Many of us are wishing to lose more than a few pounds, and you may find yourself struggling with your New Years plan of action if you took on too much change all at once.
Another reason you may be struggling is because the reward for eating those foods you should avoid is immediate and powerful, but the reward for eating well is hard to see in the short-term, and usually takes more effort than eating those not so good foods. It’s easy to tell yourself that you’ll start eating better tomorrow or next week, and too often that is what happens!
Here’s some tips to implement that will help you succeed in making these new habits and positive changes last:
1. Focus on the benefits. Make a list of everything you’ll gain and the feelings associated with this by eating a more healthy diet. Post it on your fridge to remind yourself daily. It’s easy to find the advantage to eating a candy bar – you’ll feel great for a few minutes. The advantages of eating a carrot are far less pronounced in the short-term. Remind yourself of how much healthier and fitter you’ll feel, how much better you will sleep, and how much happier you will be in just a few short weeks when you notice the pounds drop and you fit back into your favorite jeans.
2. Make small changes. If your goal is to become a vegetarian, make the transition slowly. Try having a single vegetarian dinner this week. Shoot for two meals next week. Continue until you’ve successfully made the switch. Follow the same process for dropping unhealthy foods. Suppose you currently drink six sodas each day or a pot of coffee every afternoon. Try drinking five each day for a week and then reduce it to four. For every soda and coffee you take away, add in a cup of lemon water or green tea. In several weeks, you’ll be soda-free and feeling the benefits of staying properly hydrated too.
3. Focus on the most significant changes first. It’s more beneficial to your health to remove bacon from your diet than it is to make the switch from regular to organic apples. If you’re going to put your time and effort into changing, make the change count. My priorities to start with? Increase your water. Exercise daily (even if that means starting with 15 minutes a day). Increase your daily servings of vegetables. Just by adding in these new behaviors you will quickly find that you have crowded some less desirable ones out.
4. Avoid perfection. Studies have shown that following a diet 90% of the time is nearly as good as following it 100% of the time. It’s not necessary to live and eat like a monk. Allow yourself to get a little crazy one meal out of ten or, plan for a meal or desert that you are craving, enjoy it, and DON’T feel guilty . You’ll receive the same benefits, and your compliance will be much greater. I live by this rule 🙂
5. Take it one day at a time. The thought of following a new eating plan for years can be overwhelming. When the urge to stray occurs, tell yourself that you can cheat tomorrow, but not today. Then tomorrow, tell yourself the same thing. and get right back to where you left off.
6. Get all non-compliant foods out of the house. You’ll eventually eat any food in the house if it’s something you like. No one’s willpower can survive forever! Get it out of the house before you suffer a weak moment. Give it away or throw it in the trash. Start to develop a list of staples that are healthy swaps that you can take to the grocery store each time. Don’t buy your “cheat meal or snack” until that actual day comes.
7. Go food-shopping while you’re not hungry. You’re much more likely to buy junk food if you’re hungry. Have a healthy meal and then go to the grocery store. You’ll buy the food you need, rather than the food you want. I always pack along my water bottle and a healthy snack just in case the trip takes longer than expected and I become hungry.
8. Bad habits have triggers. Notice the times and situations you eat poorly. When are you most likely to reach for those foods you’d like to avoid? Is it after dinner? While watching TV? When you’re feeling blue? On the weekends? Acknowledge this, and instead of succumbing to your urges during those times find an alternative activity to break the cycle. Take a walk instead of watching television. Call a friend if you’re feeling down. Make a cup of tea and read a book.
9. Exercise. When you exercise regularly you will naturally make better food choices, both before and after your workouts. Exercise increases the production and release of serotonin, our “feel good” neurotransmitter and will recharge your energy levels and renew your motivation.