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    Three Common Behaviors That Sabotage Healthy Eating — And How To Fix Them

    Shoot yourself in the footOne of the components about working one-on-one with clients I am most passionate about is being able to empower them.  When the majority of my clients reach out to me, they are in rather terrible relationships with food (or, in Facebook terms, “it’s complicated”).

    Most of the time, this is due to that “cute human trick” known as self-sabotage.  Many of us build ourselves a road with a shiny goal at the end, and then, before we even take the first step, litter it with hurdles, potholes, and confusing roadsigns.

    Here are three common healthy-eating sabotages I often spot, and suggestions on how to get out of the rut.

    1) Mission: Impossible

    Dramatic proclamations may make for riveting movie scenes (“No wire hangers… EVER!!!”), but they have no place in healthy eating.  Many times, “okay, after today,  no sugar of ANY kind for a month” is followed by two days of to-the-T rigidity, a third day where you white knuckle it all day and hate anyone who even eats a banana in your presence, and a fourth “oh, screw it” day where the “vow” is broken with a heinous food.

    The main problem is that these self-flagellating vows are usually concocted on a whim (usually after seeing a movie where a celebrity reveals a chiseled body that took months of hard work with a personal trainer, but is often erroneously conveyed in the media as the end result of one dietary move).


    Take the time to write three to five dietary habits you have you would like to improve.  Notice the word “improve”.  You’re not breaking it or kicking it to the curb.  Think, “tame”, not “obliterate”

    The more specific each habit, the better.  “I tend to eat a junky mid-afternoon snack on weekdays” is more helpful than “I eat too much sugar”.  The first example provides room for actual change; the latter is impossible to measure.

    Then, choose ONE of these habits and focus on it (and no other) for four weeks.  Give it a hundred percent, and give it priority every single day.

    Check in at the end of the four weeks and self-assess.  When you feel ready, move on to another habit, and continue this process as needed.

    2) You Make Your Tastebuds Go On A Diet, Too:

    To many people, tackling healthy eating means skimping out on flavor.  It’s nothing but sashimi at the sushi restaurant, oatmeal is solely prepared with water, plain steamed vegetables are the go-to side dish, and apparently, the only acceptable salad consists of lettuce, tomatoes, and grilled chicken.

    This type of eating reinforces the erroneous notion that healthy eating is bland and doesn’t enable you to “eat anything you like”.


    I often recommend that my clients purchase a book that focuses on vegan cuisine so they can become familiar with how to make whole grains, beans, and vegetables more exciting.  This is not about “going vegan”, but simply about expanding your awareness of how certain foods can be eaten.

    I had one client, for example, who expressed how tired he was of dipping vegetables in hummus.  As he put it, he was “hummused out”.  And, yes, he had tried the various flavors out there.

    Alas, I pointed him to a super easy recipe for sunflower seed pate.  Voila; raw vegetables and dip was satisfying again.

    Another great place to convince yourself that healthful foods can be decadent is with raw dessert recipes (like these dark chocolate-walnut truffles!).

    3) You Forget This Is About YOU:

    There is only one person who knows your culinary likes and dislikes — you.  Too often, those who take on healthy eating appear to suffer from amnesia.  They love sandwiches and go on grain-free diets, or deny themselves a sliver of chocolate despite it being their absolute favorite sweet.


    While healthy eating often ends up expanding your palate and introducing you to new foods, you need to keep your likes and dislikes front an center.

    If you love bread, there is no need to stop eating it.  Choose sprouted whole grain breads (higher in fiber and protein than conventional breads, and therefore more filling), eat open-faced sandwiches, and make 100% whole grain pancakes for brunch (throw some ground flax and chia seeds in the batter for extra fiber and healthy fats) that you top with fresh fruits, rather than syrup.

    Chocolate lover?  Forget chocolate bars with artificial sweeteners that turn your digestive system into a methane factory.  Make yourself a banana and milk (dairy or otherwise) smoothie and add two tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder.  Or, add cacao nibs to a homemade trail mix.

    Is cheese your thing?  Eat it as a topping, rather than a main component of your dish.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of grated parmesan on a salad or a soup, or make it a complement to a healthier food (ie: have a slice of your favorite cheese with a pear).

    The journey to healthy eating is not short, so you want your travel buddy (food!) to make it as enjoyable as possible.


    One Comment

    1. Marìa said on September 10th, 2010

      Andy, sin lugar a dudas sos el mejor, la forma en que explicas todo en este articulo, la comprensiòn y la empatìa para el que serìa tu paciente, te conducen al èxito. Te felicito, ojalà yo conseguirìa acà un profesional de tu estatura no solo a nivel profesional sino tambìen como persona. Algùn dìa tenès que escribir un libro con todas estas explicaciones tan esclarecedoras.

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