I’ve been there before and I’m sure you can relate. You wake up feeling yucky, heavier than you would like and declare “that’s it, I’m never eating anything bad again!” The problem with this tactic is it is typically short lived and won’t last. The decision is made in the heat of the moment and without any type of plan or thought. The idea is to slowly dip into the pool, so-to-speak, of healthy eating. It’s a change you should be striving to make for a lifetime, not just to fit into a dress for an event or the bikini for summer. Because really, eating healthy is not just about weight…far from it. Check out some of the tips below. These are a few things that I think are critical in making change and making it last.
Don’t try to overhaul your diet in one day. You’ve heard this repeated over and over but it’s worth mentioning again. What’s the rush?? It took a long time to get to your current eating habits, it will take time to break out of them and create new ones. Instead try this tactic: Pick one or two things to cut down each week. If you eat fast food 3 times a week, cut down to one. If you drink a lot of pop/soda (diet or regular), try to cut your consumption in half. As the weeks progress, you can cut down on or remove one additional item and replace it with a healthy one.
Plan, Plan, Plan. Take a physical list to the grocery store. Don’t go hungry, go prepared. Shop the outer perimeters as much as possible and avoid your weaknesses(chips, pretzels, bakery, etc) Better yet, do some research ahead of time and find healthier replacements for the items you currently eat. Fooducate is a great online tool and or app for rating/comparing food within a category. i.e. Instead of regular yogurt, look for fat free options; choose bread with less added sugar, soups with less sodium, etc.
If convenience is an issue – cook once and eat for days. This is a fantastic tactic for those who are short on time during the work week. If you don’t have food ready, the tendency is to grab something quick which usually ends up being unhealthy. The idea is to cook lots of extras on say, Sunday, and have meals (I like to do this for lunch) on hand. Maybe prepare a package of chicken breasts all at once that will stay for a few days. Or you can try to at least have a few healthy side dishes handy. Try this Pilaf, Split Pea Soup, or French Lentils recipe. They make extra servings and are great to have ready to eat.
Be mindful of your snacking. This is a really big one. You can eat really healthy meals and ruin a “clean eating” day by giving into hunger when not prepared. I’ve been guilty of this, I mean the vending machine is only steps away. So I never run into this problem, I take the time to prepare several snacks the evening before to have on hand. I recently bought a Yumbox (left) and absolutely love it. It’s perfect for packing snacks. Yes, it’s designed to provide lunch for a 5-year old, but the sections hold 1/2 cup servings and allow for variety – perfect for snacks. If you don’t want to spend quite that much for a snack box, Target has many options that can work as well. The thing that keeps me consistent with this is the fact that it’s fun. Yes, filling this with healthy foods is fun to me. What can I say?
Don’t eat foods you don’t like. Just because something is healthy, doesn’t mean you have to choke it down. I know avocados are good for me, but I just don’t care for the texture of them or something, so I don’t eat them. I get my healthy fats from other sources….problem solved. At the same time, don’t be afraid to try new foods. When I went vegetarian/vegan, I discovered foods I never knew existed, some of these foods have become my favorites. Shoot to try at least one or two healthy foods a week. When you prepare your grocery list add something you don’t normally buy to the list and give it a shot. Make it a game and see how many new foods you can try in a month.
I have to mention this because it’s easy to overlook. Be mindful of your beverages, alcohol or not. Tis the season for hot spiced flavored coffees which pack lots of calories (i.e. Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte = 350 calories!) Instead treat yourself to these once every two weeks or so. Even regular coffee can pack the calories and unwanted chemicals if consumed with sugar, artificial sweeteners and milk. Sugary juices and sports drinks also contain unwanted sugars that should be decreased or avoided. Alcohol should be a section on it’s own, and it goes without saying, that alcohol consumption adds empty calories to your diet. I have lived with the rule “Friday and Saturday only” for a long time now and very, vary rarely drink on days other than those two.
Give yourself time. In my experience, getting out of the habit of over eating, eating sugary foods and most other dietary changes takes a week before the body adjusts. However, to see real results from dietary changes, you need about three weeks. Three weeks before you not only see a drop in weight, but three weeks before you physically start feeling better. And, with each passing month, more improvements come. Eating clean will give you more energy, help you sleep better, make your mind clearer and keep illnesses at a distance.
If you’re committed to making the change, the change will come. You never now what kind of positive results you’ll have from eating cleaner. Nagging headaches, backaches, fatigue and other ailments can totally be diet related. Finally, be honest with yourself. If after three weeks, you see no results or aren’t feeling better….ask yourself if you’ve really made any significant changes? If think you can do better, give it another three weeks with more changes. Good luck!
Have you made significant dietary changes that improved your overall health?
What tactics/tips do you have to offer?