10/17/2012 12:51 pm ET Updated Dec 17, 2012

Preparation: What's in Your Lunchbox?

Obviously, there are many lifestyle changes that may not involve food: a new job, quitting alcohol/drugs/tobacco, or exercise. However, food is not only all around us; it also usually comes with associations, both positive and negative. In addition, most of us -- me included -- don't enjoy the feeling of being hungry.

This can be problematic if you are hoping to leave the house, yet remain on your new lifestyle wagon. Personally, it's something that I work on daily. You see, I'm that person. What I mean by this is that I am excruciatingly sensitive to gluten, to the point that if I eat food prepared on equipment that is also used to prepare gluten, I have a reaction. I carry two genes that increase one's risk for celiac disease, which means that each of our four children has inherited the genetic predisposition to celiac disease. The two oldest are already sensitive to gluten. As a result, our entire family and home are gluten-free.

My husband, who is not sensitive to gluten, has taken a vow of solidarity with the kids and no longer eats gluten either (except for beer, although there is gluten-free beer!). Our oldest is allergic to cow's milk dairy; my husband doesn't eat meat; and we are both on processed-carb-free programs -- so suffice to say that eating outside the house can be extremely challenging.

This means whenever we go out (with or without the kids), we always bring meals and snacks. For us it is just easier, since I'm never 100 percent sure we'll be able to get food that satisfies all of our requirements. Yes, I know it sounds obsessive, but I've learned the hard way that leaving the house without food can have some unpleasant consequences.

Which brings me to my next lifestyle change tip: Pretend you're a boy scout and "be prepared!" Do you go off of the wagon when you are hungry and have nothing to eat? Do you realize you're starving and the only food available is something you'd prefer not to eat but "it'll have to do?" These are the times that you are most vulnerable to sabotaging your hard-won efforts.

Hunger and stress are probably the two most powerful saboteurs of success in your new lifestyle. Did you know that stress causes you to crave carbs/sugar? Your body thinks it needs quick sugar to convert into energy (i.e., carbs) to get out of the way of that oncoming bus or get away from that growling lion. Add hunger on top of that, and you could inhale a double-sized banana split in the time it takes to read this blog.

So, here is the downside. You will likely need to spend a little time every week in active thought about your food, either preparing meals or preparing on how to obtain them. You will need to spend a few minutes each night (or morning before you leave) getting your food ready to take with you. You will need to keep wagon-consistent snacks in your car and at your desk. You will need to spend as much time and energy on putting great food into your body as you do preparing things to put onto your body.

I agree; it's not always easy. There will come a day when you realize that it's been longer than you were previously able to go, and you're still on the wagon. And it feels really, really good. Don't give up. You can do this.

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