Real people share their best eating habits to improve health and wellness

Combining behavior modification strategies (self-monitoring, modifying the environment, having a positive attitude, managing relationships, and improving habits) with nutrition and exercise creates lifestyle changes that last.  I’ve been doing lifestyle coaching with clients since 2005 – the year when I started conducting a formal lifestyle and weight management program for the completion of my thesis in grad school – “The Effectiveness of the Combination of Behavior Therapy, Exercise and Diet in Weight Loss”.
I’ve witnessed how a person’s health and fitness can be significantly improved by initially seeing the bigger picture, then understanding one’s unique traits, personality, preference, and history before coming up with an effective individualized lifestyle program. You can always follow a diet plan, but results can only effectively last with the constant reinforcements of healthy eating behaviors (applying portion control, choosing healthy foods, eating slowly and mindfully) by food planning, asking for the support of loved ones, consistent monitoring and having a flexible attitude.
Last week, I shared strategies on how to improve your relationship with food. Before the month ends (since July is nutrition month in the Philippines), learn from these real people (my lifestyle coaching clients) about the best healthy eating practices that have worked for them to achieve their goals.
“What are the best nutrition/eating practices you’ve learned that made a significant impact on your health, fitness, and lifestyle?”
ISABEL QUILENDRINO, 43, Developmental Pediatrician

Isa, a mom of three and one of the most sought-after doctors, tries her best to incorporate 4-5 times a week of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), yoga, and resistance training into her busy schedule.  She applies the principle of balanced eating for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks (smoothie with fruits in season, salad greens and chia seeds, and nuts), focusing more on whole foods and veggies. In general, she avoids foods high in sugar and prefers to have a light dinner
Appreciate small changes and focus on the overall process of your journey
“Fitness, like success, is a journey and not a destination.  Over the years, I’ve learned to not be so hard on myself when trying to improve my nutrition and lifestyle choices.  Better choices and changes, however small, are achievements by themselves.”  
Give time for food preparation
“In improving my diet, I realized that the healthiest I’ve ever been is when I prepare 80 to 90 percent of my food for the entire day.  This allows me to eat mindfully and consume only food that makes me feel well and reflects my values.”
Focus on nourishing your body
“I’ve learned that instead of being restrictive, which leads to hunger and bingeing, I should focus on nourishing my body with what it needs to stay fit for the tasks of the day.”
Keep a journal
“When I need to attain a fitness goal, journaling helps me keep track of how my meals affect my energy level and mood.”
PAOLO MARTEL, 41, Managing Director, Vintage Grail

Despite being very busy, Paolo manages to give time for cardio and strength exercises at least 4 times a week. He eats three main meals and sometimes has an afternoon snack like nuts or a healthy smoothie. He enjoys good food but always prepares his mind and body for high-risk situations like family gatherings and business meetings to manage the consumption of alcohol and high-calorie foods.
Always have a game plan 
“My weekly sessions with Mitch allow me to prepare for the week and keep me in check. The food journals she asks me to do help me control my food and alcohol intake. She allows me to indulge once in a while so I don’t feel deprived.”
Focus on your overall wellness to make healthy eating sustainable
“These last 4 months have been pleasant and easy but have yielded great results for me both physically and mentally. I now work out regularly on my own and with a trainer, which helps with my weight and manages my stress levels. I have learned to control my food intake and have seen my weight drop week after week. I am more health conscious than ever and look forward to continuing this journey.”
IYA PRADO, 42, Vice-President Finance, VCP Trading International Corp

Iya exercises 5-6 times a week – online strength (workout with MITCH) and cardio classes, yoga, walking, and also exercises while on a vacation. She eats three main meals and snacks such as sweet potato, nuts, or banana with peanut butter. She prioritizes vegetables when she eats out with friends and family. Iya sometimes craves sweets,  but limits the consumption of cakes and/or pastries to a total of one cup a week. 
Pay attention to eating and how food affects your body
“Many times I’ll just eat to not be hungry— so I’ll eat “anything”. When I started paying attention to the kind of food I ate, I immediately felt the direct impact on my body and mind. More protein meant fewer hunger pangs, less processed carbs made me feel more alert after lunch, more vegetables made my stomach feel less bloated. Sugary foods are delicious, but too much consumption led to some intense mood swings. Eat enough food. Not eating enough also meant not functioning at an optimum level at work, at home, or during a workout.”
Eat in moderation
“Cravings — are not bad. I give in to my cravings. What I learned is how important it is to know how much I should eat, which won’t lead to overeating and bloating. Too much of anything literally made me sick, like developing excessive stomach gas, hyperacidity, or a headache.”
Apply healthy eating even when you are away
“Eating out and traveling was easier for me because I learned how to choose what kind of food I should have and what portion sizes are just right for me. I would always try to have more greens, protein, and some starchy food. “
Remind yourself about your goals
“Lastly, good nutrition for me started from within. It was being clear on what my health goals were and more importantly why- I want to be healthy for my kids, I want to be productive and grow old gracefully.”
ANNE ALONSO 46, Bank Executive

