Monday, March 16, 2020

Working From Home? How Not to Eat Your Whole Kitchen

With so many of us working from home in the coming weeks, I wanted to share some ideas for how to NOT eat your whole kitchen. I’ve worked from home for years now, and it was initially a big struggle for me. I mean, I was several feet from my kitchen, so it was easy to grab a snack or another protein ball from the fridge throughout the day.

Over the years, however, I’ve learned, with lots of trial and error, what works for me and keeps me on track with my healthy eating habits. Here are some tips and tricks to help keep you mindful of your eats (and treats) while working from home.

Working From Home? How Not to Eat Your Whole Kitchen

Set meal (and snack) times – If you find yourself frequently wandering into the kitchen, looking for something to eat, set specific meal and snack times for yourself. That way, you can stick to a schedule and make yourself well-balanced and well-spaced out meals, which will ultimately keep you satisfied much longer than 1 million tiny snacks.

Eat protein with EVERY meal – Protein is so, so, so important for a variety of reasons, and it’s important to make sure you’re fueling your body properly throughout the day. Tip: Take your protein goal for the day and divide it among the number of meals you plan to eat. For example: 100g / 4 meals = 25g protein per meal. Protein will help keep your blood sugar levels steady, which prevents dips in energy and unnecessary cravings.

Take a break outside – Often times, I found myself reaching into the kitchen cabinets because I was bored or stressed. Instead of eating another cookie or handful of chips, I laced up my sneakers and took a walk around the block. Often times, I was only gone for 10 minutes, but it made all the difference! Even simply walking around the house can make you feel better.

Stay hydrated – Keep a water bottle or glass on your desk to remind yourself to sip throughout the day. Being dehydrated can make you feel lethargic, which can lead to cravings for sugar and fast energy. Try to consume half your body weight in ounces of water each day. For example: 140 pounds = 70 ounces of water.

Snack on veggies – My go to trick: I cook up a big sheet pan of roasted veggies at the beginning of the week and store them in the fridge, so I always have a nutritious and relatively low-calorie snack on-hand. I’ll reheat them in my air fryer or microwave and top with peanut sauce, buffalo sauce, tahini, spicy mustard, grated Parmesan, and more, depending on my mood. It’s tough to over-eat vegetables, and, hey, they’re good for you!

Create a “busy” list – I find that my mindless snacking is almost always related to stress or boredom, so I made a list of things to keep me busy when I’m experiencing cravings (more on this below). When I’m stressed, I’ll talk a walk (as mentioned above), foam roll or stretch, leave a WhatsApp message for a friend, snuggle my dog, or take 3 deep breaths. When I’m bored, I’ll organize a junk drawer, messy cabinet, etc. or fold laundry, empty the dishwasher… anything to keep my hands busy. The key is making a list ahead of time (hang it on your fridge) to reference when you’re raiding the kitchen for snacks!

Ask yourself whether you are truly hungry or experiencing a craving – This realization was a game-changer for me. Hunger is typically something that comes on slowly. If you just recently ate a meal, it should take hours for you to feel hungry again. Cravings come on much more quickly as they’re often related to emotions (i.e. stress, boredom, sadness) or habits (you always eat chocolate after dinner). If you can stop and identify what you’re feeling, it’s much easier to make an “informed” decision about whether you are truly hungry or just experiencing a craving.

I hope this post helped. If you have tactics for not eating the whole kitchen when working from home, please share below. I know that I’m always looking for new idea and know others are too!


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Ask a Health Coach: Embrace Consistency, Squash Cravings, Find Time for Self-Care

self-care for single momHi folks, in this edition of Ask a Health Coach, Erin discusses the benefits of being metabolically flexible, the physical and psychological reasons behind cravings, and what to do when you’re too exhausted to work out. Keep your questions coming in the MDA Facebook Group or in the comments section below.

William asked:

“I know eating Primally is right for me, but I’m struggling to stay consistent and end up making bad choices about 50% of the time. How can I be more disciplined?”

First, I want to commend you for having the awareness to know that eating this way works for you. Recognizing that is a huge step toward reaching your goals. The second thing I want to do is reiterate Mark’s 80/20 principle. If you’re eating Primally 80% of the time, the other 20% can be reserved for well-intentioned, but practical choices when eating that way just doesn’t work out—maybe an impromptu lunch with co-workers or a fun afternoon eating ice cream with the kids.

I use a similar approach with my clients that’s a little more laid back and intuitive, but the main goal is to create metabolic flexibility in the body. That means your body can run on whatever type of fuel (fat, protein, carbohydrates) that’s currently available. It can use these fuel sources, so it ends up storing less.

Remember, life is full of unpredictable moments, and learning how to roll with them sets you up for success by teaching resiliency (how you pick yourself back up after a slip-up), intuition (learning what not to do next time), and troubleshooting (understanding the triggers and avoiding them when you can).

Another thing to mention is your perception of how well you’re doing. You say you make “bad choices about 50% of the time.” What would happen if you reframed things to look at it differently? Cognitive Reframing, by the way, is a psychological technique that identifies and then disputes limiting thoughts and beliefs to create a more positive interpretation of a situation.

