Top 5 healthy eating challenges

by: Ali B, RD

After discussing weight loss and eating patterns with hundreds of clients and patients over the past few years, I have found that there are many common obstacles to success. It is easier to plan ways to be successful with dieting if you can identify challenges you may run into.

 

Parties/special occasions. Unfortunately, many social gatherings revolve around food and drink. Whether you are at a restaurant for happy hour or a friend’s BBQ, you are likely to run into some food challenges. What can you do to prevent a total disaster? Plan ahead, of course! Here are some of my favorite tips/tricks:

  • Eat before you leave for the event. If you arrive on an empty stomach you’re more likely to eat whatever is convenient and sounds good which, let’s be honest, is never the best choice. If you eat before you leave you are more likely to make wiser decisions when it comes to food.
  • If it’s appropriate, bring an appetizer or side dish. This way, you will have at least one healthy option you can depend on for the evening.
  • Monitor your alcohol intake. It’s no secret that alcohol is full of calories and bad decisions :). Think about it, the more you drink the more likely you are to eat greasy food or go back for seconds.
  • Exercise before heading out the door. Having a healthy relationship with food means realizing you aren’t going to eat “perfectly” all the time. If you are trying to lose weight and know there will be healthy eating challenges in the future, burn some of those expected calories at the gym before you get to the event.

 

Accountability. This is probably the #1 reason people make appointments with me. They know what to do and how to do it, but they have no one to keep them accountable so their good intentions fall through the cracks. I find that people are more successful when they create a weekly goal and check in with someone every three days to report on their progress towards that goal. So find a buddy, have regular appointments with a dietitian, or use social media to help keep you on track.

 

Stress and lack of sleep. For most of us, stress is hard to avoid. Unfortunately, stress can lead to weight retention (or gain) due to the hormones it causes our bodies to release. In addition, when we are stressed we tend to choose unhealthy convenience foods. A side effect of being stressed out is skimping on the amount of sleep we get each night. Not getting enough sleep causes a decrease in metabolism (AKA fewer calories burnt during the day). Here are a few tips for managing stress and improving your sleep habits.

  • Find something that relaxes you. For some people, it’s meditating and yoga, for others it’s journaling. When I’m stressed, a 15-minute walk and well-crafted to-do list takes all my worries away.
  • Perfect the art of meal prep. When you have healthy food prepared in your refrigerator/freezer, you are more likely to choose good options when you are tired and stressed out. Don’t have time to make your own food? Look for a meal delivery company like Feed Your Vitality to prepare healthy food and deliver it to your home.
  • Cortisol is one of the hormones our bodies release when we are stressed. Read here for 7 ways to reduce cortisol and get your weight loss moving in the right direction.
  • Establish a routine. If you are able to predict what your day is going to look like you will be less stressed about what is coming, and may even create a normal bed time. Start out by writing down what you think each day will look like, and then live it out!

 

Slow results. A lot of people lose motivation when the pounds are coming off more slowly than expected. I always like to remind people that the number on the scale is not important. Do your pants fit better? Is it less challenging to walk up the stairs to your office? Is it easier to get out of bed in the morning? There are many more ways to measure your quality of life and overall health than your weight. Pay attention to some other parameters and keep up the good work! Your weight will follow suit.

 

Lack of time. If you are a parent, work too many hours, have a busy social life, or all of the above you may find it difficult to eat healthy and/or exercise. I always like to remind people of their priorities. If your health begins to suffer you may not be able to keep up with all of these demands.

  • Put meal prep and workouts on your calendar, and stick to them like any other meeting. I personally like to plan all my workouts and cooking times at the beginning of the week and fill in the rest of my schedule around it.
  • Utilize some of your spare time. If you only have 30 minutes one evening to cook, use that time to chop vegetables and prepare marinades. Use 45 minutes the next evening to get food in the oven. Put meals together if you have 20 minutes before work.
  • Use your time with loved ones to cook delicious meals. My girlfriends and I have recently gotten into the habit of cooking dinner before going out for the weekend. I always throw in some extra veggies and protein so I can put them in containers and have some food for the beginning of the following week. When you can get your kids involved in mixing sauces and seasoning foods, they not only have a blast but enjoy eating the final product a bit more (win-win).
  • Check out this blog post for other ways I stay healthy when I’m crazy busy.

 

Learning to identify your “problem” areas and creating a plan in advance can help you on your road to success. Are there any other obstacles that get in the way of your healthy eating?

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