Divorce is a time of immeasurable change. The challenges of a new relationship status, possibly relocating to a new home, schedule changes, and stress overshadows the importance of nutrition. As such, it’s no wonder that divorced men’s health tends to fall by the wayside.
The overall health benefits of proper eating are well-known and widely discussed. Whether your goals are to expand your knowledge of healthy eating, get on track in your newly single existence, or take this opportunity to set goals and make changes to your body, the basics of nutrition are the same. Here are a few easy ways to build healthy habits and incorporate healthful foods into your newly single life.
The Best Nutrition Hack: Mindful Eating
One of the most simple, cost effective steps to incorporate healthy habits into your life as a newly single guy is to practice mindful eating. Our society is saturated with images of fast food, technological distractions, and a constant state of being engaged in our work and social lives.
You know how your mouth starts to water when you smell freshly baked bread or see a commercial featuring a sizzling steak on the grill? That’s because our senses are heavily tied into our digestive systems, which starts with the secretion of extra saliva in our mouths to help break down food. Consider the visual stimuli in advertisements; in combination with our overloaded schedules, it’s no wonder that our hunger cues are out of whack.
This is where mindful eating comes in. Mindful eating allows us to become more aware of our hunger cues, helping us eat enough to fuel ourselves while preventing overeating. To practice mindful eating, choose one meal per day and practice these habit building activities:
- Eat without distraction: Social media, television, and work can wait for a few minutes while you focus on your meal. This practice will help ensure that you’re able to listen to your hunger cues and better detect when you’re satiated.
- Take it slow: If the first step in the digestion process occurs in the mouth, it makes sense to keep your food there long enough for the mouth to do its work. Instead of scarfing everything down, chew your food properly. When you think you’re done chewing, chew five more times. Set your utensils down between bites to take a few extra seconds. Take a sip of water between bites. Think about the texture, taste, and what you’re getting from this meal.
- Stop at 80% full: It takes time for your digestive system to do its work. By getting back in touch with your hunger cues and eating until you feel almost full, you’ll prevent overeating. Shortly after stopping, that near full sensation will develop into complete satiation.
These mindful eating practices take time to develop, and it won’t always be possible to follow through. It’s important to remember that everyone faces deadlines, scheduling issues, and situations where a meal must be quickly consumed. However, if you can practice mindful eating more often than not, the benefits are numerous. One study on the effects of mindful eating not only resulted in an average 9lb weight loss amongst participants over the twelve weeks, but a correlating reduction in depression, anxiety, and stress levels.
Portion control, calorie limits, and other measuring methods tend to be overcomplicated. Due to the tedious nature with which we approach some of these methods, many people become discouraged and fall off the wagon. So let’s look at a simple way to categorize and measure food.
Simply put, food can be broken down into four categories: Protein, Carbs, Fats, and Vegetables. You may recognize the first three as macronutrients or something our bodies require in large amounts. You may recognize the fourth category as the part of the buffet that you walk past without a sideways glance. Let’s change that.
As far as measuring goes, we’re going to ditch the scale and measuring cups for something easier to transport: your hands. Not only are your hands with you wherever you go, but they’re also proportionate to the size of your body. Serving sizes on food labels are one size fits all, which doesn’t make sense when you look at a basketball player in comparison to a horse jockey, does it?
Lean Protein – Your Palm
Protein is the ambrosia of bodybuilders and weight loss professionals alike. The average man requires two palm-sized servings of protein per meal, approximating a total of 6-8 servings per day. This can include foods such as:
- Greek yogurt
Protein is not the fabled muscle building unicorn of the nutrition world but is made up of amino acids, or the building blocks of life. Protein helps with building muscle, metabolism, athletic performance, and weight management.
Carbohydrates – Your Cupped Hand
Cup your hand as though you’re holding an egg. That’s the size of your carbohydrate serving. The average man requires about two servings of carbs per meal, for a total of 6-8 per day. Many choose to cycle their carbs, reducing their intake by a serving or two on days they aren’t exercising, while adding a serving or two on days they are. Carbs are not the monsters they are made out to be; many people just need to make smarter carb choices. Rather than bread and pasta, try to choose carbs like:
- Quinoa & lentils – both great sources of protein as well
- Brown rice
- Red skin or sweet potatoes
Slowly digested carbs in the right portion size, like the ones listed above, can assist with energy levels for exercise and building lean muscle mass. In excess, carbohydrates can be stored as fat.
Fats – Your Thumb
Once upon a time, people were under the misconception that dietary fat and body fat were the same things. On the contrary, dietary fats are crucial to a healthy diet, especially monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Try to avoid processed fats like trans and hydrogenated, as these are not beneficial to the diet and can cause health issues. Processed sources of saturated fats are also detrimental, while natural sources (like eggs) can be beneficial in moderation.
Healthy fat sources include:
- Tree nuts
- Olive oil
Healthy fats help with cellular function, hormonal responses, nutrient absorption and satiety. The average man needs two thumb-sized servings per meal, for a total of 6-8 servings per day.
Vegetables – Your Fist
It’s time to think outside the hype surrounding macro tracking and add some greens to your plate. Diversifying your vegetable intake will increase your exposure to mood and performance boosting micronutrients, or in layman’s terms, vitamins and minerals.
Versatile vegetable options include:
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Red cabbage
- Beet greens
The average man requires two fist-sized servings of vegetables per meal, for a total of 6-8 servings per day. Different vegetables offer different nutrient options, so don’t hesitate to shake things up and try something new.
Keep in mind, these recommended portions are just the framework for you to base your nutrition decisions on. If you feel over-full while following these portions, or hope to lose weight, consider removing a few servings of carbs or fat per day. Alternatively, if you aren’t feeling satisfied or are trying to build muscle, consider adding a few servings of carbs or fat per day.
Meal planning doesn’t have to be the time-consuming ordeal that it’s sometimes made out to be. Start by keeping it simple. Plan on eating the same thing a couple of times a week until you get into a routine. Rather than thinking about the finished product, approach each meal by deciding on one component from each of the four categories above. Use these building blocks to create a simple dish, then season as needed.
You may decide to buy in bulk for the week and dedicate a set amount of time to meal prep. Alternatively, depending on your location and access to the grocery store, you may decide to play it by ear and pick up a basket of fresh food every couple of days before replenishing. Rather than dedicating yourself to one way of doing things, allow yourself the time and flexibility to figure out what works for you in your newly single status.
Finding Your Groove
With everything else going on, it will be all too easy to fall into the trap of relying on fast food and having take-out restaurants on speed dial. By incorporating healthy nutrition habits like the ones listed above, you’ll save money, feel better, and start your journey as a newly single guy off on the right foot. Keeping it simple with a habit-based approach gives you the flexibility to adjust your plan to fit your needs, or at least keep you healthy while you figure out your next steps.
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