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Don't rely on willpower to improve your health and lose weight. Set yourself up for success with

Feel like you're constantly faced with temptations when trying to take care of your health, eat well and try to lose weight?

Feel like eating clean is an uphill battle, testing your willpower every step of the way.

Do you struggle with cravings and the urge to snack after a stressful day, when you're bored, in front of the T.V?

Yep, me too! We all face these challenges and the negative self-talk that follows a moment of weakness. I'm a firm believer of a whole foods, balanced diet but that we should also enjoy an occasional treat. We eat to fuel our bodies and live well but we also eat to celebrate and enjoy the pleasures of taste and satiety.

If you're just starting out in your health improvement journey or you're looking to take that next step in improving your diet, then I suggest you start small and assess what it is you want to achieve and how you want to feel. What are you WILLING to do and NOT WILLING to do?

The body is pretty amazing and resilient. We shouldn't worry about the occasional treat, but the frequency of treats and quantity of treats. Would it be best to never eat a cupcake, pizza or chip again? Probably. But would this be reasonable. Most likely not. If it was, we wouldn't be talking about this.

Think of all the temptations that confront you every day outside your home, constantly testing your willpower and discipline:

  • Chips and dip at social events

  • Brownies and birthday cakes at work

  • Pizza and hot dogs at the game

And just to pour salt on your dietary wounds, you probably pass six drive - thrus or high-calorie coffee shops on your way anywhere.

Outsmart your cravings

With all this temptation, you need to have a safe place where the temptations don't exist. Why not make that safe place your home by removing your trigger foods?

What is a trigger food? A trigger food is different for us all. It is the food that calls you late at night, when you're stressed and when you're bored. It is the food/treat that you cannot pass by without nibbling. To be honest...without devouring!

If we are on a restrictive diet then these foods hold even more power over us and can lead to a binge session. There is a reason why "diet" has been called a 4-letter word, especially if we are focused on quick results that are unsustainable for our lifestyle.

Rather than try another "diet" to lose 20 pounds in 4 weeks then hit a plateau, consider slowly improving your eating habits and step at a time:

-consider your "Why" behind making the change

-understand your strengths and weaknesses in respect to where you are and where you want to be

-create the systems and strategies with the right support to increase your chance of success and prevent pitfalls

-develop and practice the skills necessary for long-term change one choice and day at a time

If you want to take that first step toward improving the quality of your diet, to feel and look better then read on for a game of "Red Light, Green Light".

To play, think about what "healthy" and "unhealthy" foods are for you using the "traffic light" concept: Red-, yellow-, and green-light foods.

Red-light foods are foods that are just bad news for you. Maybe they make you feel sick, or they trigger you to eat too much, or you know they're an unhealthy choice for you, etc. Red means "no go".

Yellow-light foods are foods that are sometimes OK, sometimes not. Maybe you can eat a little bit without feeling ill, or you can eat them sanely at a restaurant with others but not at home alone, or you can have them as an occasional treat, etc. Yellow means "approach with caution".

Green-light foods are foods that make you feel good mentally and physically, and that you can eat normally, slowly, to a relatively easy 80% full. These are usually things like fruits and vegetables, lean protein, legumes, etc. Green means "go for it!"

Each person will have a slightly different list of red-, yellow-, and green-lights. You might leave ice cream in the freezer untouched for months, whereas another person might need a restraining order from Ben & Jerry's.

Remember, if a food is in your environment, you will eventually eat it. So, you can set yourself up for success by limiting "red light" foods and stocking up on "green light" foods. Although it can sometimes be hard to control what foods are brought into our environment by others, I have found that communicating our needs brings support and encouragement.

I use this strategy myself in our home. Each of my children enjoy different "junk food" and since I'm the one who shops, I tend to get the items that aren't a trigger for me. For example, they love prepackaged baked goods and chips which are easy for me to say no to. However, when they ask for chocolate, candy, or ice cream they know we will go out and get a single serving for a special date rather than bring home a half gallon. This allows me to be flexible with my diet and enjoy treats on occasion but prevents me from digging into that half gallon in one sitting. Sadly, this has happened, leading to remorse and sickness...ugh!

In my fitness and nutrition programs, we always focus on what we can control because there is so much in life that we can't.

To help you learn which foods are helpful or hurtful to your success, use the attached "Kitchen Makeover" worksheet to create your safe and healthy environment.

I would love to hear how your Kitchen Makeover goes. Post your pantry clean out pictures on or email me, if you would like more strategies and support to achieve and maintain a healthy weight without losing your sanity!

In health,

Laurel B. Sakson

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