12 Steps to Better Eating- The Mental Side
Lots of people are trying to eat better… trim off some extra pounds gained over the holidays, or get beach-ready for a special vacation or for the summer. Eating better is hard. Many people get frustrated, fall short or give up. Here are some key ways to make your eating better stick.
1. Set Goals: Give yourself clear and realistic goals. Write a list of things you want to change about your diet. Also incorporate goals that you may have regarding your body and plan your diet around those goals. I recommend setting present goals, short term, and long term goals. If you try and do everything all at once you can be overwhelmed and want to quit. Take it one goal at a time if need be, and one day at a time, this isn’t a race. You may also want to write reasons why you want to make a change in your eating habits. You might share your goals with others (like your challenge group buddies 😉 ) who will help you meet them. You can put your goals where others can see them, like on the fridge, or at work to motivate you to work harder. This will also get others behind you and involved in your new routine. As you achieve your goals, check them off. This will give you a sense of accomplishment and add excitement leading to your next goal.
3. Be Proactive – Make a list of healthy foods you enjoy, and what foods you can take with you to work, in the car, school, etc. You can create entire menus revolving around where you will be at what time of the day. Never give yourself an excuse to not have something available for you to eat, no matter where you are when you are supposed to have a meal. Always keep healthy foods on hand. If you don’t you will probably eat whatever is available at the time whether it be fast food, office treats, etc. This can throw off a diet plan and get you in the habit of making bad food choices and eating whatever is fast and convenient. Know where you will be at what time of the day, when you are open to cook, to eat, to shop for groceries, and plan accordingly. When you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
4. Consistency is key – Most people respond well to consistency. Make a plan and stick to it. Try to eat at around the same times daily and keep to the same portion size and caloric intake.. Your body will recognize this pattern and in turn keep your metabolism burning and your energy levels will stay high. You will feel better, and get in a healthy routine. It is easy to sabotage yourself by grabbing nasty snacks to meet uncontrolled cravings. The time you spend on planning and consistency is a true investment that will benefit you for the rest of your life.
5. Be flexible – Of course, even the best plans fall short at times. Life can sometimes get the best of all of us. Sometimes your eating routines need to change. Where you can, try to plan ahead for these events and have items on hand you can take with you when you’re in a rush or are eating out. Example: Bag of almonds, protein bars and shakes, fresh fruit or veggies. Also educate yourself on nutrition through the internet, books, and magazines. You can use this knowledge to help you improvise and find foods that are compatible with your diet, for example if you are out with friends or stuck with no time to cook. Find items that are less time consuming that you can take with you in a pinch.
6. Don’t be so hard on yourself – Nobody is perfect all the time. If you mess up, miss a few meals, or even have a bad couple of days, just pick yourself up and get back on track. You’re doing this for you and the added stress of not living up to your own expectations can lead to a total diet derailment. Being healthy and eating healthy does not mean you can’t enjoy foods not on your meal plan. So don’t be so hard on yourself. YOU CAN DO IT!
7. Stick with your plan – It takes time to develop healthy behaviors. It takes 21 days to develop a habit…..so give yourself at least that much time to make it habitual. You will find that everything you initially may have had a hard time doing becomes more effortless and will be a normal part of your day to day life.
8. Have fun – Eating right takes dedication, commitment and sacrifice. Don’t stress yourself out over small bumps in the road. You have the power to change any negative into a positive, and you have the choice to have a positive outlook regarding any situation you find yourself in. Find fun ways to keep yourself motivated. Find new recipes that you might not have tried before. Get friends and family involved. Set challenges at home, with friends, or at work to start eating healthier. Take the time to cook. You are making change for the better, so why not make it enjoyable.
9. Give yourself praise – You are not a dog so don’t reward yourself with treats. Realize that changing your eating habits can be a daunting task for anyone. Just think how long you have had your current habits and know that changing those habits will not happen overnight, but with time. Congratulate yourself on any healthy changes you make, you deserve the praise. Praise builds confidence and makes you feel good about the healthy choices you are making, and in turn help keep you on your path to betterment.
10. Don’t rush into this – People always start with the best of intentions and will try and do everything at once. They get overwhelmed and quit before they really even started. Small changes add up and can make a huge difference. Work on one thing at a time and keep adding to it. Before you know it you will have many healthy habits that incorporate together to make a healthy lifestyle and a healthier and happier you.
11. Focus on the journey and not the destination – To live a healthy lifestyle is never easy. In order to enjoy this lifestyle with all the ups and downs, we must enjoy the process and the journey on the way to our destination. Once we hit our destination we immediately look to the next mountain top and we either want more, or worst case scenario we think that we have accomplished all we need to and we relax on all of the things that got us there in the first place. Take pride in small victories along the way, they add up.
12. Measure Success and Set New Goals: Making successful changes means measuring your progress towards your goals and recognizing your accomplishments. As you meet short-term goals, you can plan the next steps with more confidence. Constantly re-strategizing your goals takes long-term visualization. That long-term vision needs to be broken down into doable steps.