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Ask the trainer: Training the belly

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Photography by Dave Laus

Question: I rarely miss a workout but it seems like I fall off my diet every few weeks no matter how hard I try. What can I do to develop the same discipline with my eating?

First off, give yourself some credit for the major lifestyle change you have made through your exercise routine thus far. Second, you are not alone when it comes to sticking to a meal plan.

Eating habits take longer to change for a number of reasons: Food tends to be imbued with strong emotional significance, personal meaning and memory. People often eat to improve mood when feeling low energy, stressed or sad. Does chocolate cake remind you of happy afternoons spent with your grandma? It’s easy to choose food that changes your mood in a hurry, especially if you go too long between meals and need a quick fix to regulate your blood sugar.

For others, nutrition tends to fall off on the weekend when the lack of work week structure makes it harder to stick to an eating plan. Plus, weekend socializing often involves food and drink. Coupled with the many readily available fast-food options, the cycle can be hard to break.

More often than not, what you think is hunger is actually thirst. I cannot stress this point enough. Always have water with you and sip throughout the day. Start your with one or two glasses of filtered water in the morning and notice how much energy you instantly have. Aim to drink half your body weight (in ounces!) worth of water per day.

There are two key points to consider when planning your meals. The first is to prepare your food in advance. Set aside some time to make large quantities of healthy food and put them in easy-to-carry storage containers you can bring to work or school during the week. Second, when eating out, choose a healthy meal option before you arrive at a restaurant. Look at the menu online and make the healthy choice before you get there. This way, you won’t stray from your nutrition goals or be tempted by your hunger to grab a side of fries.

Don’t be so strict that you forget that part of enjoying life involves celebrating with food. Integrating planned cheat meals each week will keep you from experiencing guilt or unnecessary setbacks.

Sleep-deprived individuals require more calories for their daily functioning, which could cause you to over-consume. Sleep also improves your mood, making you less likely to reach for poor quality food such as candy to improve your frame of mind.

Green tea, small amounts of dark chocolate, oranges, bananas, pomegranates and raw sunflower seeds and are just a few of the easy, healthy options that will keep you on track. Once again, making the list is water. I told you I can’t stress hydration enough!

Exercise improves mood and lowers stress so it makes sense that the combination of positive emotions, more energy and a better physique will encourage you to keep working out. Healthy eating has similar effects on your hormones and mental outlook, so rest assured that you will be able to create the same changes if you stick to some of the habit-forming strategies suggested above.

Nichelle Laus is a proud mom of 4 boys under the age of 8; she has trained and competed at an amateur level in both boxing and kickboxing for over 20 years. She is a certified personal trainer, kickboxing and kettlebell instructor, motivational speaker, and fitness and cover model. She is a Figure and Bikini competitor, and competition and transformation coach for Team Laus. She loves to teach and inspire others.


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