How and what we eat is the second half of being fit.

Well, they never said it would be easy. Although the exercise part of my journey to fitness is going well (I’ve lost another inch in my upper body measurements), the changing of my diet is going a bit more slowly (I’ve lost only two pounds this month). The good news is that I’m going in the right direction, weight-wise, and I’ve also read that you gain heavier muscle mass as you get into better shape, which means my body composition is better than the scale would indicate.

In this Zesty Lime, Shrimp and Avocado Salad recipe, healthy avocados play a starring role! (Credit: skinnytaste.com)
In this Zesty Lime, Shrimp and Avocado Salad recipe, healthy avocados play a starring role! (Credit: skinnytaste.com)

Regarding food management, we’ve probably all followed some popular diet (or several) over the course of our lifetime, with varying degrees of success. We’ve likely lost some or a lot of weight in a matter of weeks or a few months. But as we all know, within a year or two, we’ve put the weight back on. The problem is that diets with extreme components are not sustainable (or even healthy) over the long term. The key is to instill lifelong healthy eating habits that we can live with (both literally and figuratively!).

Long-popular diet plans (such as the South Beach Diet, the Atkins Diet, Weight Watchers, etc.) and even the more extreme ones (e.g., the Cabbage Soup Diet, the Fast Food Diet) can be good “jump-starters” but over the long haul, the only way to keep the weight off is to develop good eating habits. I’m finding out changing decades-old habits is not something you can do overnight. I’ve made a few changes, such as eliminating a roll or piece of bread with dinner and saying “no” to myself a few times a day when I feel compelled to grab a nibble of something, but I plan on doing a better job of practicing what I preach in the coming months, so hopefully I’ll have great news to report in this area by fall.

And what do I preach? My jump-starter, as mentioned in an earlier article, is Weight Watchers, which I plan to continue for another three months. What’s been good about the program this first three months is that it’s gotten me in the habit of recording everything I eat and drink every day. Over the next three months I plan to do a better job of staying within my allotted daily points.

When it comes to lifelong habits, I’m working on developing the following behaviors:

  • Drink several glasses of water a day (in lieu of diet soda; a study cited in the University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter showed that people over 65 who drank diet soda every day had gained two more inches in their waist over a nine-year period than those who hadn’t imbibed). Often, when we feel hungry, we’re actually thirsty. A glass of water can subdue hunger pangs, plus it helps keep your body hydrated, which becomes more challenging as we age. Nancy Brest, who’s been a fitness instructor at The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe for five years and works with the U.S. snowboard team, adheres to drinking daily in ounces half your body weight, so if you’re 160 pounds your daily allotment would be 80 ounces.
  • Eat a few small meals a day rather than one or two large ones, and nearly every article I’ve ever read on nutrition and diet has stressed how important it is not to skip breakfast. Save bigger meals for earlier in the day; I try not to eat any meals later than 7 PM.
  • Practice “mindful eating.” In a nutshell, it’s all about chewing slowly and consciously tasting your food. It’s about savoring every mouthful as opposed to shoveling it in. Take twice as long to eat a meal than you usually take. Google “mindful eating” and you’ll find many articles if you want to delve deeper into developing this habit.
  • And finally, you don’t have to eat plain steamed vegetables on a plate to eat healthily. One way to make the transition from bad habits to good ones is substitution: e.g., putting Greek yogurt on your potato instead of butter. And one of the best sites around to find incredibly delicious and savory recipes of your favorite dishes that have been made more healthy is skinnytaste.com. Be sure to check it out, especially the black bean burgers (better than beef ones!).

One final surprising diet tip: the feature article in the latest issue of UC-Berkeley’s Wellness Letter is packed with incredible facts on the health benefits of avocados. Don’t be put off by the calories. There are so many other health benefits packed into the little fruits that outweigh the calorie count. The story won’t be available online for a couple of months, but in the meantime, here are a few avocado facts you can check out on the website now, just click this link.

Bon appetit!

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