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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #11: [Introductory Series] Making a Daily Food Plan

Show Notes

May 4, 2022

This week, you'll learn how to use your developed brain to make decisions ahead of time and make a daily food plan so you can achieve your weight loss goals.


Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh, and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight podcast, episode number 11. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight podcast, where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host, obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hey, everyone. If you are just joining me today for the first time, welcome, I am so glad to have you here today as a listener. It has been so, so much fun to see this podcast grow over the last few months, and I appreciate the support of each and every one of you. Whether you are brand new or one of my earliest listeners, we have a great episode in-store today. We are going to put a lot of information together and talk about making your daily food plan. In episode number two, we talked about food logging and hunger signals, and in episode number 10, we talked about making your overall food plan. If you haven't had a chance to listen to those episodes, make sure to go back and do that because it will be super helpful information for putting together your daily food plan. So today's episode, we're gonna focus on making that daily food plan so you can set yourself up for weight loss success. One of the things that happens so commonly is we have good intentions, but ultimately we don't follow through on them. We say something vague to ourselves like, I'm going to eat healthy this week. But if we don't really take any steps towards ensuring that happens when that week goes by and you reflect back on it, you feel disappointed, but you tell yourself, okay, next week will be better. But if you don't take those steps towards making change, the same pattern repeats itself. Does that sound familiar? In order to make our daily food plan, we need to first learn how to use our developed brain or our prefrontal cortex. The most amazing thing about the human brain is our developed prefrontal cortex. The thing that sets humans apart from every other species is that we have the most developed brains, which allows us to make higher-order decisions. We can weigh the pros and cons of different decisions, and we have the brain capacity to do really phenomenal things. However, if we're not deliberate about using our prefrontal cortex, our primitive brain takes over. If you don't stop and plan what you're going to eat, I promise you, you are not going to starve to death, and you already know that. So you just leave it up to your primitive brain because your primitive brain is all about survival. It will send you urges for food, drink, sex, shelter, basically anything that was needed to propagate our survival as a species. So when you haven't planned a meal, your primitive brain is gonna be right there to help you out. You start thinking, huh, what sounds good right now? And you're likely to make a quick and easy decision like ordering takeout or stopping through a drive-through. We can use our prefrontal cortex to help us make the best decisions for our food choices. We can use our developed brain to think through what are the foods that serve my body? What food choices am I going to make to allow me to meet my goals for myself? You have to be deliberate about this and you have to plan for it in advance. When you don't plan, you start to have those hunger signals and your amazing primitive brain is right there sending all sorts of suggestions like, Hey, just grab a quick snack or pop by the drive-thru. One of the best ways to use our prefrontal cortex is to make decisions ahead of time. I encourage my patients to sit down and plan everything that you will eat the following day. Make your daily food plan from a place of love for yourself. Plan to eat enough food that you will feel satisfied. You've sat down previously and you've made a list of all the foods you want to make up your food plan. Now, plug those things into your daily food plan. Every day I want you to make a plan for what you're going to eat the following day. Write down every single thing you're planning to eat, and similarly to what we've talked about before. Initially, your goal is to learn to trust yourself, to follow through on what you've promised. When you make your daily food plan for tomorrow, you should be nearly 100% confident that you are going to follow through on that plan. So read your plan over. Are they foods you have available to you that you've already purchased or can easily obtain? Are they foods that you like? If it's eight o'clock at night and you're reading your food plan for tomorrow and realize that your breakfast will involve a trip to the grocery store, well, it probably makes sense to plan something different. And then here's the most, most, most important part when tomorrow comes, you actually follow your food plan. If you said you were going to eat eggs for breakfast, you eat eggs for breakfast. If you packed leftovers for lunch, you heat those up and eat those. Even when your colleague asks you if they can grab you anything from a restaurant, if you walk through the break room and see a delicious cookie, you don't eat it. And if you committed to cooking chicken and roasted vegetables for dinner, that's exactly what you're going to do. And your brain is really going to start protesting this because it's different than how you've acted in the past. Previously, you've allowed your primitive brain to just have urges and act on them. And so now you're being really intentional to use that developed prefrontal cortex in order to make the best decisions for you. And I can already hear you saying, and you can hear yourselves saying, but Dr. Stombaugh, what if that cookie looks really, really delicious? The only reason the cookie looks delicious is because the thoughts you are having about it. Remember, there's nothing about that cookie that's inherently delicious. If it's a peanut butter cookie and you have