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Change is Hard, Try This 

Small changes, prep and intuition for health and vitality

There are a lot of reasons to change what you eat, including weight loss, health improvement or environmental reasons. Any diet change can be difficult, so I asked people in the fitness community for advice.

From left: Denise Palermo, Aaron Tandem and Deb Bowen. - DAYLENE WILKINS
  • Daylene Wilkins
  • From left: Denise Palermo, Aaron Tandem and Deb Bowen.

Boring can be good

"Change is hard, like, really, really hard," said Aaron Tandem, a coach at Empowered Strength.

"There's no point in sugar-coating it (which, may be something we're trying to avoid; you know, the sugar), so let's not kid ourselves and simply accept the fact that making changes in our eating habits is anything but easy. If we can make these changes as easy as possible, we are more likely to be successful in the long run. 

"Meal planning, and as a byproduct, meal-prepping, is the way to do that. 

Tandem prescribes eating the same thing every day to take the guesswork out of what to eat. - SUBMITTED
  • Submitted
  • Tandem prescribes eating the same thing every day to take the guesswork out of what to eat.

"Simple is best, but 'boring' is even better. At least, boring in the sense that it's not necessary for every meal to look like it was made by Gordon Ramsay, Tandem said." 

"With all my clients, I tell them that you're most likely to be successful if you do your best to eat the same things on a regular basis. Same breakfast, same lunch, same dinner. By doing so, you allow time at the beginning of your week to plan what meals you'd like to eat, and also time to make some, if not all, of those meals. This manner of planning makes things predictable and proactive, as opposed to the reactive nature in which we tend to eat. 

"The goal is to never hit the point where you have to ask yourself, 'Hmm... what am I going to eat today?' Because, you'll already know! 

"Start simple and boring. Once you've mastered that, then add some more variety." 

Try little changes

If meal prepping sounds a little intense, Denise Palermo, owner and personal trainer at Movement Voodoo, recommends "making a 10 percent change."

Small imperceptible changes is what Palermo recommends, so you brain doesn't recognize the shift as a threat or stress. - DAYLENE WILKINS
  • Daylene Wilkins
  • Small imperceptible changes is what Palermo recommends, so you brain doesn't recognize the shift as a threat or stress.

"I had a client who made great daily food choices," said Palermo. "Yet this man was very overweight, depressed and in a lot of pain. It wasn't until a few sessions into his program that he finally revealed he ate an entire box of Oreos every night.

"Instead of telling him to give up the Oreos, he was simply asked to eat one less Oreo each night. He got to continue to eat his entire package of Oreos but leave one. Next night, he left two. Every night, he simply left one more cookie in the package until the night he ate no Oreos.

"His body changed, slowly, imperceptibly. He never felt deprived. He never once cheated. This true story is an example of the 10 percent rule.

"When you make drastic changes, your brain will re-wire these new activities to always feel like stress and a threat to the body. Working out will never feel enjoyable. Eating will have a trauma trigger and may feel like punishment or worse, like a forbidden activity," Palermo said.

"Small, imperceptible shifts, a mere 10 percent at a time, is a technique to make effortless, lasting change that feels rewarding and enjoyable...and that will last."

What trainers eat

Tandem and Palermo shared useful tips for making change, but what do the trainers eat? I asked Deb Bowen, Pilates instructor and owner of Bend Pilates, what she eats.

Tuning into how you feel when you eat can help you make better feel good choices in the future, suggests Bowen. - STEVE TAGUE
  • Steve Tague
  • Tuning into how you feel when you eat can help you make better feel good choices in the future, suggests Bowen.

"Being in the studio all day," said Bowen, "I find it hard to sneak in bites, so I drink my meals. On most days, I head into the studio with a couple jars full of nutrient-dense smoothies. One with good fats and proteins and the other a green drink or fresh vegetable juice. Some of the ingredients you might find in my protein drink are: Brazil nuts, walnuts, flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, quality plant protein powder, collagen peptides, a few dates and Himalayan sea salt. My favorite green drink is made by Greens First; it boasts a refreshing minty flavor. If I'm in a hurry I just add water. Other times, I might blend in mango, spinach and lime. If I have enough time in the morning, I love making fresh veggie juice."

Do you ever eat real food, I asked. "Yes," Bowen replied. "Outside of the studio I do eat! I feel best when I choose clean proteins and vegetables. I think it's really important to tune in and take note on how you feel after eating. I find if I truly know how eating something makes me feel I tend to avoid it or eat more of it. It feels good to feel good! Finding the balance of eating well, keeping hydrated and exercising regularly is not always easy but every day is a new opportunity to make choices for health and vitality."

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