Discipline in the Kitchen: Out of Sight, Out of Mind…and Stomach

I will be the first to admit that I have a huge sweet tooth. Growing up I loved it all, from candy to freeze pops, kool-aid to juice, and my biggest foe, still to this day- ice cream. But in reality, the sugar and processed ingredients from these foods are terrible for us, it’s the reason why no matter how hard we work out we can’t just shed the pounds. Now I also love deep-fried foods, I grew up on fried chicken, fried falafels, fried schnitzel you name it. But the high content of fat and harmful chemical reactions due to deep-frying foods adds up down the line. The older I became the more my awareness grew and with the more I learned about our body and food I began to consciously change my eating habits. I started with limiting my consumption of meats, dairy, and sugar. But like many, I didn’t physically notice or feel any differences after working out for a few weeks; and anything I did notice were far below my expectations of what I thought would happen. At first I got discouraged, but then I realized that I just needed to be more disciplined in all of my efforts. That standstill of progression all ended when I cut certain foods out of my diet at 22 years old; and even more so after I became a vegetarian at 23.

Ultimately my journey and progression towards a healthy lifestyle and nutritional intake all began with mental focus on consuming healthy foods. Discipline is nothing more than a mental training exercise, its training your mind to be stronger than temptation’s grip around you. I like to think of willpower as a mental muscle, and discipline is exercise to strengthen it. Like any muscle, it needs to be worked on. When it comes to eating healthy, the easiest way is to just say ‘No’ to bad foods. I’m not saying it’s easy, that’s why it’s called resisting temptation. You have to be consciously aware in your efforts and of your weaknesses. Many of us have issues with discipline because we make it situational. We say things like: ‘well it’s free so I might as well eat one’ or ‘everyone else is having one’ or ‘it’d be rude not to at least try it’ even ‘they look/smell so good.’ Those statements occur in the workplace, at events, going out, and at home- and they’re unacceptable for those that want to get in shape, lose fat, gain more muscle, and overall become healthier. The first step is realizing discipline isn’t situational, it’s something set in stone. There is no room for the above examples of thoughts/justifications. If you said you won’t eat this or that, don’t eat it- that’s it. For maintaining a healthy lifestyle, this applies directly towards how you shop and what you’re eating at home.

Now the easiest way for me to avoid from indulging in my sugar craving is simple: I don’t buy them, I refuse to keep them in my home. If I’m at work, I refuse to eat the snacks at meetings if they’re not fresh fruits or veggies. For the fried foods, I replace the batter and frying aspect with a sauce base and bake them instead of deep-frying; always being conscientious of how much oil/butter is going into my food. Eliminating temptation is the easiest way to begin your journey of discipline in regards to food. Challenge yourself from eating those tempting foods or beverages for 1 week, then 2 weeks, then kick it up and don’t eat them for a month. Once you can go 4 weeks without eating those bad foods I guarantee you’ll physically, emotionally, and mentally feel better. When you reach that point, then you get to a point of control, and even then you should moderate the consumption to those foods or beverages to once or twice a month at most; but if you see them unappetizing simply don’t go back to consuming them. A month is the typical time it takes for your body to get back to normal and separate your addictions from your mind, allowing you to think clearly in regards to your bad foods.

If you feel like you still need to continue your discipline in regards to food, you can extend that to 3 months, and the ultimate test of fortitude is a year or more. I’m at a point in my own personal journey where I didn’t drinking alcohol or soda for a year and I have no intention of going back because of the clarity it caused. I physically am not detached to either substance and no longer see it necessary to consume. One must realize becoming more disciplined isn’t solely done by resisting temptation towards food; it can and should be applied to all facets of life. Like being steadfast in budgeting, planning out meals and your daily routine, keeping your home clean, seeing friends and family, being creative, the list is endless. Discipline with the goal of being healthy all comes with consistency, so no more excuses, will it to be.

