September – New Year New Structure

Sep 1, 2013

September – New Year New Structure

Spontaneity can be the kiss of death for sticking to a weight management program. The lack of structure of Summer is often such murder on our hard won diet routines that it can be a bit of a relief to get back to the structure that September generally implies, especially the routines we automatically create to manage our kid’s busy lives.

Lord knows, with all the traveling sports teams, Hebrew classes, volunteer organizations, Scouts, SAT tutors, music lessons, dance recitals, school plays, etc., it is akin to creating the schedule for the Port Authority. And if you can manage that (and you all do) it’s just a hop, skip and a jump to apply that skill to structuring your own food and exercise plans. Do you realize how good you already are at this?

And what is a diet program anyway but a concrete, choice limited menu…i.e. structure? The most successful diet plans for initial weight loss throughout time have always been the ones that create the most restrictions – think about it, fasting, HCG, The Ball Diet, Atkins, Dukan, etc. Apparently the less we negotiate with ourselves or the environment when we are hungry, the better.

Unfortunately, not recognizing the huge significance of this behavioral linch pin of weight management success, most of us fall back to flying by the seat of our pants when it comes to meal planning, especially if we are more or less following the same basic “diet” rules.  For obvious reasons, winging it is risky enough for we emotional eaters, but it is a recipe for disaster in a culture that specializes in filling every nook and cranny of sellable space with processed, artificial, immediately digested and therefore blood sugar raising and crashing, addictive foods.

Further, since for parents September is more like the New Year than January 1, it also brings with it that feeling of starting over, of a brand new year with new promise and new possibilities stretching out ahead.  Why not capitalize on that mindset and the new routines you are already so good at creating for your kids every September to create that same structure for your menus and kitchens? You can utilize that time proven formula for weight management success: decisions are already made, the food is ready, there is nothing to discuss.

Here are several of the creative strategies from resourceful clients who have stopped depending on willpower and learned instead to rely on actions they themselves can take to provide routine, structure and supportive home environments:

Annie spreads out the traditional Rosh Hashanah favorites over the course of the week, preparing one item (i.e., Matzo ball soup) with each dinner.

Carol uses a successful self defense strategy she originally came up with one Winter for their Lake Placid ski condo. She keeps no junk in house but stops at a 7-11 on the way home from school and lets each kid run in and get an individual treat.

Tracy manages 15 minutes of cardio bursts on her treadmill while her young children get their breakfast. The kids have proved remarkably competent at things that she used to feel she had to do for them.

Debbie takes all leftover desserts from entertaining and puts them immediately into her husbands car trunk so they can go right to his office (not hers).  Silvia does the same with Purim baskets and the many gift baskets her patients generously send to her office each holiday season.

Marion uses the stir fried veggies she already makes for her kids for their breakfast omelets as a foundation for her own lunch, and Paula just makes one more brown bag lunch for herself when she makes those for her kids each morning. At whatever time of day she would automatically reach for a snack, she reaches for her lunch instead.

Lissa uses the interesting and tasty veggie side dishes she orders from Fresh Direct as a basis for her work lunches every day by simply adding already cooked proteins (like Bell & Evans white chicken strips, frozen pre-cooked shrimp, turkey meatballs or TJ chicken sausages).

Elliot always gets off the bus to and from his office in the city two stops earlier than he has to, using this as a way to build exercise into his commute, knowing that once he crosses the threshold of his home or office, all bets are off.

Sarah has an old dresser in her basement in which each kid has their own drawer for their own personal lunch snacks which they select and fetch for themselves while she prepares their brown bag school lunch each morning. All the junk food is inconveniently out of the kitchen.

Paul, knowing that after school is his son’s hungriest time, takes advantage of this by serving real food for after school snacks – like turkey sandwiches, chili and hearty soups in the winter. You might be surprised what hungry boys are perfectly happy eating. Since, by the process of imprinting one naturally develops more of a liking for the things one eats when they are hungry, he figures it is a good investment in his son’s future food preferences and thus long term health prognosis.

Elise always puts out a platter of hummus and veggies for the family before and with dinner knowing, as a recent study in Smithsonian pointed out, that repeated exposure to anything increases our liking of it. In fact, it takes an average of nine exposures to a new food to acquire a taste for it, so don’t give up!

Amanda kills two birds with one stone by preparing the family’s dinner in the morning when she is the least likely to graze and then serving it to the kids after school before they all take off for those activities that make eating as a family nearly impossible. Not only do she and the kids eat a real meal together, but she also is able to avoid having to prepare food at her hungriest time of the day.

Nora keeps the tradition of a “family style” dinner but thwarts her kids habits of overeating proteins and starches by leaving only the huge salad and extra veggies on the table. She makes enough starch and protein for an individual serving all round, and when she does make extra proteins for her own lunches, she wisely sequesters them in opaque containers the refrigerator before she serves dinner.

Portia has an opaque lidded tub in her garage that houses all the junk food. She discovered how extraordinarily well that worked when she was having her kitchen fumigated for ants. She never went back to the old junk laden counters and cabinets. It is amazing how much she ends up throwing out now that it is not under everyone’s nose all the time.

Knowing that eating an entire dinner whilst preparing dinner is one of his biggest achilles heels and at one time the source of about sixty extra pounds, Carl prepares the huge family dinner salad first and then eats his portion while he does the rest of the dinner prep.

What can you routinize about your meal or exercise routines so they do not require rocket science or feel like the rock of Sisyphus every time?

What can you do in advance today to create non-negotiable, preparation limited, easy meals and snacks?

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