas from this free e-book from Gourmet Nutrition click here to get your own copy.

Another web site that I often visit is 101cookbooks.com. This web site, which was created by Heidi Swanson, focuses on vegetarian, natural cooking. Although I’m not vegetarian, I take Heidi’s natural, healthy recipes and add either Chicken Breast or fish to some of her recipes. If you like to experiment in the kitchen, you can find easy recipes in web sites such as allrecipes.com and foodnetwork.com. However, if you’re the type of person who needs a nutrition plan then, Dr. John Berardi and his people at Precision Nutrition can help you do just that.

Sometime in the future, I will share with you my favorite Oatmeal Pancake recipe. Yum!

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