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Robin D. Stone is a New York City based psychotherapist, coach and consultant who works to help you achieve your most optimal self. 

Posts tagged clean eating
6 Principles of Clean Eating
 

As millions of us toss gunk and junk from the recesses of our apartments and garages in that annual rite known as spring cleaning, consider doing the same for your body: Take advantage of the warmer weather to try clean eating.

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Clean eating is not washing your veggies five times before you peel. Nor is it eating “twigs and berries,” as my son once described some of my earlier, super ambitious dietary experiments.

Eating clean means eating food that’s as close to natural as it can be: unprocessed and without added flavors or excessive ingredients. Imagine grilled shrimp tossed with shallots, bell peppers, lime juice and chili powder; tender new potatoes roasted with olive oil, rosemary, salt and pepper; steamed spinach with garlic, lemon and pepper. Nothing boxed or bagged there. All fresh, all clean, amazingly flavorful and good for you.

Clean eating is not a diet; it’s a way of living. You don’t go “off” this lifestyle; you enjoy experimenting with fresh, whole foods, feeling energized and at your optimum from the premium “fuel” you feed your body.

I learned the concept of eating cleanly when I completed a 21-day nutritional cleanse a few years ago.  When I read the list of foods that were prohibited, I thought, what’s left to eat? But those were the days when I was still preparing boxed rice dishes with seasoning packets (i.e. loads of salt and other stuff you don’t need).

I had to wean myself from those packets, trying new spices and new ingredients. I started reading labels more closely, and came to appreciate simply prepared foods. Clean eating is not as stringent as a “cleanse;” you don’t eliminate foods but you do eliminate ingredients that lead you to feel sluggish, bloated and craving more food.

After only a few weeks of eating cleanly, your taste buds will be “reprogrammed:” Fruits will taste sweeter than before, so you’ll crave fewer sweet treats. A little salt will go much further as your tolerance for sodium drops. Your skin will be clearer, your hair shinier an nails stronger. Oh, and you will definitely lose weight.

To eat cleanly, you can’t just pick something up, or open a package and pour in a pan. With a little forethought, you shop for the week and cook meals to last two to three days. These days my son may say, “what’s this?” when he peers into a pot with a scrunched-up nose.  But then he digs in, with nary a mention of a twig or a berry.

6 Principles of Clean Eating

Eat whole foods – the fewer ingredients, the better. That means fruit and veggies, legumes and nuts are A-OK. For packaged foods, scan the ingredient list. Count the ingredients. Then name them. You’ll probably see many words you don’t recognize. Aim for foods with 5 ingredients or fewer. And if you can’t ID it, don’t eat it.

Cut the sugar and salt. Sugar is toxic. The average American consumes 23 teaspoons of the stuff a day, compared with the recommended daily allowance of just 6 for women, 9 for men. One soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar alone. Americans also eat more than 1,000 milligrams over the recommended allowance of sodium. Get your sugar fix from fruit and sweet vegetables, like carrots and yams. And cook your own meals. When dining out, ask for sauces and dressings on the side so you control how much you eat.

Drink more water and less alcohol. Water hydrates and helps maintain your balance of bodily fluids. Try swapping your soda for a glass of water, and drink a half-glass before a meal to help make you feel full and eat less. Alcohol, on the other hand, can make you dehydrated.

Eat healthy fats. Say yes to heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats – from fish, nuts, seeds, olive, canola and coconut oils. Eat less saturated fats, which come from meat and dairy products. Run from trans fats.

Cut refined grains and wheat. Switch from white and wheat flour, bread and pasta to complex carbs from whole grains (grains that haven’t had their germ and endosperm removed by milling), such as corn (and yes, popcorn), brown rice, rye, amaranth, millet, quinoa. But steer clear of wheat: it’s known as an appetite stimulant that’s linked to inflammation, autoimmune and digestive disorders.

Eat mindfully. Eat when you’re hungry – not just because it’s mealtime. Eat slowly, and put your fork down between bites. Make a point to chew a certain number of times – aim for 20 – for each mouthful. Consider the aroma and the flavors and textures at play on your tongue. Stop eating when you’re full – well before you’re stuffed.

Clean eating is also about consuming with a conscience: consider the environment, focus on local products and products raised and produced humanely.

