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The Olympian Mental Diet

by Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D.

The Olympian Mental Diet

How do Olympians do it? They have to train like crazy and eat perfectly, or so we think. But Olympians are human, too, which means they have food issues just like us. They salivate at the site of a delicious baguette, OD on sweets, and snack on chips after a hard day. Yet, they figure out how to hurdle over their palate pitfalls, and you can, too. Apply the high-minded diet tricks that Olympic athletes use.

Problem: You’re drawn to refined foods

Lucky for you, current USDA My Plate recommendations only require that at least half of your daily grains be whole, leaving some room for that baguette. But keep in mind that diets rich in whole grains can help lower your risk for chronic illnesses, such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease, by nearly 30 percent. Your stroke risk may also decrease by as much as 36 percent.

What would an Olympian do?
Think outside the brand box. That means you can’t stick with what you already know. Be unrelenting in your search for tasty whole grain alternatives to the foods you enjoy. And don’t be afraid to spend a little extra money to try a new product (or look for free coupons on brand websites!). It may pay off in the long run.

Problem: You overeat the healthy stuff

Sorry — you don’t get a pass to binge on any food. The fact is that if you consume too many calories you’ll eventually gain weight, period, no matter how much you exercise.

What would an Olympian do?
Tweak your eating style. That means you’ll also have to adjust your lifestyle. Cook one food portion at a time. Your health is worth standing over a hot stove daily! Buy small-sized plates to serve on — it’ll fool your eye into thinking you’re getting more. Avoid buffet restaurants or house parties with large food spreads. You can always meet up with friends for organic coffee and good conversation later.

Problem: You eat when you’re stressed

In a recent FitStudio poll, 45 percent of respondents report that they struggle with compulsive eating daily. One of the driving forces is probably unresolved stress.

What would an Olympian do?
Forgive yourself for being human, but don’t accept your fate. It’s not easy to break a habit, but it can be done. Sure, you may backslide several times. Just keep your eye on the end goal: Retrain your mind to think of healthy solutions in tense moments. That takes practice — lots of it — so be patient.

Problem: You’re the dessert-first type

No one loves sweets more than me — not even you! And I’m OK with that, even though I’m a nutritionist. I’ve found that when you criminalize your cravings, you usually end up desiring them more.

What would an Olympian do?
Pick your poison, and play this mind game: You must eat exactly what you want, rather than a substitute (that’ll make your brain happy), but only eat a pre-set portion. For example, I’ll indulge in 1/4 cup of chocolate-covered raisins. There’s no point in pouring over the calories or berating yourself afterward — you’re not the bad guy. Once you give yourself permission to enjoy sweets, you may actually crave them less often.


Toby Amidor is a registered dietician and the owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition. She holds a master’s degree in clinical nutrition and dietetics from New York University. You can follow her on Twitter at @tobyamidor.

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