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How Are You Training Your Muscles?

Do you ever have things happen that leave you thinking...


"was that a coincidence?!"  

This happens to us quite often, especially if we are paying attention!

Over the past couple of weeks, we have been talking about writing a coaching tip on how muscle memory relates to healthy eating.  Then, after a recent cooking demo, someone asked me, "Does it get easier?  I watch you prepare these dishes, and it looks so easy.  But it doesn't feel that easy when I am trying to prepare my meals at home." 


That was our sign - it was time for this coaching tip to come together!


What is muscle memory?

When a movement, or series of movements, is repeated over and over, your brain creates a "muscle memory" for that movement, eventually allowing it to be performed with little to no conscious effort.  It just becomes second nature.

That's why riding a bike becomes so easy - when you develop the muscle memory, you can hop on and go for a ride without even thinking about it.  The same is true for driving a car, playing the piano, and so many other things!

When our son started playing baseball at a young age, he had a fantastic coach (we affectionately called "Coach Chris").  Coach Chris helped the boys perfect their swing through muscle memory.  They spent countless hours over many weeks standing on a bleacher - with no bat in hand - breaking down each part of their swing.  "Load, squish the bug, finish."  "Load, squish the bug, finish."  Over and over until their brains trained their muscles to do this effortlessly, without even thinking about it.  This repetition paid off tremendously once the boys picked up their bats and started hitting the ball.


How exactly does this apply to healthy eating?

Believe it or not, muscle memory absolutely applies to eating healthfully!  And once you develop it, it makes things so much easier, second nature in fact.  And, the best part?  YOU CAN'T UNLEARN IT!

Of course, there are some skills you need to develop to make it second nature.  Then, when you develop this "skillpower," not only will it make things so much easier, but you also won't have to constantly call upon "willpower" to navigate the processed food paradise that is all around us.


Some of this "skillpower" includes:


  • Meal planning.   Develop a habit of thinking today about what you will be eating tomorrow (and maybe even the next few days).
  • Read ingredient labels.  With a little practice, you will be able to quickly identify foods you want to bring into your kitchen.  The ones with just a few recognizable ingredients, including vegetables and fruits that don't need an ingredient label.  This will also allow you to identify the foods you don't want to buy, which means hundreds (even thousands) of products you don't even need to consider in future shopping trips (making shopping even easier!).
  • Navigating the grocery store and the farmers' market.  Eat REAL America members have told us, "By the time we leave the produce section, two-thirds of our shopping is done."  And, "We are spending less time and money shopping - there are aisles in the middle of the store we don't even visit anymore."
  • Identify meals that fit within your budget (like these 10 meals that will feed a family for less than $10).  And practice these strategies to combat increasing food prices.  As you start to do this consistently, it will become second nature!
  • Prep your ingredients.  When you use fresh ingredients, there is some chopping, slicing and dicing involved.  Although, the more you do it, the easier and faster it becomes!  While there is no "right" way to do it, we have shared our favorite ways to cut a pepper, cut and peel a butternut squash, slice and dice an avocado, and many others!
  • Stock your kitchen with the right staples.  This will help efficiently make meals that taste so delicious you will forget you are eating healthy.  There are over 500 recipes on Eat REAL America that are "Quick & Easy," and can be prepared in 20 minutes or less.  Don't forget, muscle memory applies to your tastebuds too!  In as little as 10 days, your tastebuds can be reprogrammed, and cravings begin to change.  One of our favorite quotes from Dr. David Katz is, "When your taste buds can't be with the foods they love, they learn to love the foods they're with."


Keep in mind, muscle memory works both ways.


Just like muscle memory can help you develop life-enhancing habits and routines, it can also be detrimental if you develop the wrong habits and routines!

If you develop a muscle memory of checking your phone while you are driving, this is probably going to eventually not end well.  If your muscle memory is to hit the drive through on your way home, your health will suffer as a result.

With our son's baseball team, whenever Coach Chris needed new players, he had to evaluate their muscle memory and whether it could be retrained if needed.  Most of this evaluation was based on the player's WILLINGNESS to retrain their muscle memory.

If the willingness and desire are there, your brain CAN create new muscle memory!  And it can happen faster than you may think!


What is your muscle memory when it comes to food?

Do you get off work in the evening and ask, "what should we pick up for dinner?"  OR have you trained your brain to always have a plan for the next few days of meals?

When grocery shopping, do you get overwhelmed at all the information on the packaging?  OR can you quickly glance at an ingredient label and decide if it is something you want to keep in your kitchen?

When you are planning a long road trip, do you wing it and rely on McDonald's, Sonic or other fast-food restaurants?  OR is one of your first thoughts, "what are we going to eat so we don't get stuck with bad options?"

When attempting to make dinner, does your brain get overwhelmed and send stress signals when you start reading the recipe?  OR do you have a process that makes it enjoyable to prepare your ingredients and meals?  Maybe some music and help from family members?


Start small!

Focus on daily change vs. huge we like to say, "one meal at a time!"  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it happens faster than you think.  Have faith that small victories will build momentum and multiply…don’t give up!

If you ever feel overwhelmed, please reach out for help!  We are here for you and the entire Eat REAL America community is behind you -- you can do this!

What changes have you made?

What differences has this made for you and your family?


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One Response to How Are You Training Your Muscles?

  1. My cholesterol was higher this year than last year and my doctor offered to put me on statins. I said
    no way. I will eat better and continue to exercise. I saw you on facebook and watched the you tube video and was convinced that I could change. Time to learn new ways to eat and stay on my feet.

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