an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts, you probably don't think it looks inherently delicious. It's only because you have a thought and maybe even a subconscious thought like, wow, that cookie looks so good. And as a result of that thought, you have a craving. And if every single time you've thought, wow, that cookie looks so good and you've had a craving and you gave into the craving and ate the cookie, then you have a well-formed neural pathway that automates the whole process of seeing the cookie to eating the cookie because this is your primitive brain making your life easy for you. And here's where you get to practice using your prefrontal cortex to override your primitive brain. You tell yourself, I didn't plan to eat a cookie today. Cookies aren't part of my food plan. I'm actually not even hungry. I'm not gonna eat that cookie right now. And the interesting thing is that when you bring intentionality to the situation, there's a good chance you might realize the cookie doesn't even look that good. Maybe you're still full from lunch, or maybe it's a store-bought cookie and sure it'll be fine, but is it really worth going off your food plan for a store-bought cookie? But what if your coworker is the most amazing baker and she only makes these cookies a few times per year and you're so upset because you would have totally planned to eat this cookie if you had known she was gonna bring it to work today? Well, you can decide to wrap it up and eat it tomorrow. If you really want it that badly, put it on your plan tomorrow. Allow yourself to plan for it. The goal of making a daily food plan is to make a plan that you know you can follow and then actually follow that plan and build up confidence in yourself that you have the best interest in your mind because do you know how good it feels to make your daily food plan and then stick to it at the end of the day when you followed your food plan, I want you to really celebrate that, make a big deal. Maybe even say something out loud like When I make a commitment to myself, I follow through. And as you're doing this, it's important to continue food logging because here's the fun part. When you follow your daily food plan, you don't even have to log your food because your daily food plan and your food log are just one and the same. I want you to compare your daily food plan with your food log. If you didn't follow your daily food plan, why not? Did you find yourself needing more food than you had planned for? If so, totally fine. Forgive yourself, but make sure to take that into account when you're making your future plans. On the other hand, did you have cravings that you gave into stop and really think through the situation? How would you have liked to handle it differently? How will you handle it differently? Next time you will build your daily food plan with the foods you've already intentionally chosen to include on your food plan. You'll also decide how often or if you've, you're going to eat foods that you've decided to limit. So for example, if you've decided you're going to limit sugar and flour in the diet, what will that look like for you? So for example, if you're eating dessert after dinner every single night, maybe you'll decide to have dessert twice a week and you'll see how that feels and see if that allows you to progress towards your weight loss goals. Over time, you get to adapt your food plan to meet your needs. You will learn to use your food plan to make these decisions for yourself and to be the basis for your grocery list and all meal planning. As you start making these changes, there's going to be a period of adaptation. If you've had the same habit for years, going outside of that pattern is going to be tough initially. And that doesn't mean you can't do it, but it means you're going to have to be really deliberate about making the changes when you first start to change, your brain is going to protest and it will feel very uncomfortable. You are gonna have thoughts pop into your head like, weight loss is just too difficult, or I have too much stress in my life to deal with this right now. Or maybe it would be easier to just stop through the drive-through right now. And as a result of thoughts like that, you may feel ex, you may feel defeat or overwhelm or urges and cravings. And a person who is having those type of thoughts and feelings is likely to take actions like eating off their food plan or stopping by the drive-through, and ultimately they can create a result in their life where losing weight does become difficult. Our brain likes these patterns because patterns are easy. The more things we can automate, the more brain space we free up. Getting into new habits and new patterns is uncomfortable at first, but ultimately, you can feel just as comfortable in a new pattern over time. If you think back to new experiences you've had in life, you know this is true. Like think back at your first day at a job, you didn't know anyone. You felt uncomfortable at your new desk, you didn't even know where the bathroom was. That first day was really stressful. Then after a few days or a week, you started to get into routine and a few months later it was just a regular old job. You didn't have to think twice about the fastest way to the bathroom. Your feet just automatically took you there. Implementing your new food plan is going to be very similar. We tend to get into habits of the foods we buy at the grocery store each week, the restaurants we stop into and the items we order from the menu. A lot of times our brains even struggle to brainstorm different options because we're so used to eating the same things over and over again. If your breakfast has always been a bowl of cereal or a bagel from a local store, you might literally draw a blank. When it's time to brainstorm new meal ideas, your brain starts protesting, "But I have cereal every morning. What other food could I possibly eat?" And maybe your brain goes into a dramatic crisis mode. You start replaying that time you went on a restrictive diet and you had half a grapefruit for breakfast every morning. Even though you don't even like grapefruit, your brain is gonna convince you that making changes is a