Eat to Live, Don't Live to Eat - Strategies to Reframe the Way You Think About Food

veggies unsplash 2.jpg

Eat to Live, Don’t Live to Eat

Are you constantly counting down the minutes until your next meal? Do you have cravings, and feel a sort of “high” when you eat your favorite comfort foods, causing you to overeat? Do you find yourself snacking mindlessly in front of the TV? Most of us binge eat, from time to time, but it’s a problem if it becomes routine. Changing these habits can be difficult, but like any unhealthy behavior pattern, it helps to “reframe” the situation.

One way to reframe is to think of food as fuel, because ultimately, that’s what it is! Your body needs fuel in order to breathe, pump blood, think, digest, and move, along with a host of other functions. When you optimize your nutrition according to what your body requires, over time, your digestion will improve, you will have more energy throughout the day, and you may experience positive changes in your skin, hair, and nails. An additional benefit of improving the quality of your food, is improving the quality of your workouts. When you get the proper fuel from your food, you can perform better, work out longer, lift heavier weights, and more efficiently reduce body fat and gain muscle over time.

A proper pre-workout snack for a 30-60 minute workout should consist of a combination of carbohydrates and protein, 150-300 calories, and consumed at least an hour before the workout if possible. Some examples are: a banana or apple with nut butter, Greek yogurt with granola and fruit, 6oz cottage cheese with fruit, or celery with peanut butter. Longer workouts will require more calories or possibly simple carbohydrates, like fruit, mid-workout. To help build muscle, your post-workout meal should be heavier in protein, but still include healthy carbohydrates. For example: fish with rice and mixed vegetables, chicken with sweet potato and broccoli, protein powder blended with fruits and veggies, etc.

To create a personalized meal plan, working with a Nutritionist or Dietitian is ideal, but you can also use smartphone or tablet applications for general guidelines, and to track your meals. also provides some helpful resources on Here are a few rules of thumb:

  • Eat lots of whole fruits and vegetables, and eat the rainbow of colors

    Variety is the key to taking in all the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, antioxidants and fiber, your body needs to fight disease and keep your tissues healthy.

  • Get your protein and fat mainly from non-red meats, fish, and plants (nuts, seeds, legumes)

    Eat red meats occasionally, but stay away from preservatives, chemicals, and fillers.

  • While grocery shopping, stick mainly to the perimeter of the store

    That’s where you’ll find mostly fresh foods, which are almost always better than processed products.

  • Pay attention to portion sizes on packages so you don’t overeat

Tracking your food intake will help you to become more mindful of what you are putting into your body. Each piece of food is a decision about how you want to fuel your body, so resist the immediate satisfaction of sugary or fatty junk food, in favor of nutritious food that will make you feel better in the long run. I know it’s a difficult thing to do, but trust me, if you can make it through a couple of weeks without satisfying bad for you cravings, they will dissipate, and healthy food will begin to taste good again. Believe it or not, fruits and vegetables will taste sweeter, and most foods will taste savory and delicious with only a pinch of spices. Don’t worry though, if you’re just trying to get healthier and maintain your weight, you can still have your favorite dessert or macaroni and cheese dish once in a while - as with everything, it’s all about moderation!

~Shara Swager, BS, CSCS, IC,  Fitness Specialist, Health As We Age, Inc.