Changing Your Eating Habits

Sustainable Shifts for Big Results
By Kara Short  photography by dawn sandborn

I remember working out like a crazy woman for months on end. It was 2011, and I had discovered the weight room. I was so proud of my efforts and new-found consistency! The weight-loss results, though, were minimal. I was super strong, but I had only lost a few pounds.
I realized that it was time to change my eating habits—the one thing that I had been putting off. If I was going to put in this much physical effort, I wanted to have results, and that meant taking an honest look at what and how much I was putting in my mouth and why. You can’t, they say, “outrun your fork.”

It’s the time of year for New Year’s resolutions. I’m personally not a fan. Waiting until January 1 to “be good” and expecting to suddenly go through some sort of instant transformation is unreasonable. Grandiose expectations often lead to disappointment by January 31.
Studies show that humans have an 85% chance of success when trying to make one change. However, trying to change two things at once has a drastically smaller success rate of around 35%. Three things at once? Almost zero. Well, what do many resolutions involve? Change everything, and change it now! 

Not surprisingly, this isn’t sustainable. And when unable to be successful, it’s easy to just revert back to familiar, comfortable habits—the path of least resistance.
I get it. I’ve had times in my life where I didn’t care and I didn’t try. And there have been times of rice cakes, diet pills, restrict and repeat. When it was time to be honest with myself and make real change, I remember being afraid: afraid of restriction, of having to give up things that I love and of failing again.

So, what can you do differently this year? And how can you build healthier eating habits for the long term?
1) Take an honest look at what you’re currently doing.
• Build awareness by keeping a dietary record for a week. Write everything down and note what’s going well and what needs improvement. Are you missing anything (like vegetables)? Do you have a certain eating pattern?
• Look at where you eat and why. How much do you eat out? Do you plan and prep meals in advance? Do you have hunger awareness? Do you know how fast or slow you eat and WHY you are eating? 

2) What is your environment like?
• Examine your kitchen. If you have junk food in the house, you will eat it. Bring those tempting treats in only on occasion and in small amounts.
• Factor in your social environment: Who is around you? Do family, friends and co-workers help you or make it harder for you to be healthy? What changes can you make in your household and social circle right now?

3) What are your expectations? Are they realistic or are you sabotaging yourself from the get-go?
• Avoid high expectations of change, especially if you have low confidence in your ability to act on it.
• Set a realistic expectation of ONE change that you can start with (for example, eat slowly or increase your veggies).
• Choose something you are confident in changing. It should almost seem easy to work on this change.
• Go SLOWLY. Slow = sustainable. Master what you are working on and then add another change.  

Good eating and lifestyle habits should enhance your life, not rule it. If you end up feeling restricted, it means you’re changing too much, too fast. Find your own version of balance. Be well and be healthy, but also enjoy your life and the process.

Kara’s Tips
1 Keep things simple. If it’s simple and you feel confident, you will do it.
2 Plan ahead. Prepare to have meals ready during a busy week.
3 Celebrate progress. I tell my clients to strive for progress, not perfection!
4 Don’t wait to be motivated to change. Take action NOW, motivation will follow.
5 Be kind to yourself. If you have a day that you indulge more than planned, hit the reset button and practice some self-forgiveness.

Check out these EXTRA helpful resources!
Here’s the cost of getting lean.

Social Support Form

3 Day Eating Record

Behavior Awareness

Kitchen Set-up Assessment

Kara recommends these bowl recipes

Easy Greek Salmon Bowls
Serves 4 (serving size: 1 salmon fillet, ¾ cup quinoa mixture and 1 cups of vegetables)
By KAREN RANKIN November 2018
Heart-hero salmon teams up with protein- and fiber-forward quinoa to fill you up; spinach delivers a hit of iron, while green beans and cucumber up the veggie count. Great warm or at room temperature, this also makes a standout packed lunch.

