People often tell me that they would love to make changes but don’t know how so here are my thoughts on the matter…
Changing your diet or lifestyle because someone else says you should or in the blind hope that it will make you skinnier, healthier, more energetic etc. is setting yourself up to fail. Arm yourself with the knowledge you need to understand why you are making the changes and to tailor them to your personal situation.
For me it was reading about the harmful effects of food additives that led me to start making changes to what I ate. That led me to research more widely on the topic and then nutrition more generally.
Read up about foods that have the health benefits that you want for your body and that fit with your lifestyle. There is no one size fits all when it comes to people’s bodies. It can be as easy as making a decision to purchase a different brand on your next shopping trip or making something from scratch rather than buying a processed version.
When you know why you are making food choices saying “no” when faced with a box of a biscuits at work is suddenly not as hard. Food takes on a different perspective.
Change your relationship to food:
The way we think about food has a huge effect on the food choices we make. If you have an emotional relationship to food, that is, if you eat to fill a need other than hunger or nutrition (or in a social situation) then you will have a hard time making healthy food choices and maintaining any changes that you make. If this is the case then consider seeking help from a qualified therapist to address these emotional issues.
The thing I found most helpful in changing my eating habits was to start thinking of food in terms of nutrition, whether each ingredient would be helpful or harmful for my body and how I was likely to feel after eating it. At my workplace the supply of ‘treats’ is endless and I often have a desire to eat one, however, a quick glance at the ingredients or a reminder of what is likely to be in there is usually enough to steer me in the other direction without a second thought. On the occasions that I do decide to eat something I do so without guilt knowing that I eat well the majority of the time. More about this later…
When choosing food to prepare at home or to order in a restaurant, again think about the ingredients in terms of nutrition. If I am eating breakfast at a café I am aware that the bacon will contain nitrates which make me feel horrible therefore I might choose something else. I know that eggs have heaps of nutrition and so does avocado, spinach, mushrooms etc so I might choose a dish with those ingredients. Making a smoothie? Think of the different vitamins and minerals that you can include, how you can squeeze in some healthy fats, pop in some protein, probiotics and omega 3s. Be prepared – keep a supply of healthy ingredients in your home and it will be easy to create meals and snacks that taste good and are good for you.
Listen to your body:
Pay attention to what your body is telling you. How did that last meal make you feel? What about your mood, anxiety levels, bowel movements, sleep, energy, skin etc? These things can let you know whether what you are putting into your body is helping it or harming it and noticing these things can be a big motivating factor in both making changes and maintaining them. When we learn to listen to our body we also learn to respect it and look after it.
Don’t believe the claims on the packaging:
Claims of no artificial colours, flavours and preservatives doesn’t equal healthy. Neither does gluten free. Read the ingredients every time. Natural additives can be just as harmful as artificial ones. Get yourself an app (I like The Chemical Maze) or list of additives to avoid and refer to it when you shop. Avoid products with ingredients such as canola or vegetable oils, sugar as one of the first few ingredients (or any at all), yeast extract or hydrogenated anything.
Remember the 80/20 (or 90/10)
Personally I prefer a 90/10 situation because I really don’t respond well to much deviation from what works for my body, but do whatever works for you and your body. This guideline eliminates guilt and allows a healthier relationship with food. Basically it means eating well (whatever that means for your body and your lifestyle) most of the time and allowing yourself to have things outside of this occasionally. No guilt! You might find (like I have) that when you allow yourself to eat things that you previously loved, they don’t taste as great as you remember them or they make you feel horrible and then it is not as hard to make different choices next time. Since removing refined sugar, most things I used to enjoy taste way too sweet to me now. This rule also helps me relax about the foods my kids eat at birthday parties or enjoy night out without fussing about food or drinks.
Don’t deprive yourself:
Rather than relying on the 80/20 rule for indulgences, make sure there is always a supply of healthy homemade treats in the house. Others may disagree with this strategy however I have young children who see other kids eating all sorts of packaged rubbish and I don’t want them to feel deprived. I enjoy allowing treats at home and in lunchboxes that I know have some health benefits too. They also work well with a cuppa after the kids are asleep! These treats are always additive and refined sugar free (and in my house gluten, grain and dairy free) and always contain some form of healthy fat, veggies, protein or superfood ingredients. These products are great for adding in extra nutrition.
If you don’t want to eat it, don’t buy it
If it is not in your house you can’t eat it. You and your family will get used to the changes. Don’t buy the products you no longer want to consume. Stick with it. Humans are amazingly adaptive. Don’t cave in and revert to old products because you don’t like the new ones or your kids won’t eat them. Use your knowledge and your new relationship with food and explain to your children (and to yourself) why you are making these changes. Create healthier versions of previously loved products. I have 3 young children, work 3 days a week and have a fairly tight budget. These changes don’t have to take up huge amounts of time, money or skills in the kitchen. If I can do it, anyone can!
What tips would you add to this list?
Image by MastaBaba