First off: I am not a licensed dietician or nutritionist, and I am not a doctor. These opinions are my own. If you have questions, please consult your doctor.
Changing your life in a healthy way is a series of small steps made in the direction of a healthy goal. This post will go over my journey to healthy eating, and baby steps to get you started.
I once overheard a woman talking on the phone about her New Year’s diet. She wanted to lose a certain amount of weight, in a timeframe of 6 months but was not successful. I noticed that her cart was full of hot pockets, ice cream, and other packaged goods. My guess is she fell off the bandwagon because she tried to limit the amount of food she was used to eating, or tried to make a radical change all at once. This mentality is never going to help you change your lifestyle. You have to totally change the way you eat, and that means rethinking the way you think about food.
A few years ago I received some fantastic advice from my nutritionist during my time as a dance major. Growing up I rarely ate food with fresh ingredients. Most everything was canned, frozen, or pre-packaged. My nutritionist spoke frequently about retraining our brains to like the foods that are good for you; to treat food as fuel. I took this advice to heart, and made it my personal mantra.
When I was a dance major and practicing 12ish hours a day, it was important to have healthy eating habits. Fueling myself with nutrition was really important to keep my body in working order. After I moved away from dance I contracted hypothyroidism, symptoms of which are weight gain, fatigue, and muscles aches and pains. With healthy eating and proper medication I am determined to do everything in my power to combat these symptoms.
Obviously not everyone suffers with hypothyroidism. Yet, these symptoms are powerful motivators to change my own mindset from “giving up my treats” to “I am what I eat” – a mindset that can help anybody, including you. When I changed my way of thinking about food, I lost the taste for artificially sweet things. Now, the thought of drinking a soda makes me sick to my stomach.
Changing your entire thought process on food will not be easy. At first it will be work, but when you do, it will change your life! I now make my own pasta and bread, grind my own meat, grow herbs, and make soups. Once I hated cooking, now I see it as a way to fuel my body, which it makes it more fun (minus the cleaning up part, still hate that!)
My point for dieters is you should feel good about food! Not guilty, that you are missing something, or food is something you have to limit yourself on. Think of it as “I just ate something that will make my body run smoothly.” The “you are what you eat” mindset can’t be a temporary thing. You can’t think “ok, well I will give this a try for X number of days.” It is really a total lifestyle change. It won’t be effective if you don’t commit. For instance, when the office orders pizza. I don’t feel that I am missing out when I eat the lunch I packed, because I simply don’t want to eat the pizza. I would rather eat the healthy lunch I packed for myself. I don’t feel like I am not allowing myself to eat the pizza, I would just rather eat something that I feel good about.
If you still crave the ‘junk food’ a trick you can try is to take a smaller piece of what you are craving, and add something else healthy with it. For example: if you are craving cheesecake, take a smaller slice and pair with a bowl of non fat cottage cheese and some grapes, or plain greek yogurt and a teaspoon of strawberry preserves. Think of this as a way to enjoy your cheesecake while staying committed to your new food outlook.
Seriously, I dare you to start thinking ‘food is fuel’ when you go to the grocery store! I am positive you will come out with healthier food. Try to completely skip the isles that do not have fresh ingredients. On one visit, commit to only shopping the perimeter of the store. Or even start with making simple changes. For instance: oatmeal. Think to yourself, “should I get the flavored microwavable oatmeal, or should I get steel cut plain oatmeal?” Plain oatmeal with bananas, a touch of honey, and cinnamon tastes AMAZING. It also has a hell of a lot less sugar and sodium, and has no artificial flavors or ingredients.
If I can retrain my brain to think of food as fuel, so can you!! It takes work, dedication, and probably a lifestyle change… but you can do it! I promise the benefits not just on how you look, BUT HOW YOU FEEL will be worth it. Of course, eating well has to be coupled with exercising in order to see changes in your body. I will discuss exercise in a later blog post, but eating well is the first step to feeling good on the inside! YOU CAN DO IT!
Baby Steps of better eating to get you started!
- Use greek yogurt instead of sour cream
- Want to get away from eating chips? Dip celery, sugar snap peas, or carrots into hummus to get a satisfying crunch
- Want creamy salad dressing – toss some olive oil and feta, goat or blue cheese in your salad instead of bottled dressings
- Cut down on the number of sugars you put in your coffee or tea. If you take 2 pumps at the coffee shop, ask for just one. If you use four sugar packets, use three. Try to taste and identify the unique flavors in different coffees.
- Addicted to soda? Try to identify why. For many, it’s the bubbles or carbonation. If you like bubbles, substitute one of your sodas for Seltzer water and a fruit nectar
- Can’t get enough chocolate? Try dark chocolate, or raw chocolate.
- Eat slower, and don’t eat distracted. Have you ever started munching on some chips while watching a TV show and realized that you ate the whole bag? This is because you are not paying attention to your food. Eat slowly and purposefully.. You can recognize you are full easier if you are paying attention.
- Having snack cravings? Drink water.. Sometimes when you feel hungry, you are actually dehydrated.
- Find healthy food you enjoy! Even if a magazine says kale is amazing for you, if you don’t like it, try to find something you do. Eat the healthy food that works for you! Every body is different, and there is no ‘miracle health food.’
I hope that you can take this post as motivation. If you have your own stories I would love it if you shared them with me!
If you have tips that work for you, please comment :).