In Week 2 of the “Harvard Medical School 6-Week Plan for Healthy Eating,” our two testers, Helen Hoart and Tonya Phillips, recount their struggles and triumphs as they embrace a step-by-step plan to boost their intake of vegetables and whole grains and curb fast-food calories.
I’ve often joked with friends that eating while standing, walking, or even driving is calorie free. Under this wonderfully delusional approach I have probably packed in more calories than I care to count.
Eating mindfully. One of my goals is to eat more mindfully— to become more aware of when and what I’m eating and to savor the food. I also want to eat more slowly. When my children were little I developed the bad habit of wolfing down my food. (Quick, better finish dinner before someone cries, spills, or has a meltdown.) This, coupled with the fact that I eat many of my meals at my desk at work or in front of the TV at home, means that instead of eating mindfully I’m probably eating mindlessly.
This past weekend I decided to put mindful eating to the test. My husband was away. In the past, I’d probably have thrown something together for dinner and then ate as I watched TV, checked email, or trolled Facebook. Instead, prepared delicious dinners—fish one night, chicken the next—along with veggies and salad. I ate at the dining room table with no multimedia distractions. (OK, I did have music playing.) Eating dinner slowly and being thoughtful about my meal was difficult. A few things helped: I cut my food into small little bites like I was feeding a toddler. This forced me to slow down. And I added some really flavorful condiments to my main course (pickled ginger with the salmon, non-fat yogurt and Dijon mustard with the chicken). The intense flavors made me stop and think about my meal.
The breakfast challenge.The other part of last week’s plan—eating breakfast—wasn’t a problem for me. I’ve always eaten breakfast. On the other hand, my husband, who’s joining me on the six-week healthy eating plan, is not a big breakfast fan. He’s a cup of coffee for breakfast guy. The key for us was to agree the night before on what we wanted for breakfast. At the beginning of the week we made a big pot of steel cut oatmeal. That got us off to a good start. Oatmeal with walnuts and an orange was on tap the first couple of days. But we can only eat so many bowls of oatmeal in a week. A good alternative for us—because it was quick—was the suggested whole grain bread, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter and a small banana (see page 19 of the report).
Before my husband started eating breakfast, he said he was always ravenous by noon and sometimes ate too much for lunch. Now he feels hungry by lunchtime but doesn’t feel the need to eat as much.
Next week: Exercise. Now I just have to figure out how to add more exercise into my schedule. It may come down to facing the ugly fact that I have to get up earlier. Stay tuned.
For more tips on creating goals that help move you toward eating healthfully, see Setting Goals for Healthy Eating Success.
It wasn’t a good idea to start week 2 on Easter Sunday. Let’s just say I had a rough start and fast-forward to Monday.
Banishing bacon. Okay, Monday wasn’t a good day either. But I did realize that I just don’t have time for a healthy breakfast at home on the weekdays. My first problem is my love affair with the snooze button. My feet touch the floor in the morning and I’m out the door in less than forty minutes. By the time I arrived at work Monday, I was starving. I fought back my temptation to get a bacon, egg, and cheese on a hard roll from the deli. The Plan suggests one-third protein such as an egg, one-third starch, and one-third fruit. So my Monday morning office breakfast consisted of multi-grain toast and some fruit that a coworker had in the freezer. The rest of the week, I alternated between toast and oatmeal, both with a side of fruit.
Making a morning exercise appointment. Yeah right! I have so much respect for the joggers I pass in my car every morning. But me jogging in the morning? It’s just not going to happen. To incorporate some extra physical activity, I walk the six flights of stairs up to my office and repeat twice in the morning and twice in the afternoon. I grab a bottle of water on my way down, which has helped me reach my goal of drinking 6 cups of water per day.
Curb coffee-drink calories. This was easy for me since I’m not a big coffee drinker. I have a half-cup in the morning and each day I have been adding less sugar. I also used low-fat milk instead of half-and-half. By the end of the week, there was barely any sugar in my morning Joe.
I noticed that when I ate breakfast in the morning, I had more energy and ate less at lunch. According to the Plan, other benefits of a healthy breakfast should be improved performance on memory-related tasks and less impulse snacking. If the office manager would just stop filling the candy bowl with Peanut M&M’s I’m sure I’d be snacking less, too. Next week we focus on lunch. Wish me luck!
Tonya Phillips (left) is the Product Marketing Manager at StayWell Consumer Health Publishing. Helen Hoart (right) is President of StayWell Consumer Health Publishing. StayWell is the publishing management agent for Harvard Health Publications.
Join the fun and learn to eat healthfully with the Harvard Medical School Six-Week Plan for Healthy Eating.