bad idea and you're going to have to talk your brain down off a ledge. Remember, your food plan is about you and your body and your nutrition goals. You are choosing foods that you like and foods that serve your body. You're not going on any sort of restrictive diet, but you're learning what works for you and what doesn't work for you. One of my favorite things to do with my patients is to brainstorm new meal ideas. I love watching their faces light up when they realize there are so many delicious meal options out there besides what they're already doing. So let's take that person who's been eating a bowl of cereal or a bagel every morning for years, and let's do some brainstorming. So on the mornings where they have a few minutes to sit down is when they sit down to eat a bowl of cereal and they choose to eat the bagel if they know they're running out the door and have time to swing by the bagel place. So let's think, what are some other options in that situation? You could eat full-fat, plain Greek yogurt. You could top it with berries, nuts, chia seeds, or other seeds, maybe a sprinkling of granola. Do be careful though, because granola can really be laden with sugar. You could eat eggs. You could hard boil them, which could even mean boiling them in advance or buying them at the grocery store if they've already been hard-boiled, did you even know they sell pre-hard-boiled eggs? You could make or buy egg bites. Maybe it's something that you make from an easy recipe or it's something that you buy at the grocery store, depending on your store, I promise you there's at least one, but probably a couple of different options in your refrigerator or freezer section. Or if you have time, you could make your eggs freshly, whichever style you prefer. You could eat a breakfast meat like bacon or sausage. There are plenty of vegetarian or low-fat options if that's something that's important for your health needs. If you've decided to allow a less processed carbohydrate in your food plan, you could make a bowl of steel cut oatmeal and top it with nuts or nut butters or fruits and spices. You could have chia seed pudding. Maybe you're doing intermittent fasting and you're not eating at all. Or you do a sort of pseudo intermittent fast and you have a cup of coffee with heavy whipping cream in it to help keep you full. But to minimize any insulin response or, alright, , are you ready for this? You can eat any food you like, even if it's not a traditional breakfast food. I blow people's minds with this all the time. There is no reason that you have to eat a quote breakfast food at breakfast time. You can literally eat any food at any time of the day you want to. So you could eat cheese and fruit, you could eat a salad, you can eat your leftover dinners, you can eat anything. If the only reason you're eating cereal is because it's the only breakfast food that you like, well then why are you eating breakfast food? Just choose anything else that fits within your food plant. And on days when you're not going to eat at home, have a plan for what else you could do instead of grabbing a bagel. Maybe you're practicing intermittent fasting or pseudo intermittent fasting. You grab a plain whole milk latte. Maybe your bagel place has other options that would fit into your food plan. Or maybe you'd choose a new cafe that has an option like egg bites. Or maybe you have a few things prepared that are easy, grab-and-go options. Even something like a cheese stick and a handful of nuts may satisfy your needs. And these are just a few of the possibilities. When you stop and allow your mind to brainstorm, you will be amazed with what you can come up with and when your brain starts protesting. But I have cereal every morning, what else could I possibly eat? Have an answer for your brain. Come up with something that feels true and believable. Try on a couple of different thoughts. So for example, you might say, say to yourself, I've eaten these foods for breakfast for a long time, but I'm open to exploring other options that serve my body. Or you might try out, it's possible there are other things I could enjoy for breakfast that would both serve my body and be easy. Go through the same exercise for lunch and dinner and snacks if you're going to have them. One assignment I love to give my patients is to take a field trip to the grocery store and take a look at all of the different options. Ideally, you wouldn't even buy anything. You would just walk around and take notice. Maybe your grocery store has a huge selection of pre-cut vegetables or pre-made salads in the deli department. There may be easy meals that fit into your food plan. Are there pre-cooked grilled chicken strips that you could throw onto a bag of Caesar salad? Could you buy a rotisserie chicken and pair it with a side dish? Maybe a grocery store has a sushi department and has some delicious sushi or poke bowls. Can you find some precooked hard-boiled eggs or some frozen egg bites you could have on hand for breakfast? Walk around and pay attention. There are so many options that you've never even noticed before. There is going to be a period of time for adjustment, and that's okay. It's normal. Just be prepared when your brain starts protesting. Have some things you can say to talk it down. One of my overall favorite things to say about food is I'm making food choices that serve my body. Eventually your new food plan will become your new pattern and your new pattern will just be your regular old pattern, which can be easy and something you don't have to think about at all. Alright, so I've left you with a lot to think about for today. That's all we have. Thank you so much for joining me. If you're interested in learning more about me or if you live in Illinois or Virginia and would like to be my patient in my practice, check out my website That's S-A-R-A-H-S-T-O-M-B-A-U-G-H-M-D dot com. If you've enjoyed the podcast today, please subscribe and leave me a rating or review wherever you listen to podcasts. I'd appreciate if you share this with anyone else who may benefit. Thank you so much for joining me today. I look forward to seeing you next week. Bye-bye.
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