10 Ways to Stick to a Healthy Eating Plan
I don't believe in hitting the gym every day and developing those perfect Instagramable abs. I don't believe that's a necessity. However, I do believe in healthy eating and being fit, so that I can stay healthy for as long as I live.
But eating healthy, and moreover, sticking to eating healthy for a longer period of time can be very challenging. It's easy to say, in theories, but practically it's pretty hard. Especially for someone who has been an unhealthy eater for a very long time.
I decided to practice more healthy habits last year, and my journey till now has been one roller-coaster. There were months where I did pretty good: ate healthily and was regularly working out. I lost a good amount of weight just by eating right (not less) and working out for 1-hour max 4-5 days a week.
And then there were months when I ate well but couldn't work out, and then sometimes I couldn't maintain doing either because of my work schedule. I'm sure a lot of you go through similar situations. After all, we're not perfect.
But developing good habits doesn't require you to be perfect. It needs patience, repetition, and discipline. Prioritizing is important. It's like what they say: Nobody is too busy, it's just a matter of priority.
I'm only halfway through my journey, and there's still a lot of road to cover. There are still a lot of changes to bring about, and a need to be disciplined. But still, I can say that I've learned quite a few things so far.
Experience, for sure, is the best teacher.
Here are some of the things that helped me stick to healthy eating.
Have You Ever Tried To Start Eating Healthy?
1. Stop Buying Processed and Packed Foods
The trick is simple. You don’t buy, you don't eat.
Being a night owl I know how important a mid-night snack is. And no matter how hard I try to avoid, I used to mostly end up eating the packed junk I always used to keep just for “once in a while snacking”.
And then came a point where once I ran out of them completely and because of a busy schedule couldn’t buy more to fill up my stocks. That day during my being-a-night-owl sessions, I had the cravings, but I didn’t have any of the beloved chips, so instead, I had an apple that night to satisfy my hungry stomach.
I then completely stopped buying packed foods last year. And I lost 6-7 lbs in a span of few months, without any other dietary changes or workout.
This was my first step to healthy eating.
I no longer get those strong cravings for packed snacks.
2. Prepare Your Own Meals and Keep It Simple
You need to do two things.
Firstly, Cook your own food.
Preparing your own meal actually reduces the appetite.
Secondly, make simple food that doesn’t require a fancy recipe or a long list of ingredients.
Now, let’s be real. We all are not a professional chef, and it’s not necessary that we all enjoy cooking. Preparing a meal using rare seasonal herbs every single time is not practical.
Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Besides, sometimes you just want to grab something, especially when you are starving after a long day.
So just make a simple sandwich or simple pasta, using whatever spices that are available on your counter.
Don’t go real professional right at the beginning stage, because you will for sure lose interest sooner just by the thought of going through that many steps to make a single dish.
3. Carry Homemade Food to Snack on at Work or School
Well, this is a no-brainer.
Packed food, no matter how healthy they claim they are, are unhealthy. They contain all sorts of unhealthy fats, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives.
Artificial sweeteners actually increase your sugar cravings, and you might end up eating more sugary stuff. They are even linked with high blood pressure and heart diseases.
Preservatives, according to a study, can also have side effects ranging from headaches, palpitations, allergies to even cancer!
So you see, you are not choosing right if you are choosing packed food.
Homemade foods are proven to be healthy; contains a balance of nutrients, contains less harmful fats and more healthy fats, minus preservatives.
Homemade snacks are what you need to cut down those extra calories you consume when you eat those packed food.
4. Make Small Changes and Keep Them Realistic
Let me put it this way.
Suppose you were previously eating 4000 calories per day, and now you've realized that you want to be healthy, and decide that you will cut down the extra unnecessary calories. So you make a diet plan of 1000 calories per day.
Now, you see the problem here?
Okay, I'll guide you through it.
When you make dietary changes, it puts a variety of changes in your body: both positive and negative. For example, when you cut down a lot of calories at once, you will feel hungry throughout the day. That is, apart from being moody and on edge, and not to mention, fatigued all the time.
Similarly, you are going to quit soon if you've never gone for a run before and try to pull off a 10 mile run on the very first day of your health plan. You most probably will end up with a pulled muscle. That's not good.
You are never going to get through your program if you don't give your body enough time to adapt.
Therefore, make small changes at once. Don't go from 4000 calories to 1000 calories; believe me, you'll end up binge eating.
Instead, start by cutting 200-300 calories at a time. This will help prevent the hunger, fatigue and, moodiness, and also give your body a better environment to slowly adapt.
Start by going on a 30 min walk or run. Don't just start doing marathon right from the very first day.
Bring about one small habit change at a time. Maybe start by quitting alcohol and drink more water. This way you will be able to make all the new changes a habit.
And remember, it takes about 66 days for a behaviour to become a habit. So be patient.
5. Start the Diet and Exercise at the Same Time
Remember, when I told you to add one change at a time, like 10 seconds ago? So, this is the only exception to that rule.
According to a study conducted at Stanford in 2013, it was found that people who start exercising and make dietary changes together are likely to get better results as compared to those who start with either dietary change or workout individually.
In fact, changing only diet- like what most people do- may actually interfere with establishing a consistent exercise routine.
Psychologically if you see, you are more likely to care if you are putting a lot of efforts into something.
I started going to zumba classes back in February of 2018, and at the same time, I became very conscious about what goes in my body and in what amount. Me going to the gym for any purpose was an achievement in itself because my old self could never imagine myself inside a gym following instructions. And when I did join, I felt it would be a complete insult to my efforts if I don't eat right. I started eating more fruits, and my choices in terms of food became very healthy.