• 4 (5-oz.) skin-on salmon fillets
• 1½ cups cooked quinoa
• ½ tsp. dried dill
• ½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
• ½ tsp. dried oregano
• ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
• 1 tsp. kosher salt, divided
• 1 tsp. honey
• 5 Tbsp. canola oil, divided
• 2 cups halved grape tomatoes
• 1 (8-oz.) pkg. haricots verts
• 2 cups chopped English cucumber
• 3 cups packed baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
• ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

How to Make It
Step 1  Sprinkle salmon with dill, oregano, and ¼ teaspoon salt. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add salmon, skin side up, to skillet; cook 2 to 3 minutes per side for medium. Set aside.

Step 2  Fill a large bowl with ice water. Cook haricots verts according to package directions; place in ice water until completely cool, about 1 minute. Pat dry.

Step 3  Toss together spinach, quinoa, and parsley in a bowl. Whisk together lemon juice, honey, and remaining ¼ cup oil in a small bowl. Add ¼ cup lemon dressing to spinach mixture; toss to combine.

Step  4 To serve, spoon ¾ cup spinach mixture into each of 4 bowls. Arrange ½ cup tomatoes, ½ cup cucumber, and ⅓ cup cooked haricots verts in each bowl. Drizzle with remaining dressing; sprinkle with remaining ¾ teaspoon salt. Top each bowl with 1 flaked salmon fillet and 1 tablespoon feta cheese.

Quinoa Bowl with Kung Pao Edamame

• 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sunflower oil (or other neutral, high-heat oil), divided use
• 1 cup dry quinoa, rinsed
• 1 1/2 cups water
• 1 cup frozen edamame
• 10 dried chiles de arbol
• 1/3 cup roasted, unsalted peanuts
• 1/2 teaspoon sugar
• 2 tablespoons soy sauce
• 1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
• 2 cups frozen carrots

How to Make It
Step 1 Add 1 tablespoon sunflower oil to a medium pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the quinoa and sauté until the grains start popping, about 2 minutes. Add the water and increase the heat to high until the water comes to a boil. Stir the quinoa once, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Drain any excess water and return to the pot until ready to assemble the bowls

Step 2 Add 1/4 cup sunflower oil to a large skillet over high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the edamame, chiles, and peanuts and sprinkle with the sugar. Sauté until the edamame just begin to brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the soy sauce and toasted sesame oil. Pour the edamame mixture into a bowl, return the skillet to the heat, and add the carrots. Sauté until heated through, about 3 minutes.

Step 3 Divide the quinoa among four bowls. Top each with an equal amount of the kung pao edamame and carrots, and serve immediately.

Orzo with Butternut Squash, Spinach, and Blue Cheese

• 2 ½ cups cubed butternut squash (1/4-inch cubes)
• 3 tablespoons olive oil
• 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
• 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
• 1 cup regular or whole-wheat orzo
• 2 cups shredded spinach
• 2 tablespoons olive oil
• 1 clove garlic, minced
• 1/3 cup blue cheese crumbles

How to Make It
Step 1 Preheat oven to 425˚F. Toss butternut squash with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Spread into a single layer on a sheet tray. Bake until squash is tender and starting to brown, 35 to 40 minutes. (Squash can be roasted up to 5 days ahead and kept refrigerated. Rewarm before serving.)

Step 2 Place the spinach in a large bowl and set aside. In a small skillet, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil until just warm. Stir in garlic, remove from heat, and allow to sit until ready to use.

Step 3 Place the orzo in a pot and cover with at least 2 inches of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender but not mushy, 8 to 9 minutes. Drain and immediately pour the hot orzo on top of the spinach. Let sit for a few minutes to slightly wilt spinach.

Step 4 Add butternut squash to the pasta, along with the blue cheese and garlic olive oil. Toss until well-combined and serve warm.

Make-ahead: Roast the squash whenever you have a spare moment and keep it in the fridge for up to 5 days. Warm it in the microwave, a low oven, or in the skillet with the garlic before tossing with the pasta.
Storage: Leftovers will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.