Anne joins online indoor cycling and strength (workout with MITCH) classes, plays tennis and runs on the treadmill. She eats breakfast (yogurt and granola with fruits or bread or oats and egg or rice and a protein), a full meal for lunch that consists of veggies, protein a moderate amount of rice, and a light dinner (protein and veggies). She doesn’t deprive herself of her favorite foods and drinks but consumes everything in moderation.
Be mindful of what and how much you are eating
“Mindful Eating is my key learning from working with Mitch. To me, mindful eating means one, stepping back and making healthy food choices by knowing the difference between processed, deep-fried, sugary foods versus more nutritious foods, and two, proper portioning which includes a balanced consumption of fruits, vegetables, protein, and carbohydrates.”
ROCIO PANTALEON, 54, Sales Manager

Rocio consistently does strength training Pilates and occasional walking even when she’s out of town. She eats two to three main meals with an afternoon snack, always trying her best to incorporate vegetables with her protein and whole grain carbs. She applies portion control when she eats out with friends and family.
Be consistent.  Be patient.
“I learned that health is a daily practice. I now prefer grilled foods, I always include veggies in my meals and I exercise 4-5x a week.  Consistency plays a big role in achieving results  – I have improved my blood test tremendously. Now I’m more confident with my health. There are times when you do fall from the routine, but you just have to remember to go back to the greens. Be patient nothing happens overnight.”
CARISSA CHAN ONATE, 38, Co-Founder, Electric Studio

Carissa swims with her kids, plays tennis, and attends online/face-to-face Electric Studio cycling and boxing classes. She eats a normal meal consisting of rice, a protein with soup, and veggies.  She usually eats out with her husband for dinner, but can now effectively manage her eating by listening to her body – she stops eating when she reaches 8/10 (fullness scale:10= super full).
Avoid deep-fried food and sweets
“I consulted with Mitch primarily because I wanted advice on eating smart and maximizing my calories. My lifestyle includes eating out daily and despite making tweaks such as eating less carbs, I was not losing weight. After a few weeks of journaling with Mitch and her giving me advice, we’ve found what works for my body and lifestyle. 
I cannot stress how quickly you can shed pounds and save calories by limiting deep-fried foods and sweets. I had become more conscious about food choices when eating out and choosing food from the menu.”
Make efforts to control hunger pangs
“A serving of protein is as big as the palm of your hand, and it’s important to get the protein you need in each meal. This helps control hunger pangs. As for sweets, give in to cravings, but in moderation. I would always have a taste of things and this helps me from overeating.”
Learn more about yourself so you can create a more effective plan 
“Don’t be too hard on yourself, you can always make it up the next day. With Mitch, we look at it on a weekly basis vs daily – the real causes behind food choices and lack of activity. This helps me plan in advance and make better choices”
Just move
“Lastly, move when you can. Staying active, even if it’s not a workout counts.”
 
Cecile Wieneke, 49, Founder – Bespoke & Beyond Co.

Ces does outdoor walking, and attends live Zumba and online strength classes (workout with MITCH). We incorporated a more personalized health approach (ph360) with our lifestyle coaching last year, so she achieved her goals faster. Until now, she is still choosing excellent foods that are compatible with her body types such as veggies, fruits, and seafood to maximize her health and fitness.
Eat foods that are unique to your body type
“A good eating foundation is about knowing what type of foods can really work for your body type and avoiding foods that can harm your health. In my case, I achieved my health goals by increasing my vegetable intake and significantly lessening sweets and pieces of bread from my diet.”
Always aim for balanced eating
“Having a balanced eating habit is a lifestyle. Portioning is very important to avoid overeating.  Know when to draw back and when you can treat yourself once in a while. Always look for a healthier option as much as you can.”
TAN ATENDIDO, 45, Homemaker

Tan loves to online workouts like Zumba, weight training classes and YouTube workouts. She eats breakfast (boiled egg, yogurt with fruits, and coffee) and tries her best to incorporate vegetables with her lunch and dinner consisting of half a cup of rice and a serving of protein.  She managed her cravings for flavored drinks (which used to be her weakness) in the afternoon. 
Do not deprive yourself, just apply portion control
“I don’t like dieting so what really worked for me since I started Mitch as my lifestyle coach, was portion control. That helped me lose weight initially and then as the weight came off, I started to be more mindful of the kinds of food I ate. As I ate cleaner, the cravings for junk also slowly disappeared. I never deprived myself though. I allowed myself to eat sweets, chips, etc, but in small portions. It’s also the best option for me when eating out or while on vacation because of that way you can still enjoy w/o gaining weight.”
Email the author at [email protected] or follow her on Instagram @mitchfelipemendoza

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