Ready to eat clean? Start with one clean meal a day, increasing the meals so that by day three or four you’re eating clean full time. Follow these principles for seven days, then if you can, go for 14, and once there, go for 21. Let me know how you do and what changes you see!

Happy Eating,

Robin

 
13 for 13: Weight-Loss Resolutions You Can Live With
 

If each year around this time you’ve resolved to lose weight … again … only to rebound within a month or a few, try this approach instead:

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1. Resolve NOT to "diet."  Most people think of dieting as something they do temporarily to lose weight quickly. Most who lose weight this way re-gain it once they stop dieting. This "cycling," or yo-yo dieting, can put you at greater risk for heart disease, among other health risks. Think of changing the way you eat not as a temporary fix but as your new approach to taking better care of yourself. So consider these other resolutions:

2. Resolve to eat more real food. Most packaged foods are full of additives and preservatives that you don’t need and that force your body to work overtime to process them. Stick with whole fruits and veggies, meats, grains, nuts and legumes.

3. Resolve to figure out why you turn to ice cream (or candy bars or potato chips or … ) when you’re feeling challenged or stressed. We all do it. Mindful eating can help you understand how to see food more for nourishment and enjoyment, and less for stress-relief.

4. Resolve to drink more water.  Aim for at least 8 cups a day. Water helps our bodies function, flushing toxins, fueling cells, nourishing tissues. We are made up of 60 percent water, and what we lose through perspiring, breathing and eliminating, we need to replace.

5. Resolve to cleanse your life of toxic relationships. They can lead to stress … which leads to … see No. 3.

6. Resolve to move your body till you work up a sweat for at least 30 minutes at least three times a week. Who says you have to spend hours at the gym? That 30 minutes can be as effective as 60.  

7. Resolve to prepare your own meals one day more a week. Eating in can save you money, give you control of the ingredients, increase family time (enlist the help of others) support the environment and provide other benefits to you, those you love and society at large. After a month, resolve to cook two days more a week, and then more, until you’re eating homemade food at least 4 out of 7 days.

8. Resolve to not eat for 12 hours overnight. Let’s say 7:30 p.m. is your cutoff. That means nothing but water till 7:30 a.m. This mini fast gives your body a chance to process what’s already there and take a break before it’s time to start up again. And it helps you steer clear of calorie-laden late-night snacks. A good helping of protein for dinner will keep you feeling full.

9. Resolve to track your habits. Hold a mirror up so you can see where your trouble spots are. There are several programs available, many of them free. I use My Fitness Pal because it’s quick and easy.  It shows me that I eat way too much sugar. So I’m much more mindful of that.

10. Resolve to track your steps. Use a pedometer and aim for 10,000 steps (about 5 miles) per day.

11. Resolve not to go back to what you were doing that got you into whatever size you’re in. The longer you keep the weight off, the easier it gets to do so.

12. Resolve to take the long view. Safe, lasting weight loss doesn’t happen in an instant and it’s not dramatic, but when it’s gone -- and when you stick with your new habits -- it’s gone.

13. Resolve to start now.

Trying to figure out where to start? Contact me at robin@healthjones.com

 
What are You Hungry For?
 

“But aren’t you supposed to have three meals and two snacks a day?” One client challenged me as we explored the concept of eating when you’re hungry. 

“You’re supposed to have the nutrition and satisfaction that you need for the day,” I replied, “but there’s no rule as to when and how you’re supposed to have it.” 

The meals/snacks scenario is just one of many of the major misconceptions around healthful eating, along with the rule that says a meal needs to be a meat and two “sides” of a “starch” and a veggie. 

Ever wonder why “sides” are about the same whether you’re ordering in a sit-down restaurant or at a bake-and-take chicken place? 

But I digress. One reason that so many of us are overweight is that in following rules like meals/snacks, we’ve lost touch with our own hunger. We eat more often than we need to, and more than we need. In many cases we substitute hunger for other things, like love, affection, a job we like and that likes us back, more money. And we try to feed these other hungers with food. 

To rationalize feeding the hungers, we adopt rules that mesh comfortably with our lifestyles, quirks and habits. There is a rule that says you should eat three meals a day and mentions nothing about snacks. Why is it that nobody seems to adopt that rule? 

