How To Eat, Part I: Build Your Boundaries

The subject I seem to get the most questions about…and most stress around…is how to eat.  Questions range from how much,  to timing, to best foods, to meal plans.   In the realm of health changes, food and eating is definitely what women worry about!

To help you get some ideas and build some comfort around how you eat I’m creating a multi-part blog series.  I’m going to be introducing you to how I approach food and why.  As I always say though, it is imperative you find #WWFY (What Works For You)!  Me sharing my approaches is meant to give you permission to go your own way and give you some alternatives to consider.  But before I tell you how I determine what I eat, you need to know my food philosophy.  Read on!

My philosophy around food isn’t rooted in scientific studies, nor recent buzzwords.  My beliefs around food and how/when to eat is a very basic, common sense approach.  Let me explain…

Humans have been around for millenia, right?  There isn’t a dispute that we’ve existed for awhile.  Again, I’m no scientist/researcher/paleontologist, but I don’t think I’m wrong when I assume that our basic bodily functions work the same now as they did centuries ago.  I’m thinking about things like hormones, hunger cues, fullness cues, sleep cues, digestion, liver function, etc.

Back in the old caveman days do you suppose people planned when and how often they ate?  I really don’t think so.

Ancient humans were rooted in survival.  They likely ate for one of two reasons:  hunger and food availability.   They probably weren’t thinking about how to time their protein intake to maximize fat burn.  They probably weren’t thinking about how to put food into their bodies to stabilize their blood sugar and cravings.  They probably weren’t thinking about grams of this, calories of that, carb loading, or carb refeeding.

Now, I won’t dispute that science is great and we are fortunate to have learned all the details we know about how the human body works.  If you have physique goals (and I’m not talking fat loss…I’m talking “I want my body to be ripped/lean/sculpted/able to lift lots of weight” kind of stuff), then you absolutely want to know WHEN to put WHAT in your body, and HOW OFTEN.

I don’t have goals like that.  I simply want to remain healthy and maintain my weight without having to stress all the damn time about what I eat.  If you are reading this blog, you are probably of the same mindset!

In short, my food philosophy is this:  1)  I don’t think what you eat needs to be so scientific, and 2) I think, for most us, eating according to the following guidelines will keep us healthy:

  • Eat a variety of whole (i.e. not chemical/preservative laden) food.
  • Indulge your palette with your favorite flavors MODERATELY so as not to feel deprived.
  • Figure out your hunger cues and learn to eat when you are hungry versus bored, stressed, angry, or sad.
  • Pay attention to the feelings in your body to know how food affects you.   Think about what affects your stomach/guts, what affects your mood/sleep/cravings/complexion/energy level.

So how DO you eat to follow those four guidelines??   That is where my blog series comes in!  I’m going to share with you my personal strategies and behaviors that help me stick to healthy guidelines.  The series isn’t going to tell you to “Eat this food x times per day/week.”  The series isn’t going to provide a canned meal or meal timing plan.  Rather I’m sharing the habits I’ve cultivated that work for ME.  These might work for you, too!  Or these might spur your own ideas for strategies that will work for you!

Without further adieu…here is the first strategy for how to eat:  BUILD YOUR BOUNDARIES!

All along my weight loss and health transformation I allowed myself to eat any food.  I still operate this way today.   Any food was fair game, but there were boundaries I created for certain foods. These certain foods were the ones that if I wasn’t careful began an avalanche of more and more and more.

I love the moderation movement that is occurring right now.  It is so much better than the long-accepted rigidity of counting calories and certain foods being completely off-limits or “bad.”  I have a problem with moderation though…at least in the cases of some things.  There are foods/drinks that are a catalyst in me…they ignite a series of difficult-to-break, unhealthy choices.  At this point in my journey, there are still foods/drinks that trigger me to eat more of the things I don’t really want/need to eat more of .

I won’t apologize for this, nor do I think it makes me weak.  What it does make me is self-aware!  And since I’m aware of a particular weakness I built a strategy to help myself!  And that strategy is BUILD YOUR BOUNDARIES!!

What does BUILD YOUR BOUNDARIES mean?  It means that the food or drink is ALWAYS an option, but you create limits on the consumption to help keep yourself in moderation.

Here are some of my boundaries.  You will see in each one that I still have the food/drink, but there are clear boundaries set as to my consumption:

  • I do not keep soda at home, with the exception of a couple of big holidays where we offer mixed drinks to our guests.  I will, on rare occasion, order a soda for myself when we eat out OR have a few sips of my husbands if he happens to order one.
  • We eat out for dinner once a week.  I usually don’t stress about what I order.  If I want fish fry, I have fish fry.  If I want a cocktail, I have a cocktail.  However, if I end up meeting a friend for lunch or have any ADDITIONAL dinners out then I employ the boundary of:  pick one indulgence OR stick with a veggie heavy meal.  Pick one indulgence means I choose a cocktail OR an appetizer OR a heavy entree OR a dessert…not all!
  • I like chocolate and I stick to healthier choices consistently when I simply allow myself some.  However, I’ve learned that your basic Hershey bar simply fans the flame of my chocolate cravings…low quality chocolate makes me want more crappity-crap.  If I eat high quality, dark chocolate I eat less of it, don’t have the craving cycle, AND I feel like I got to indulge.
  • I eat grain, although much less than I used to.  And, I avoid grain for breakfast the majority of the time.  Grain for breakfast sets me off:  I get hungry by mid-morning and I crash by 2 pm.  I still eat grain…I just don’t start my day with it.
  • I don’t use the grain portion of typical meals…or I use less than typical.  Examples:  I don’t use a tortilla or shell on taco night…my taco is on a bed of lettuce.  I don’t have a sandwich/burger with two bread slices…only open face.  I don’t usually eat the rice with my stir frys…and if I do opt for it then it’s only a small portion (less than 1/3 cup).  On pasta night I grab only a bit of noodles and go heavy on the veggies.  I get the taste and texture of the grain, but just enough to satisfy and not trigger my craving cycle.
  • Meals always start with protein, then add veggies.  I deviate from this as infrequently as possible!

These boundaries help me consume in moderation, keep cravings to a minimum, and let me feel like I got some treats, too.  Much of what I’m reading in the mainstream lately about moderation says to “eat what you want…in moderation.”  I find there are still moments where what I want doesn’t have anything to do with moderation or health.  There are still moments where I simply don’t want to think about it…I just want to inhale cookies and be done with it!

It’s not that I dislike or don’t want healthy food….I do!  It’s just that I still have moments where crappy food is way, way, waaaaayyyy more appealing than the good stuff.  And I know that circling the wagons after I let go of the reins is a shit ton of mental work I don’t care to undertake…hence why I BUILD MY BOUNDARIES!  Keeps me sane…and keeps me healthy!

You can approach healthy eating in any way that suits YOU!  Educate yourself and then learn to trust yourself–you won’t go wrong!

Stay tuned for Part II of the series:  REVIEW AND PREVIEW.  Until next time…keep going your own way!


Does my message make you think “Me, too!”  There’s more insights where this came from and I’d be happy to share them with you!  Get signed up for my newsletter and you will get exclusive content from me right to your Inbox.  Go here for great stuff  —–>  😀

2 thoughts on “How To Eat, Part I: Build Your Boundaries

  1. Pingback: How To Eat, Part II: Review and Preview – Head in the Game Fitness

  2. Pingback: How To Eat, Part III: Lead With Protein – Head in the Game Fitness

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