The Non-Dieter's Guide to Dieting
By Belinda Elliott
CBN.com Daily Life Producer
CBN.com It all began with a TV show. You know the type. A camera crew follows several participants who want to lose weight. Producers bring in a doctor who consults with the participants and puts them on a new eating and exercise plan.
I love these types of shows. They always pull me in. I empathetically struggle along with the victims (oops, I mean participants) as they clean out their pantries, stock their fridges with mounds of fresh veggies and fruit, and begin an exercise regiment that resembles what I imagine the first day of a military boot camp to be like.
I weep with them over their pitfalls and trials. I fear for their lives as the doctor tells them how close they are to having a heart attack or developing diabetes due to their unhealthy lifestyle. I cheer with them as the pounds come off. Then I return to my normal routine with a warm, fuzzy feeling that comes from sharing in their experience.
Sometimes I feel a twinge of guilt as I reach for my bag of potato chips after the show, but that usually passes quickly. My health can’t be as bad as theirs, I reason, so it’s okay.
But this show was different. This doctor had a new approach. He took the participants to his lab where he had them compare healthy body organs with unhealthy ones. We are not talking about photos of body organs here, he had the real thing.
The organ that really captured my attention was the aorta. The healthy aorta was small and smooth in texture. The damaged aorta was elongated and marred by little pockets created by plaque, making it hard in places (thus the phrase “hardening of the arteries”). As the artery hardens it becomes more difficult for blood to pass through as it needs to.
From our cozy living room we stared aghast as they went on to examine a damaged heart and liver. It was disgusting beyond words.
My husband and I looked at each other in silence. I’m sure we were each pondering how bad our own aortas must look based on our diet of fast-food and frozen entrees. We realized that with every new order of cheese fries (extra bacon, please) and hamburger value meals, we were supersizing our chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
There is something about seeing a slimy, jagged artery and pale, damaged heart that will persuade even the most devoted junk-food aficionado to change her ways. Those organs were once in a live person. That’s a sobering thought.
And so it began. We are now on a diet. Actually, I prefer to think of it as a healthy eating plan. Our motivation isn’t solely to lose weight (although that’s a nice benefit), but we want to improve our health. As Christians this should be important to us. Scripture tells us that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, and we should use it to honor God (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
However, it is much easier to talk about eating healthy, and watch TV shows about it, than it is to actually do it. With our fast-paced lifestyles it is often easier to grab the nearest convenience foods, as unhealthy as they may be, than to try to plan ahead and prepare healthier choices.
How do we implement the changes that we know we need to make? In this three-part series, I’d like to share how I’m doing it.
Please note that I’m not a physician or nutrition expert, nor do I have a wealth of healthy eating experience to draw from. This is fairly new for me. But I would like to offer a few things I’m learning as I take this journey to better health. If you are trying to eat healthier, maybe these guidelines can help.
Don’t go “cold turkey”.
I don’t know about you but as soon as someone tells me I can’t have something, that’s the very thing I want most. I decided not to create steadfast rules. You know the kind.
“I can’t have any chocolate.”
“I can never visit Starbucks again.”
“I can never have that country ham and egg biscuit for breakfast.”
Instead, I decided to be honest with myself and acknowledge that sometimes I will give in to these cravings, but it will no longer be the norm. If you indulge in a less-healthy treat, simply make sure your other meals that day and the next day consist of healthy choices.
Know what you should be eating.
The most challenging part of starting my new eating plan was knowing what to eat. For someone whose food has always come out of a can, drive thru, or freezer, I didn’t know where to start to make improvements. What is it exactly that constitutes a healthy diet?
I turned to the new food pyramid. It turns out the USDA has done most of the work for us already. At their Web site, www.mypyramid.gov, they explain how much of each food group you should be eating daily based on your age, gender, and lifestyle. They also offer a printable chart to help you keep track of what you are eating.
The general guidelines for a healthy diet include lots of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low fat dairy products, and lean meats.
Introduce changes slowly.
Have I mastered the suggested five servings of veggies and fruits a day? Not yet, but I figure some progress is better than none. Most of us don’t like huge changes sprung on us at one time. If you completely overhaul your diet all at once, there is a good chance you will not stick with it. Adopt your new eating plan in stages. You may not be eating five servings of vegetables a day immediately, but every time you choose a salad instead of fries, grilled chicken instead of greasy, fried foods, or fruit instead of high-fat snacks or desserts, you are taking a step in the right direction.
Don’t panic if you backslide a little.
No one can eat perfectly all the time. If you find yourself veering off your eating plan, resolve to get back on track, but don’t feel guilty. Too many times, people think that because they made a few mistakes, their whole diet is ruined and it is useless to continue. Don’t fall for that! Each new day provides a new opportunity to start over and make better choices.
Focus on the big picture.
Some days it is easier to stick to the plan than others. I’ve found that I need to continually remind myself of the reasons I’m doing this. In addition to honoring God with my body, I want to live a long healthy life without painful illnesses and costly medical bills. I want to be around in 20 or 30 years to enjoy time with my family and friends. Focusing on the long-term consequences of my daily choices helps me stay motivated.
Yes that milkshake, Mocha Latte with extra Whip, or cheeseburger and fries would taste wonderful and require much less effort than preparing something healthy at home, but will it be worth it in the long run?
Spend time with God.
Don’t leave God out of the journey. He will bless us as we seek to honor Him in every area of our lives, including our diet. Allow Him to direct you. Many times, when people start to change the way they eat, they realize that food is playing a larger role in their lives than it should. Many of us are emotional eaters. Do you reach for food when you are depressed, stressed, or feeling insecure? Those are deeper heart issues that the Lord wants to heal in you. Let Him address those issues.
Don’t forget to exercise.
Healthy lifestyles must include exercise. There is simply no way around it. Check out “Hope for the Fitness Challenged” for tips to incorporate exercise into your schedule.
Read Part Two (how to eat healthy without sacrificing taste)
For more on healthy eating, check out these articles:
Tips for Healthier Grocery Shopping
Healthy Breakfasts That are Fast and Easy
Seven Absolutes of Healthy Eating
Celebrity Trainer Dino Nowak on Weight Loss
Comments? Email me
More articles by Belinda on CBN.com
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