If you’re trying to live a healthy lifestyle it all starts in the kitchen. There isn’t a complicated answer or any sage-like advice to it, because it all comes down to each individual to make their intention a reality. In order for you to grow you must become accountable and take control of your life. There are plenty of recipes to learn and techniques to try, and each of us holds the key to living a better life. If you don’t want to eat certain foods don’t buy them, don’t eat them, and don’t make excuses about it. When you dedicate yourself to change it can occur instantaneously. Growing up and during college I was unaware my potential to live a healthy life, and simply put I didn’t see importance of it. But as I aged I realized that I didn’t want to suffer through certain diseases as other members in my family has. I became aware of the true impact that nutrition has down the line as we age. My own journey towards a healthy lifestyle wasn’t because of motivation, and it wasn’t because of knowledge, it was because I tried to be better- and through firsthand experience I realized it was better.

When I stopped drinking milk and eating ice cream/cheese on a weekly basis, I shed about 10 pounds in 2-3 weeks. For me that was a huge accomplishment, I grew up drinking a glass of milk (2%) with every dinner and thought nothing wrong of it; in fact I was encouraged to. This was largely in part due to our poor educational system on food and nutrition, but seeing the weight loss was too interesting and shocking to overlook. After that I started digging deeper into what other foods just get stored as fat and most importantly what else I was told growing up that was wrong. It was after those experiences I begin to research and decided I wanted to become a vegetarian. However I was really determined to do it in a healthy, delicious fashion, plus I didn’t want to stop after a few months and not achieve my goal because I didn’t know what to do. So I started changing the way I ate and practiced making different recipes and being more focused on eliminating my bad habits in the kitchen; and almost immediately felt and saw the reaction my body was having to it. I added more fruits and veggies to my diet, drank less alcohol, stopped drinking soda, stopped drinking juice, stopped eating junk food, limited myself eating out to twice a month, and had been weaning myself off meat meal by meal. Incorporating more veggies and fruits into my diet wasn’t that hard. It started off with making salads more often without the use of dressing and using them as my snacks rather than chips and candy. I really applied to different tricks and old sayings, like the rule of not eating a piece of meat that was bigger than my palm, and as time went on I reduced that to just a few bites of meat while making a variety of meals with the veggies and grains as the main focus. During this time I noticed my body thinning out and my energy levels increase. Because I felt so good and eating less meat it didn’t bother me. Combined with certain experiences and my own readings I took the next step and decided to become a vegetarian.

The real changes came once I became a vegetarian and stopped eating meat entirely while continuing my discipline with eating less dairy and processed foods. Within the first few weeks I was shedding off pounds, but most importantly they didn’t come back as fat. I had stopped eating candy and processed foods and went with a more whole foods method. I was eating nature’s candy by eating more fruit and replacing the vitamins and minerals that I got from meat with more veggies and eating multi-grains. I went from ordering out twice a month to once a month. I only drank water and limited myself to drinking only once or twice a month at a 3-6 drink max, before I ultimately stopped drinking alcohol, while being sure to drink an additional glass of water for every drink (maybe not during my drinking but for sure after). Even if I went out, I limited myself to not eating passed a certain time, which was usually no later than 3-4 hours before I would be going to bed.

I stuck to eating at a specific schedule throughout the day and no matter what I was doing I was sure to stick to my schedule. I was more disciplined in working out when I woke up, drinking hemp protein during my workouts, and stopped drinking pre and post workout shakes, replacing them with water and food respectively. Because of my habits my body had ended the roller coaster of drastic weight change as many of us are on, and it felt great. My energy levels increased throughout the day, my recovery from workouts was quicker, my strength was increasing, and body looking more toned. After getting my blood taken, I saw the results and realized I have never been healthier than I am as a vegetarian than at any other point in my life.  I didn’t need to count calories; I just ate right and practiced good habits. The only means of achieving this lifestyle were through the practice of discipline and improving my willpower. I refused to buy unhealthy foods, I made myself learn new techniques in order to cook, and most importantly I was consistent with my efforts in order to grow and make my changes permanent. My own journey was longer than it should have because of excuses. But in reality there is no better time to change than right now. So get out there and clean out your kitchen of the unhealthy foods, start looking at some recipes, and make that step towards a better and healthier life today.

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