A friend once glanced at my salad-filled plate and surmised that I was a “utilitarian eater.” I thought about it for a minute (in this age of peer-pressured eating, somebody always has something to say about a salad-filled plate) and agreed. Most of the time I eat when I’m hungry and I eat what I need. Now don’t get me wrong – I am known to answer when sweet treats call my name. But I’ve learned to put aside all the diet rules and take my cue from my body. I can tell when I'm hungry for food, and when I'm hungry for something else. 

So today’s rule – so to speak – is to eat when you’re hungry, but to know which hunger you’re feeding. How can you get in touch with your authentic, physical hunger? Here’s a start: 
 

  1. Eat with intention. Try this: Set a plate, make it pretty, sit at a table, use utensils and savor your meal. Don’t watch TV or read the paper or anything distracts. Note the colors, flavors and textures of your meal. Chew each mouthful at least 25 times (for many, that’s easier said than done). Stop. Put your fork and knife down. Drink (water, ideally), and start again. This exercise will force you to slow down and give you time to recognize when you are full. And when you are full, ignore the rule about cleaning your plate, and stop eating. You can’t do this all the time, of course, but mindful eating is a good foundation for developing other healthy eating habits.
  2. Let yourself “feel” hungry. A lot of us wouldn’t know what physical hunger felt like if it punched us in the gut. We eat dinner at 7 and a snack at 10, ad then we wake up at 6:30, not feeling hungry, but we eat anyway because the rules say “breakfast time.” Of course you shouldn’t skip breakfast, but recognize that if you don’t allow at least 12 hours between the last thing you ate at night (snacks included) and the first thing you eat in the morning, your body is still processing food from the night before and might not be ready for more. There’s a reason they call it “break” “fast:” you should wake feeling hungry if you’ve truly fasted. When you are hungry, eat a fiber- and protein-rich breakfast (fruits or veggies and certain grains or lean meat) – it should carry you to lunch without the need for a snack.
  3. Ask yourself, “What am I hungry for?” Consider that you may be bored and looking for entertainment. Or stressed over a big project that’s due. Or you had a hard day at work and “deserve” to treat yourself to an over-the-top dessert. While you’re considering the answer, drink a glass of water. That will help you break the habit mindless eating and feeding hungers that food can’t begin to feed.

Have a Healthy Day, 
Robin

 
Honoring Your Food-Mood Connection
 

I look forward to summer holidays because they remind me of family gatherings back home in Detroit. And of course at the centerpiece of every family gathering is food. 

Whether it was for a house party or a picnic in the park, summer meant aunts and uncles and cousins showcasing their special dishes, all made with love: we’d have potato salad, macaroni salad, greens, baked beans, often a seven-layer salad, a pound cake, a pie (with vanilla ice cream, of course), barbecued ribs, chicken, steak and burgers, and my favorite, hot dogs. I loved hot dogs so much that I would bypass all other meats glistening in barbecue sauce (fresh lemon juice and onions made it tangy, sweet and pungent all at the same time) and make a bee-line for the franks. I took mine smothered in sauce and topped with mustard and relish, in a soft, spongy bun. No matter what else he was “burnin’,” one of my uncles, aka the Grill Master, would make sure to throw some dogs on just for me. 

Times have definitely changed – I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten pork or beef, and haven’t had a hot dog in some years. I didn’t wake up one day and swear off meat, but over time, as I gravitated toward cleaner eating with more fruit veggies on my plate, my taste buds changed. A client asked recently, “You mean you never crave a hamburger?” “Never,” I responded. And I meant it. 

But this Memorial weekend, home was calling – maybe it was knowing that my little sister was in Detroit visiting the fam while I stayed put in NYC. So I decided to inaugurate summer with an homage to home. 

I’ll grill anything – I once made a shrimp-veggie stir-fry over charcoal. During a power outage some years ago, to my son’s delight, I grilled his pancakes. Yesterday I grilled chicken, turkey burgers, turkey chipotle sausage, and yes, turkey hot dogs. Once all the meat was done, I threw on some corn on the cob – after opening each ear slightly, removing some of the silk, and soaking in water about 15 minutes. Nothing says summer like fresh grilled corn. I made a potato salad, some veggie-baked beans and a green salad. I finished it all off with an apple pie. 