I don’t love using phrases like good or bad, but when we reframe your situation, I can see you’re making good choices about half the time. And that’s something to be proud of. You can also use reframing in how you talk about the foods you “get to enjoy” versus the foods you “can’t have”. Take a look at all the areas of your life where you’re having glass-half-empty moments instead of glass-half-full ones.

Veronica asked:

“My cravings are out of control. Help!”

When my clients first switch from a typical Standard American Diet of low-fat yogurt, sandwiches, and pastas to heartier protein-based meals, they have cravings now and then. So, you’re totally not alone here. But the longer they stay at it, the less tempted they are.

During this adaptation period, I encourage you to really dig into why you’re having these cravings. The obvious question is: Are you eating enough food? It’s never about calorie deprivation, so make sure you’re eating plenty of protein and healthy fat to keep you satiated.

It’s important to tune into the psychological reasons you might be having cravings, too. I recommend using a food journal to jot down how you’re feeling when those cravings come on (Are you stressed out? Lonely? Sad? Nervous? Excited?). Then, brainstorm alternative ways to deal with those emotional triggers in a healthier way that doesn’t involve food.

You might reach for a pint of Haagen-Dazs after a stressful day at work. But what are you really craving? Comfort? Security? Peace and quiet? Think about other activities that bring you that same feeling. It could be meditating, reading a book, or calling a friend you haven’t talked to in a while. Be curious about the whys.

I also firmly believe that it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you had something with carbs. A few months ago, I drank a full sugar, full dairy pumpkin spice latte and I didn’t die. Again, having an 80/20 approach to eating gets you out of that restrictive “I-can’t-have-that” mentality and lifts the heavy burden of needing to do it right all the time.

Tamzin asked:

“Any tips for a tired, stressed-out single mom with too much to do and not enough time? I rarely get a chance to exercise, and when I do, I’m too exhausted to find the motivation.”

Overwhelm is such a common feeling, especially when you’re tackling everything on your own. And I can see why adding a workout to your to-do list isn’t a top priority. That said, exercise doesn’t have to look like exercise. It doesn’t have to be a full 60-minute sweat session to count. Going for a walk outside, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and getting up and moving regularly—to refill your water bottle, play with the kids, or do air squats or pushups—goes a long way.

In fact, research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association shows that any type of movement is beneficial, stating that women who get lots of light physical activity (versus women who don’t exercise at all) may have up to a 42% lower risk of having a heart attack and a 22% lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Remember this: Self-care is going to serve you best during this time. That means making sure you’re getting high-quality sleep and fueling yourself with nutrient-dense foods. When my clients tell me they’re too busy to get to bed earlier or make nourishing meals for themselves, all I hear is “I don’t value myself.” If that’s true for you, ask yourself how important your health is, how important having good energy is, and how important it is to have a solid sense of well-being.

Find ways to integrate more self-care into your day, and if you need a hand restructuring your habits around exercise, sleep, or nutrition, working with a health coach can be a huge help.


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First Weekend of Isolation

What a weekend. We went from concerned to nervous to totally isolated in just a matter of days.

On Wednesday Thomas and I went on a date to Alley Light. We had the rare chance that our sitter offered to come back that evening and so we snuck out. During our dinner we thought: “Could this be our last meal out for a very long time?” Yes, yes it was.

The next day (I think) they cancelled school Monday. All 3 of our soccer leagues cancelled games and practices until at least mid April. I went to the gym for the last time Thursday morning. The day after that the Governor of Virginia cancelled school indefinitely and one by one businesses closed. On Friday when Mazen got off the school bus I took the boys out for an ice cream cone. “We’ll stay outside and keep our distance. Our only contact will be the cone.” There were surprisingly many people on the Downtown Mall, enjoying meals and conversing.

We had beautiful weather on Friday which helped ease everyone’s tension. It was our first real warm. spring day, and I was comforted by the thought that quarantine doesn’t mean INSIDE. Nature will give us strength to get through this.

We played water blasters, sidewalk chalk, and bubbles. It was a glorious day.

On Friday night we enjoyed our porch!!! We had taco night in the warm air. Again, I was so grateful to be outside. Side note: our new table fromWest Elm (sold out) and chairs from Article are AWESOME!

On Friday night Birch was randomly awake from 1:30 – 5. I am not sure why – molars?  It was not fun, and we were all very tired on Saturday morning.

We had biscuits and bacon and eggs to wake up.

We spent most of the day like this:

I had a Splendid Spoon smoothie (LOVED the green one!) and a short nap for lunch.

In the afternoon we got back out to nature for a family walk to the park. I’m not so bad at football!

And finally, a simple homemade pizza dinner! (As yucky weather moved in.).

Birch slept great on Saturday night and I woke up to the smell of cinnamon french toast! That Thomas is something else <3

I am SO thankful we have a treadmill! It’s going to get a lot of use. I have a post about home workouts coming because we’ll be doing them a lot.

For lunch I had a leftover taco burrito:

Birchie and I took a walk while Thomas worked on the yard. Mazen went to Matt’s for the night. We had Mona Lisa stuffed shells and zucchini with mushrooms for an easy dinner.

I truly hope for the best for you all. While I’m trying to look for the silver lining in all of this, I also know for those of you in hospitality, health care, small businesses and more, this is going to be super tough. We’re doing our part to isolate and support those industries we can from afar. We’ve never experienced anything like this, and I think the scariest part is the unknown.

<3 <3 <3

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