Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Do you want to have more energy, lose excess weight, think clearly, feel happier, and grow closer to God at the same time?
It’s possible! Even without following a super-strict diet plan...or giving up chocolate.
It's as simple as changing a few key habits about how you eat. By focusing on changing your habits, you aren’t embarking on yet another attempt at a diet. Instead, you're striving to make lifestyle changes that will compound over time.
Here are 8 simple eating habits that will have an immediate impact on your health and well-being as soon as you start developing them:
1. Focus on eating protein, healthy fat, and fiber at every meal and snack. This will help stabilize your blood sugar and keep you feeling full longer. It also helps to balance your hormones naturally (great if you're dealing with irregular cycles!). Examples of foods containing fiber are: vegetables, fruit, and nuts. Healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, eggs, and coconut oil. When you make a meal or snack, just do a quick check to see if all three components are there.
2. Eat “Genius Foods” as frequently as you can. In his book Genius Foods: Become Smarter, Happier, and More Productive While Protecting Your Brain for Life, Max Lugavere outlines 10 super foods that he calls “genius foods”. While I highly recommend that you read the book for yourself, you can focus on eating more of these foods in the meantime:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Dark Leafy Greens
3. Schedule your meals and snacks. Decide when it makes sense for you to eat and do yourself the favor of stopping what you’re doing and making yourself something decent to eat at those times (remember habits 1 and 2). Otherwise, you’ll be prone to bouts of “hanger”, binge snacking (usually junk food), and/or just eating whatever your kids didn’t eat when you unpack their lunchboxes (ask me how I know… ;)
4. Make a weekly meal plan for dinner. Unfortunately the old adage that “failing to plan is planning to fail” holds true for healthy eating. Save yourself time, money, and unnecessary headache by deciding in advance what you’ll be having for dinner for the week.
5. Reduce or eliminate sugar and alcohol. I could wax eloquent here about all the ways that both sugar and alcohol are bad for you, but instead I’ll just sum it up as follows: they’re really bad for you, so please limit them as much as possible. An occasional drink or desert is fine (see point 8) but as a general rule and a daily habit, try to avoid them. I find that it helps to remind yourself that you’ll feel sluggish, moody, sleepy, heavy, sad and generally bad if you do succumb to the temptation to sugar or booze. Eating for mood and energy is way more effective for avoiding unhealthy foods than beating yourself up or letting yourself feel guilty!
6. Reduce overall carbs. Eating a lower carb diet (it doesn’t have to be strictly keto nor do you need to count your macros) will help you lose abdominal fat, lower blood sugar, improve your cholesterol, and help you control your appetite. Simply swap out high-carb foods like breads, pasta, rice, and potatoes for more vegetables and healthy fats. Also, avoid sugar (see above) and sugary drinks like juice and soda.
7. Fast and Abstain from meat on Fridays. Unless you’re pregnant or nursing (in which case, don’t fast!) I urge you to consider fasting on Fridays. Science is starting to catch on to the impressive health benefits of fasting as a time for your body to repair and renew itself and for a whole host of other good things to happen. But Catholics have known about the spiritual benefits of fasting for about 2,000 years. Fasting is good for your soul. Fasting just means “not eating” (though drinking water is fine). Combine it with prayer and you have a powerful spiritual tool. You can start gradually by pushing breakfast on Fridays a little later and then just see what you tolerate well. Maybe you fast until noon, 3:00, or dinner. Also, if you've been reducing carbs and following the habits outlined above, you’ll find that it’s much easier to fast because your body will be used to burning stored fat for fuel (win-win).
Also, while you may know that you’re supposed to abstain from meat during the Fridays of Lent, many Catholics don’t know that every Friday is supposed to be a day of penance. Which means, if you aren’t abstaining from meat, you should be intentionally doing some other form of penance on Fridays. Personally, I find that its just easier to keep abstaining from meat on Fridays all year long.
8. Feast on Sundays and Holy Days. Every Sunday is another celebration of Easter and Christ’s resurrection from the dead--so celebrate! As Catholics, we should embrace Sundays and Holy Days as an opportunity to enjoy great food with our loved ones. If there’s something you’ve been craving all week, be it brownies or a gin and tonic, let yourself have it on Sunday. And science supports you in this! The so called “cheat meal” has been proven to boost your metabolism by resetting hormones responsible for hunger and insulin regulation. It will basically trick your body into thinking that food is plentiful so it should go ahead and burn fat stores. It also helps to overcome any feelings of deprivation that tend to come with “dieting”.
These simple changes to your eating habits will make it much easier for you to meet your health goals--without feeling deprived. You’ll also be tapping into the ancient wisdom of the Church regarding fasting and feasting, all while respecting the wonderful way that God has designed your body to work.