We’re usually a super-healthy food zone. My kids (my 15-year-pld son and my 22-year-old niece who lives with us – and therefore, at least temporarily, is my kid) often tease that the foods I prepare are too healthy for their tastes. “Mom, why don’t we eat like normal people?” My son often asks. I’m known for fruit smoothies for breakfast and hearty salads with salmon or shrimp for lunch, and I’d much rather “oven-fry” my chicken than pan fry it. But the kids usually eat everything I make and even concede that it’s pretty good. 

Every once in a while, though, I loosen my apron strings and reach for the foods that tug at my heart strings. It’s good to recognize how our emotions (from boredom to sadness to a longing for the good old days) often drive our cravings for some foods. Once we’re mindful of powerful mood-food connections, we can find healthy ways to go with, and not fight those cravings. 

Our menu this weekend was full of forbidden stuff for many who are counting calories, sugar and fat grams. But unless you’re on a medically restrictive plan, if you eat healthy and clean at least 90 percent of the time, it’s OK to splurge the other 10 percent of the time. Just don’t try to fool yourself into thinking that 50 percent is 10 percent – your waistband will be your reality check. 

This weekend we feasted (the leftovers are just as grand), and the kids were quite content. I’ll freeze some for quick and easy meals later. Soon enough the dogs will be gone and we’ll be back to 90 percent. But for the moment, we’ll enjoy this first taste of summer, and special taste of home. 

Have a Healthy Day, 
Robin

 
5 Steps for a Food Hangover
 
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Ok, so after a couple days of feasting on fabulous Memorial Day fixings of potato salad, baked beans, barbecued chicken and turkey hot dogs (yes, hot dogs) and apple pie, I faced the down side to veering from a clean diet.


For three days I felt as if I was hung over – not from too much drink but from too much food. Instead of an achy, foggy head and upset stomach, I feel stuffed, sluggish and stopped up.

That might be too much information, but when you’re eating clean – as in lots of fresh fruit and veggies, whole grains and simply prepared fish, chicken and lean meats – food passes through you easily and regularly. 

 
 

Regularly as in at least once and sometimes more a day. But when I went off the grid and ate too much typical-though-lightened-up holiday favorites, adding extra fat, sugars, and processed foods to my system, I felt the effects almost immediately.

It started with sleepiness just after dinner on Sunday, the day I cooked. And I didn’t just cook, I burned. Put my foot up in it, as some folks say. The kids were ecstatic that we had “real” food for a change, instead of my usual (though not predictable) grilled chicken/fish/shrimp and salads. And I enjoyed longtime favorites right along with them, eating small portions, but taking second helpings. Then sleepiness set in. Along with a bulging belly, that was a sure sign that I’d eaten too much.

I felt full when I went to bed and I still felt full the next day when I woke up. But I had another helping of for lunch anyway, and then for dinner, then topped it off with another slice of pie that night. Not once all day did I “feel” my body telling me it was hungry. By Day 3, I recognized that I was veering back to old habits, so I stopped and switched gears. 

It took about three days to get my system back on track. Here’s what I did, and what you can do to cure a holiday food hangover:

* Drink more water – more than your daily 6-8 glasses – to help get things moving again

* Eat cleanly and simply again as soon as possible and for as long as possible. Fruit and protein for breakfast, a light salad for lunch and lean meats and simple veggies for dinner. No prepared, processed, wheat or dairy.

* Boost exercise – I went from a 2-mile walk every other day to a 2½ mile walk/run three days in a row, then off one day. Moving your body helps aid digestion.

* Leave 12 hours between your last meal of the day and your first of the next (snacks included!) – to give your body a chance to process what’s already there. You should feel hungry when you wake – The sensation of hunger tells you that your body is processing properly and is ready for more. 

* Be patient. It typically takes 48-72 hours for food to make its way through your system. So while you may be back on track with clean eating, your body is still on overdrive, processing all the excess calories, carbs and sugars from your splurge. It may be five days before you sense your body responding to changes you made three days ago. Think of this adjustment as turning around a big oceanliner: You can't just spin on a dime. But follow these strategies and your body will respond and "catch up" with your clean routine. A sure sign that it's catching up: You're "regular" again.

Have a Healthy Day.
Robin