My husband was driving home from work one day and made a quick stop at the store to pick up a few items. He was hungry so he bought a good-sized bag of Boom Chicka Pop, knowing a couple of handfuls would keep the edge off before dinner. I will never forget the way he busted into the house and exclaimed, “We can never buy this stuff again, it was so good I ate the whole bag!”
Over the last couple of years, as I’ve navigated a healthier relationship with food and exercise, my husband and I have put some guard rails in place. A personal guard rail is a boundary set up to deter or prevent you from going off plan or making a poor decision, much like a fence protecting a ditch on the side of the road.
Small Changes, Big Difference
Guard rails can be small acts like not keeping the kids’ tempting snacks in the front seat while driving. Plating up dinner in the kitchen rather than putting the whole dish at the table is another one of our guard rails. Nowadays, I look for ways to add vegetables or a salad to our meal and we only put a bowl of fruit on the table. We do not eat nearly as much pasta, cheese, or bread as we did in the old days when we served platters of food instead of portions on a plate. These small little changes have helped in big ways.
The Power of Fruits and Veggies
For years I would buy fruit and it would never make it to the table. Delicious blueberries, strawberries, and grapes would be forgotten in the deep caverns of my refrigerator. Or, I would display my bounty in a serving bowl on the counter like a beautiful bouquet, but my fruit would deteriorate like flowers in a vase along with my good intentions. I had to set up a guard rail to not purchase fruit unless I had a plan in place to eat it because I just felt like a failure throwing away an unopened container of moldy blueberries.
I got into the regular habit of washing it, cutting it and serving the fruit on a daily basis. I worked hard to change my habits and become someone that seeks out ways to incorporate fruit and vegetables into almost every meal. I also try to be considerate of my vegetable and fruit ratio compared to other foods on the plate. I remember when I used to have a conversation with the designated “health coach” at work. They would ask me how many servings of fruits and vegetables I ate and I lied every time and said 3-4. It’s no longer something I have to lie about — and that is something to celebrate! I eat vegetables and fruit every single day now and my body really does thank me for it!
Eating Out with Guard Rails
One of our food rules when dining out is to look for ways to savor a meal without overeating, like not feeling forced to order two dinners. We might split a burger, share an appetizer and a salad, or get one entrée and split it. No matter how hungry we think we are, we’ve practiced this enough that we know it always ends up being plenty of food. Splitting an entrée was something my husband used to be uncomfortable doing. There was trepidation that splitting an entrée wouldn’t be enough food. He felt like the kitchen or the waiter would think he was cheap.
The reality was, we usually wanted something high calorie and then would invariably overeat it. Eventually we tried splitting our food. Having a smaller portion from the start meant that even if I did overeat my meal, I was eating far less then I previously had consumed. Occasionally (rarely) we will still be hungry after a meal. This gives us the opportunity to get a coffee or split a dessert – a rare treat in our old days when we would leave a restaurant stuffed to the gills. We also let go of what the waiter thought by becoming better tippers! The truth is, I still walk into a restaurant and want all the things (that may never change), but I’ve gathered evidence that I can order a smaller portion or split an entrée with my husband and leave satisfied.
I still want something sweet after dinner, but having grapes to nibble on at the table is a healthier alternative I can live with. My husband is always going to want crackers and trail mix when traffic gets bad but having it in the trunk takes it out of the equation entirely…. because nobody is going to pull over to the side of the road for fish crackers unless the 3-year old is losing her mind in the back seat!
Guard rails are a great way to keep ourselves out of the ditch to maintain a healthy lifestyle. What guard rails could you implement today to stay focused on the road to achieving your dreams?