Christmas break has officially come to an end and, with it, my love affair with chocolate. For the past month, I have had a near-constant supply of my favorite treat at my fingertips. From plates of sweet goodies from friends to mint truffles, chocolate-covered cinnamon bears, M&Ms, and triple chocolate cake, all washed down with my favorite homemade hot cocoa, I have been in sugar heaven.
Yet, for some reason, at the end of nearly every day, my stomach has been screaming at me to stop all this nonsense and start eating responsibly. You know it’s bad when you start to consider a stomachache a normal part of everyday existence. Perhaps, my 40-year-old body is no longer going to put up with being fed a steady diet of garbage. It is staging a revolt, which means no more chocolate binges for me.
I feel like I am abandoning a longtime friend who has seen me through the ups and downs of life. RIP creamy, melt-in-my-mouth pleasure. Please excuse me while I take a moment of silence.
While I do not believe in traditional diets for a variety of reasons, I need to convince my stomach to like me again. For about five minutes, I considered hopping on the Whole30 bandwagon because giving up sugar, grain, dairy, legumes, baked goods, treats, and JOY for 30 days sounded like the perfect solution to my problem. It would a good way to lose 20 pounds because 75% of my current diet would be off-limits, but I think I might go crazy before getting to that point.
I do not doubt that programs with rigid rules work for some people, but I’m not willing to go there at this stage in the game. So…this is what my New Year’s diet plan looks like:
1. (Mostly) Avoid Dessert
I’m not going to say sugar is off limits entirely because life is too short. Honey, maple syrup, or a little brown sugar here and there to sweeten things such as oatmeal or yogurt are fine, says I. I’m aiming for one real dessert per week, so I plan to choose carefully and make it count.
2. Water, Water, Water
I’m not a big water drinker. Anybody who has ever gone out to eat with me will tell you that I rarely finish a glass of water with a meal. But I’m going to try to do better by drinking at least 48 ounces of water each day. I know that’s not eight full glasses, but it’s a good place for me to start.
3. Scale Back on the Bread
I don’t think any diet is healthy when you cut out an entire food group, so I will never stop eating grain unless it becomes medically necessary. But I do believe some things are more nutritious than bread, so I’m going to scale back on the grains to leave plenty of room on my plate for healthier options. I will not draw a line in the sand as far as how much I will eat (because flexibility is key for me), but I’m shooting for a couple of servings of whole grain per day.
4. Produce is King
I don’t care about glycemic index, or sugar content…all vegetables and fruit are wholesome in my book and get the green light. I plan to make them the colorful center of my diet, eating as many as I want and sticking to flavorful in-season options when possible.
5. Use Meat as a Garnish
Rather than making meat the star of the show, I plan to use it more as a garnish, allowing the veggies to take center stage. Not for every meal; mind you. I will still be eating steak and burgers every now and again. But, most of the time, I will shoot for using meat to complement vegetables, rather than the other way around.
Basically, eating whole foods in moderation and drinking plenty of water is the direction I’m heading. Pair that with three mornings a week at the gym and one or two hours of hiking, and you have my New Year’s health plan. It’s not groundbreaking, but it is doable. And doable, my friends, is the first step on the road to success.
What are your health goals this year? Tell me about them in the comments section.