One thing this pandemic has drove home for me is that we truly have no control over anything other than ourselves.
That may be as scary as it is liberating, but what are we going to do with all this newly realized power over our lives and the decisions we make? Will we hand it over to those comfortable habits that don’t serve us or will we use it to take a step forward into the life we’ve always wanted?
If changing your diet is a part of this plan, here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Practice being present
The only way to notice a change is to be acquainted with the present moment . If you want to gain/lose weight or just feel better in your body, I urge you to get to know your body first. How does it feel after you drink the soda and eat the fast food; lots of energy or time to sleep? How does it feel after drinking lots of water and having a home-cooked meal with veggies added? Did you feel better eating large meals while intermittent fasting or did 5 small meals a day do the trick?
Practice checking in with yourself throughout the day and notice how you feel in relation to the type and amount of food you’re eating, and the time that you’re eating it. This will put you in a great position to understand how future changes to your diet will affect you, thus making it easier to continue with what feels good.
2. Define your goals
People generally want to change their diet to lose weight, gain weight or control non-communicable diseases, but is there anything else beyond these reasons? Are your finances taking a hit because you eat out too often? Is your health deteriorating and your doctor is giving you an ultimatum? Will a better diet be a great start to developing healthy work ethic in your career?
For diet change to become a lifestyle change, you want to know why you’re starting in the first place. The reason(s) you come up with should to be sustainable and specific to your needs. ‘Looking good’ for summer is a great start but what happens when summer ends, will the diet go back to normal?
Once you come up with your goals, write them down and ensure you see them often. Label reminders on your phone to alarm each day, set them as a wallpaper on your laptop or write them on paper and post on your wall, whatever works for you.
3. Start with small changes
The revolving door of fad diets over the years have made us believe that dieting is something you do for a couple months, get results, then go back to your regular eating habits afterwards. However, we’ve since realized that these accomplishments are short-lived. Changing the way you eat should be comfortable enough for you to continue for months to years once proven beneficial.
The best way to sustain change is doing a little at a time. If your goal is to increase your water intake from one glass per day to 8 glasses, rather than gulping down 8 glasses the day after you set your goal, consider starting small with 2 glasses each morning and increase slowly until your goal is met. Slow and steady may not always win the race but it definitely makes a difference when developing a new habit.
4. Accountability partner
You’re not in this alone. Chances are you have a friend, relative, colleague (or online friend) who would love to change their diet too. Maybe not with the same goals in mind, but change works better when we have support. Tell your companion about your goals and express the need to stay on track. If you talk frequently then the goals will likely come up in conversation, but if you don’t, schedule check-ins to allow for a quick update. Whether it’s once a week for 10 minutes or once a month for a 1 hour discussion, being open to speak about improvements and ‘failures’ will provide a boost in morale needed to continue the journey.
5. Relax and make it fun
From childhood we have been told which foods are good and which are bad. We’d celebrate events with fast food and sweets and we may have been punished by being told we can’t leave the dinner table without finishing the vegetable that we absolutely hated. Since then we sometimes put a lot of pressure on ourselves to eat the ‘right foods’ at the right times and in the right amounts. I’m here to tell you that no food is inherently good or bad, and by releasing that thought process we’ll have more freedom to make better decisions. All foods may be eaten in moderation (or minimally), and by practicing tip #1 we’ll soon realize which foods don’t do our body much good. If you eat what you weren’t ‘supposed to’ in a new diet, don’t beat yourself. Acknowledge it, think of how you may do better at the next meal, and move on.
6. Believe in yourself
If you think you can’t, you won’t. No matter how many steps you follow or how many tips you read, if you don’t have faith that you’ll achieve your goal, the battle is already lost. Know that you have power over what you choose to eat, when you choose to eat it. ‘Healthy food’ is generally deemed too expensive, but it can be incorporated a little at a time to produce the results you want.
You can do it!! Start small and keep going!
In my follow up post, I’ll talk about simple ways to fit healthier foods into your budget.
If you’ve successfully changed your diet, let us know in the comments what pushed you to start and what helped you along the way.