It's best if you start the diet and exercise plans together, rather than individually.
According to the same research, the second best option is to start exercising first.
6. Try Out Different Foods and Choose What YOU Like
This is important because if you'll force yourself to eat something you don't even like, you'll end up quitting very soon.
There are hundreds of different types of "diets" floating on the internet today, and honestly who knows how much they are effective, and what effects they will put on our bodies long term. Most of the articles we read about them praise about the good effects. But what about the bad ones? Do these diets have any side-effects?
Besides, do you even understand properly how these diets work when you read about them?
I believe in healthy, balanced eating. As long as you are keeping everything in moderation you are good. People say don't eat fats or carbs, but the truth is your body does need them for its normal functioning.
Focusing on one particular nutrient form will only cause an imbalance in your body.
Don't follow the "diet plans" blindly, especially when you don't even understand how they work.
Honestly, a lot of things that I see in these diets and healthy recipes are not even easily available where I live. You may be even allergic to some foods. So what's the point?
An ideal food should be easily available and affordable. And this is why I suggest you go for the things that are locally available to you.
This is the rule that I follow: if it's coming from the ground, it's healthy.
If you were not previously eating healthy, go to the supermarket pick up some stuff that comes directly from the Earth; not processed, not packed. Prepare a simple dish (remember point number 2?) and enjoy the flavour. See whether you like it. Don't like it? No worries, there are plenty of healthy food out there to choose from. And believe me, there's something for everyone.
And this is why it is important to try out different foods.
If you'll choose the things you like to eat your chances of sticking to healthy eating would be more.
7. Don't Starve Yourself
Starving yourself is the worst thing you can do to your body. It's plain cruel, in my opinion.
Personal opinions aside, starving yourself actually is very harmful to your body.
When you starve yourself, your blood sugar levels fall down, and that leaves you craving for more. When you do eat the next time, you overeat to overcompensate.
Starving also slows your metabolism down. This means, for sure you'll lose weight in short-term, but once you'll resume eating normally you will gain more weight as your body will store more energy as fat because of its slowed down metabolism.
You will lose your muscle mass, you'll be fatigued all the time, and you might even develop an eating disorder.
Other than this starvation can cause some serious health problems like headaches, low blood pressure, menstrual problems in females, constipation, dehydration, confusion, etc.
So overall, it's not a good idea to starve yourself to lose weight.
Eat everything, moderately, and workout. This is the key to a healthy life.
8. Practice Mindful Eating
What is mindful eating?
It simply means giving attention to your food. It's not just eating slowly and chewing more like most people believe.
I like to put it this way: it means to notice the texture, the flavour, and the realization that you are what you eat . Realization that your food is going to provide you nutrition and is going to make you healthy. Noticing how full you are after eating your food, and how good your food makes you feel throughout the day.
So yeah, it literally means to pay attention.
It has been proven that mindful eating can help you with weight loss.
Mindful eating was also found to be beneficial to control binge eating in a research.
Don't eat while watching TV or making a presentation. Sit down at your dining table, set up the mood and eat slowly.
It takes 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. Eating slow will help you eat exactly how much you need to eat, and prevent overeating.
Mindful eating needs practice and patience, and in the world full of gadgets, self-control as well; self-control to leave the gadget for 20 minutes to eat.
The world will not end if you'll stop to eat for 20 minutes.
9. Know the Difference Between Hunger and Craving
It is very important to know when you are physically hungry and when it's just your emotions telling you to eat.
Why is it important? Because emotional eating can cause binging.
So, how to differentiate?
Hunger comes from the stomach. It's when your stomach feels empty. It will intensify over time and it will not go away if you wait for some time or do something else.
Cravings, on the other hand, come from the mouth. If you wait for some time, it will go away and the cravings will not intensify over time but the emotion to eat will.
When you go on and open up that packet of chips, ask yourself, am I really hungry? Where is the desire to eat coming from?
If you have difficulty in identifying, the simplest technique is to wait for 5-10 minutes, and do something else for some time like reading a book, and see, did it go away? If yes then it was your taste buds calling you, if not then go feed something to your poor stomach.
If you start to identify hunger and craving and are able to control your cravings, honestly, you can declare yourself a pro in terms of healthy eating. Because controlling yourself is one thing which most of the people fail at.
10. Track Your Progress
What is the best thing in the world when you work hard? To see positive results. Isn't it?
How good it felt when you got good grades in school? Or how amazing did it felt when your work got praised at your office and led you to a promotion?
Pretty good, huh!
The same thing applies here.
Use apps to monitor your progress, or include it in your bullet journal. Or maybe just a simple diary or notebook. Write down from where you started, and where you've reached till date. How much weight you have lost and what healthy habits you successfully incorporated into your daily life.
Take advantage of your android phone, and click plenty of pictures from every angle possible.
Go back and see these notes and pictures once in a while to see how much you have progressed.
Believe me when I say this, there is no other motivation stronger than a positive result.
Healthy living is not easy, at least for the beginners. Like I said before it needs patience, repetition, and discipline to continue living healthy, and it takes time and efforts for adopting good habits.
It's important that you try and give your 100%. Don't give in to your cravings, and workout regularly. And if you do sometimes fall out of healthy living, remember that there's always a new day to start over.
A healthy lifestyle starts with healthy choices. Are you making the right choices?
The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don't want, drink what you don't like, and do what you'd rather not.
What Healthy Changes Have You Made In Your Lifestyle?
© 2018 Sneha Sunny