Eat with your eyes!

There’s an old saying that you eat first with your eyes. That usually refers to the visual appeal of food, the importance of food looking good as well as tasting good.

But I’ve also found eating with the eyes can help control weight and diet.

How is that possible? 

I’m glad you asked!

Thanks to the plethora of beautiful images available online today, I can satisfy my foodie cravings, through sites like Pinterest, saving yummy recipes to my boards. Facebook is another amazing resource, full of cooking videos that pepper my feed.

Am I going to make all the dishes I pin, or re-create all the video demos I save? No, probably not. But they’ve become my digital cookbooks, and when I need inspiration, I scan my Pinterest boards or my saved links for just the right thing.

As much as I enjoy collecting recipes, the process of scrolling through images and recipes of beautiful breads, luscious desserts, comfort foods, healthy smoothies, and colorful salads actually fills another need. I don’t have to make or taste all these foods. Sometimes I just want to satisfy a mental craving. And isn’t that what traditional cookbooks offer too?

If you’re a foodie, if you’re fascinated by the world of cooking and all things delicious, and / or  you’re managing weight and fitness, I challenge you to feed your mind, eat with your eyes, as a way to consciously control what you feed your body.

Sometimes feeding my mind with food means looking at healthy recipes, beautiful photos of salads and fruit, interesting smoothie concoctions, innovative ideas for staying on the light side of the scale.

Sometimes I go to the opposite extreme and fill up, mentally, on all the delicious and decadent treats I find to drool over. Would you believe, it’s possible to spend a few minutes looking at these recipes, choose one or two for my next baking extravaganza, and be done. Satiated.

I also spend time in the health / fitness online realm. Reading fitness tips, keeping up to date on nutrition and workout plans and challenges, and finding encouragement to stay on top of my weight and fitness goals is an important part of my mental game. I always learn something, and just the simple act focusing on fitness keeps me tuned in to this piece of the formula for good health.

Wellness is a balancing act, and one I can manage better with the array of online tools. But not everything is online. There are lots of simple and practical things you can do to boost your diet / fitness regimen.

These are things I do to stay healthy, in addition to eating with my eyes:

  1. Drink lemon water. Whether it’s warm or cold, this is a great way to stay hydrated and dilute the impact of other beverages. I drink coffee every morning, but switch to water or unsweetened iced tea for the rest of the day. Sodas* are a rare treat, no more than once a week. (*I never drink diet soda or use artificial sweeteners in anything. Just my personal choice. I prefer unsweetened or real sugar to diet anything.)
  2. Do anything to be active. Walk, participate in a daily challenge of some sort, like this one,  join a class, go to the gym. Whatever you do is better than doing nothing. Mix it up so you don’t get bored. Use a pedometer, one of the popular Fitbits, or hire a personal trainer to jump start your efforts.
  3. Add a friend or two to the mix. Whether you have an exercise buddy, create an accountability partnership, or participate in a formal group such as WeightWatchers, find support to stay with your program, your goals, and keep your attitude positive.
  4. Whatever you indulge in, halve it. For example, I use cream in my coffee, and I used to drink two cups every morning. Now I drink one cup, still enjoy my cream, but I’ve halved my intake of cream and caffeine. If I have a sandwich, I make it a half rather than a whole. (Disclaimer: when I have a tomato or BLT sandwich, I eat the WHOLE thing. Can’t help myself. 🙂 ) Some people find once they start something they can’t stop. I find if I allow myself a small sample of a treat, it satisfies me and I don’t feel deprived. A little goes a long way.
  5. Take the time to make your food look good. Putting your food on an attractive plate or drinking from your favorite cup adds a sense of pampering to your meals. Eating is a necessity, and the process deserves some respect! (If you’re in the fast lane with your schedule, paper plates may be your best friend on a day-to-day basis, so take a little extra time on the weekends, or with your evening meal.) By consciously making food special, you give yourself the message that you are worth the extra steps. So much of healthy eating and fitness is about self-messaging. What are you worth? A little extra time and effort?
  6. Don’t keep temptation around. When I plan to bake, I usually have to go out and buy the items I need for the recipe. I don’t keep a lot of ingredients on hand, so I can’t give in to the temptation without a plan in place. When I make a decadent dish, I enjoy the treat, but I share most of what I make with co-workers, with a social gathering, or give treats to friends…somehow, someway, I spread the wealth.
  7. Don’t buy prepared / pre-packaged treats. If I have to bake cookies to have cookies, most of the time, that takes care of the problem. By the time I think through the process of gathering ingredients and doing the prep work, I’ve talked myself out of the desire to have a cookie. Works well with other treats too!
  8. Choose your time to indulge. I’m a firm believer in moderation, in small satisfactions making life enjoyable. I don’t subscribe to an all or nothing philosophy!  Planning a special meal or treat for the weekend, or a special occasion, is important to me. I like food, and I don’t want to make it the enemy, or tell myself I can never have [fill in the blank] because it’s not “healthy.” An occasional treat is not going to do me any harm, as long as I’m honest about what I call “occasional,” watch portion size, and don’t have other health issues to consider. Obviously, managing a diabetic condition or other health concerns means food choices have to be tailored to individual needs.
  9. Eat at home more than you eat out. This is a better choice financially, and you’ll have full control over ingredients and portion sizes. I love to eat out, but bottom line, restaurant options are harder to manage when you’re trying to be smart about diet and fitness.
  10. Establish your goals, stick with your plan. Don’t get discouraged if you have a setback…you can refocus yourself any day of the week, and as often as you need to. Weight, fitness, and diet should be between you and you. Sure, you may have a specific timeline in mind if you’re trying to diet, or you may be training for a specific event like a community 5k run. In general, I think accountability is a better approach than competition. If you can approach your goals with a positive attitude, rather than feeling pressured, you’re more likely to stay on track, and feel good about your accomplishments. Managing weight and fitness takes effort, whether you’re actively trying to lose weight and firm up, or simply maintaining your desired weight. Don’t lose sight of the power of commitment to help you stay on track!

How about you? What do you do to stay fit and healthy? Please share!

~ Sheila


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